rite of passage header

Rite of Passage

A rite of passage is an event that marks an important stage in someone's life, or death – a transition. During a time not so long ago, the Aboriginal population of this country transitioned from a free civilisation to a nation conquered. In the process, thousands of years of ecological and spiritual power and cultural knowledge were diminished, and many customs and traditions of our original people were lacerated – with many lost forever.

Shannon Brett

Rite of Passage is a group exhibition curated by Shannon Brett, a descendant of the Wakka Wakka, Butchulla and Gurang Gurang clans, as a response to the significance of the year 2020 – 250 years since James Cook first arrived on our shores.

Reframing the way that we perceive this year in our history, the exhibition showcases the strength of autobiographical work by eleven contemporary Aboriginal artists from across Australia: Glennys Briggs, Megan Cope, Nici Cumpston, Karla Dickens, Julie Gough, Lola Greeno, Leah King-Smith, Jenna Lee, Carol McGregor, Mandy Quadrio, and Judy Watson.

The exhibition reveals how these artists define themselves as voices of their families and their ancestors in their quest to preserve their Aboriginality. Fearless and relentless, these artists carry the fire of a culture that lives on, as the passage that they travel is no longer solitary – together they pave the way for tomorrow.

Download media release
Rite of Passage (PDF, 1.4MB)

See more images


Nici CUMPSTON 'Listening to the river' 2005-19

Opening Day

Rite of Passage

Saturday 7 March

Julie GOUGH 'Crime scene (survivor)' (detail) 2019-20

Entangled histories

artist talk with Julie Gough

Sunday 8 March

Jenna LEE 'un/bound passage' (detail) 2019


workshop with Jenna Lee

Sunday 8 March

Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman

Texta book club

Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman

Tuesday 5 May

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QUT acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the lands where QUT now stands