Guardian of history

Matt Poll Assistant Curator Indigenous heritage Macleay Museum

Matt Poll, Assistant Curator of Indigenous heritage - Macleay Museum, tells his story

For the past three years I have worked at the Macleay Museum at the University of Sydney. It has one of the most amazing collections of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander material that I have ever had the opportunity to work with. Even the tiniest item has incredible significance, and in some cases the stories behind the artefacts can be far more interesting than the objects themselves.

I grew up in the North Coast NSW town of Byron Bay and my family is the Watego Family. I am of Torres Strait Islander and South Sea Islander heritage. I moved to Sydney 18 years ago. Some of my friends and family thought I was mad moving from Byron Bay to Sydney but I could not pass up the amazing opportunity to study further. I studied at the University of Technology, Sydney through the Jumbunna Indigenous education program.

I decided to study media arts production and cultural studies while at university, because museums and art galleries are my passion and I spent many hours in them while growing up. No other industry in Australia is as proactive and supportive as Australian museums and art galleries in promoting Aboriginal culture and working with Aboriginal people on their own terms.

My first job was at Wollongong City Gallery as a curatorial trainee. This was where I gained a passion for working as a curator. One of the first things I had to do was visit Aboriginal artists who lived in the coastal towns on the South Coast of NSW and select works for an exhibition at the gallery. I could hardly believe I was getting paid to do this work as I would have gladly done it free. I’ve been hooked ever since.

My hope is to one day see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders being able to learn about their history in museums and galleries located in Indigenous communities right across Australia.