Fight for Survival: The grassroots story behind the Northlands exhibition

Saturday, June 11, 2022 at 02:00 PM


Melbourne Museum Theatre and online
11 Nicholson St
Carlton, VIC 3053
Google map and directions

Event contact

Caz McLennan

MV Lecture Series event

Story holders of the Northlands Secondary College 'Fight For Survival' – including Gary Foley, Moira Rayner and a special community panel – talk about the grassroots campaign to save this school and its uniquely successful educational model.

Northland Secondary College provided extraordinary education in a mainstream school with a difference. It was a place to belong. A place where people of all cultures over many years, from all walks of life contributed to an environment where Aboriginal education & other curriculum areas was able to bloom and grow across the whole school community.

The Fight for Survival exhibition presents photographs, videos, artworks from former students and unique material from the Aboriginal History Archive (VU) and reflects on why Northland Secondary College meant so much to so many people.


Speaker - Gary Foley

Gary Foley (b. 1950) is a Gumbainggir activist, actor, historian, curator and academic. Gary has played pivotal roles in many of the most provocative and effective Aboriginal protests and organisations of the last 50 years including the Aboriginal Embassy, the Brisbane Commonwealth Games, the 1988 Bicentenary, and the Aboriginal Health Services of Redfern and Victoria. He has written and starred in numerous stage productions and films and was the first director of the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council. Gary was a consultant to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and was the Senior Curator for South Eastern Australia at Museum Victoria from 2001 to 2005. He campaigned successfully against the closure of Northland Secondary College in 1992–1995. Gary is a Professor in History at Victoria University where he established the Aboriginal History Archive. 


Speaker - Moira Rayner

Moira Rayner was Victoria’s Commissioner for Equal Opportunity and the federal Human Rights Commission’s delegate under the Race Discrimination Act when the Kennett government targeted the Northlands Secondary College for closure. When two Aboriginal students challenged the decision in a race discrimination complaint, she accepted it, and declined to dismiss it, when the government refused to accept her invitation to conciliate. A senior practising lawyer and a lifelong anti-discrimination and human rights expert, Moira’s career survived Kennett’s scandalous abolition of her role. She received a Centenary Medal for outstanding services to the rights of children in 2000.


Having this panel discussion run in the daytime offers our theatre attendees the opportunity to view the 'Fight for Survival' exhibition currently showing in Bunjilaka, either before our after our event.  The MV Lecture Series team looks forward to welcoming you on the day.


Museums Victoria acknowledges the Woi Wurrung (Wurundjeri) and Boonwurrung peoples of the eastern Kulin Nations where we work, and First Peoples language groups and communities across Victoria and Australia.

Our organisation, in partnership with the First Peoples of Victoria, is working to place First Peoples living cultures and histories at the core of our practice.



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The History Council of Victoria Incorporated (HCV) is the peak body for history in the Australian state of Victoria. Its vision is to connect Victorians with history and to inspire engagement with the past, their identity and the world today. The HCV champions the work of historians and the value of history. It recognises that history can be written about any place, any person, any period. The HCV advocates why history matters.

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Our calendar lists all upcoming public events arranged by the History Council of Victoria (HCV), plus events in Victoria, Australia, that are added by our Friends and Members.

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As the peak body for history in Victoria, the History Council makes submissions on current issues. In doing this, the HCV Board is guided by its Advocacy Policy and by the Value of History, a statement developed co-operatively by the HCV and the History Councils of New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia.

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Since 2015, the HCV has been pleased to sponsor the Years 9 and 10 category of the Historical Fiction Competition organised by the History Teachers' Association of Victoria.

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The HCV was formed as an advisory body in 2001 and incorporated in 2003. It comprises representatives from cultural and educational institutions and heritage bodies; history teachers and curriculum advisors; academic and professional historians; and local, Indigenous, community and specialist history organisations.

As the peak body for history, the HCV has both ‘outward-looking’ roles (including advocacy and representation to government and the wider community, consultation, community education, and networking with allied interest groups) and ‘inward-looking’ roles (including member support, information dissemination, and networking between members).



The History Council of Victoria acknowledges the State Library of Victoria and the Public Record Office Victoria for supply of the archival images that appear on this website.

We acknowledge the National Film and Sound Archive for the right to use of the video footage on the home page, titled "Melbourne: Life in Australia (1966)".

Image credits

  • Italian sailors on ship at Port Melbourne 1938, Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria
  • Chinese procession in Collins near Elizabeth Street 1901, Harvie & Sutcliffe, photographers, State Library of Victoria
  • People’s homes, Aboriginal station Coranderrk 1878, Fred Kruger Photographer, State Library of Victoria
  • Chinese nurses at Children’s Hospital under scholarship 1947, Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria
  • Ladies physical culture class VRI Melbourne c1931, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12903/P0001, 011/02
  • Melbourne Cup, Derby and Oaks Day, Flemington Racecourse 1936, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12903/P0001/4802, 372/30
  • Flinders Street viaduct at foot of Market Street with advertisement for McRobertson’s Chocolate on bridge, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12800/P0003, ADV 1342