The UK/Australia Season is the largest ever cultural exchange between the two nations, including shell-covered slippers, a 19th-century Indigenous cricket team and uprising anthems linking Brixton to Palm Island
Margo Neale is feeling proud. “Here we are,” she says, “250 years after the British set out to colonise and civilise us, taking our culture to the British – to teach them how to survive in this fragmenting world.” Neale, an Indigenous Australian from the Gumbaynggirr and Kulin nations, is just warming up. “It is our civilisation,” she continues defiantly, “that had the resilience to survive over millennia: the ice age, sea rises, drought, invasion, violence, all sorts of oppression and pandemics. So, this is us showing Britain we have the knowledge to survive – knowledge held in the songlines.”
Neale, who is also of Irish descent, is talking about the plan to bring the National Museum of Australia’s extraordinary 2017 exhibition Songlines, which she co-curated, to Britain. The show will have its European premiere at the Box in Plymouth – which is where, Neale can’t resist pointing out, Captain James Cook set sail from in 1768, becoming the first European to set foot on the east coast of Australia.