Professor Brenda L Croft

Doctor of Philosophy, UNSW (2021); Honorary Doctorate (Visual Arts), University of Sydney (2009); Alumni Award, UNSW (2001); Master of Art Administration, UNSW (1995)
Professor, Indigenous Art History & Curatorship, Centre for Art History and Art Theory, ANU School of Art and Design
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Areas of expertise

  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Visual Arts And Crafts 450116
  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Curatorial, Archives And Museum Studies 450105
  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Media, Film, Animation And Photography 450110
  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Research Methods 450115
  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Health And Wellbeing 4504
  • Art History, Theory And Criticism 3601
  • Visual Arts 3606
  • Other Studies In Creative Arts And Writing 1999
  • Lens Based Practice 190503

Research interests

Australian First Nations' contemporary visual arts and culture; international First Nations' contemporary visual arts and culture; Critical Indigenous Performative Autoethnography, First Nations Storywork; Critical Indigenous Studies: Indigenous Knowledges; Creative-led research; Cultural representation; Re/memorying; Archives and access.

Other affiliations: (2024 - ) Australian Research Council College of Experts; (2019 - 23) Indigenous Australian Dictionary of Biography, IWP member; (2022 - ) Kluge Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection Advisory Committees (Curatorial & Collections), UVa, USA; (2017 - 22) ARC Centre of Excellence for The Dynamics of Language (CoEDL), Affiliate; (2020 -) Research Centre for Deep History, School of History, Research School of Social Sciences, ANU, Collaborating Scholar.



Brenda L Croft is from the Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra peoples from the Victoria River region of the Northern Territory of Australia, and Anglo-Australian/German/Irish/Chinese heritage.

Brenda’s four decades multi-disciplinary creative-led research encompasses critical performative Indigenous autoethnography, First Nations Storywork/Storying and embodied cultural archaeology. Her creative-led research is grounded in long-standing culturally respectful engagement with Australian and international First Nations communities, especially patrilineal family and community members.

In 2021 Brenda was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy (UNSW). In 2022 she received a UNSW Dean’s Award for Outstanding PhD Thesis for Kurrwa (stone tool/axehead) to Kartak (container, cup, billycan, pannikin): hand-made/held-groundHer PhD included the collaborative exhibition, Still in my mind: Gurindji location, experience and visualityIn 2023 the major series Naabami (thou shall/will see): Barangaroo (army of me) was exhibited in Sydney Festival (dual sites); and The National 4, Art Gallery of NSW.

In 2021 Brenda received an AIAH Art History Research Grant (Indigenous Australian), to support her Semester 2, 2022, OSP (Outside Study Program) based at the ANU North Australian Research Unit (NARU) at CDU, Darwin, NT. In 2022 Brenda’s PhD was selected for the AAANZ Early Career Publishing Program. iN 2022 Brenda received an ANU CASS Research Excellence Award and in 2023 she received an ANU Advancements Academic Champion Award.  

In 2024 Brenda will be the Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser Chair of Australian Studies at Harvard University across the Departments of History of Art and Architecture, and Art, Film, and Visual Studies. Brenda is privileged to live and work on the unceded sovereign lands of the Ngambri/Ngunnawal Peoples.


Researcher's projects

Artistic/curatorial practice-led research, selected

  • 2023: 40th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Work on Paper Award for blood/memory: Brenda & Christopher II (Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra; Mara/Njarrindjeri/Ritharrngu; Anglo-Australian/Chinese/German/Irish/Scottish), 2021, 2023, with Prue Hazelgrove (photographic assistant)
  • 2023: National Photographic Portrait Prize selected work, blood/memory: Brenda & Christopher I (Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra; Mara/Nandi/Njarrindjeri/Ritharrngu; Anglo-Australian/Chinese/German/Irish/Scottish), 2021, 2022, with Prue Hazelgrove (Photographic Assistant)
  • 2023 Naabami (thou shall/will see): Barangaroo (army of me), Sydney Festival, Barangaroo Precinct, with Lendlease, Design and Place, NSW, and Cracknell Lonergan Architects, public installation, 5 – 29 January
  • 2023: Dyin Nura (Women’s Place), (Naabami (thou shall/will see): Barangaroo (army of me) II), Sydney Festival, City of Parramatta, Old Government House, public installation, 19 – 22 January
  • 2023: The National 4, (Naabami (thou shall/will see): Barangaroo (army of me) III), Art Gallery of New South Wales, 24 March - 23 July
  • 2022: Outside Study Program, Semester 2. Based at NARU (ANU North Australian Research Unit), CDU Campus, Darwin. Supported by an AIAH (Australian Institute of Art History) History Research Grant, 2021. A two-pronged project, part a) R+D on The North Australian Expedition, 1855 – 56, for a proposed research project based on reimagining the Royal Geographical Society (RGS, London)-sponsored expedition undertaken by Augustus Charles Gregory and his compatriots tracing the Victoria River in the then Northern Territory of South Australia. Among the expedition participants was artist Thomas Baines, as artist and storekeeper. Baines’ extensive visual documentation of the expedition, comprising watercolours, drawings, maps and paintings, is held in significant collections including the National Gallery of Australia, National Library of Australia and the RGS collection acquired for the Kerry Stokes Collection. This research proposal entails a plan to revisit and reimagine selected expedition sites from First Nations community perspectives – my patrilineal community (Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra) among them – whose traditional lands and waters the Victoria River wends through, with the intended outcome eventually being a collaborative exhibition at a major national cultural institution, with the exhibition including work by contemporary First Nations creative practitioners and knowledge holders through multi-disciplinary, multi-modal, multi-literacies creative-led research platforms. The intention is for Baines work to act as a form of historical mirror to which contemporary First Nations creatives respond. A key intent of this scholarly project is to develop a research team comprising First Nations knowledge holders – visual and performative creatives, language speakers, song-people, Rangers, Country custodians – alongside non-Indigenous colleagues with linguistic, ethnobotanical, anthropological, community-engagement expertise. R + D will be conducted through archives research at the Library and Archives of the Northern Territory; National Archives of Australia, NT and field research with First Nations and non-Indigenous representatives and communities associated with the Victoria River region. Part b) Victoria River Downs to Timber Creek to Kahlin Compound, 1925 – 2022. Expanding on creative-led research undertaken during my PhD, I propose to retrace the route undertaken from VRD to Timber Creek Police Station, thence by boat to Kahlin Compound, Darwin, in 1927 by my father and grandmother, through creative-led, performative First Nations collaborative Autoethnography and First Nations Storywork methodologies, working with First Nations and non-Indigenous community members, historians and researchers.
  • 2019 - 2026: co-team leader on Murrudha: Sovereign walks - tracking cultural actions through art, Country, language and music (2020 - 2025), an ANU Grand Challenges: Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Collaborative Scheme project, on which she is working with local and regional First Nations Knowledge Holders developing a series of heritage pathways incorporating critical First Nations Performative Collaborative Autoethnography and Storywork methodologies.
  • 2021 - 2022: hand/made/held/ground; (with Made in Australia II), Canberra Museum and Gallery, 29 October 2021 – 22 January 2022. 
  • 2019: hand/made/held/ground, Niagara Galleries, Melbourne, 19 November – 14 December. Work was created through two residencies with Canberra Glassworks (2017, 2019).
  • 2018: People like us, We come from T/Here, Paul Johnstone Gallery, Darwin, 27 October – 10 November, Darwin
  • 2018: heart-in-hand, solo exhibition, Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Gorman Arts Centre, 13 July - 8 September,; awarded Canberra Critics Circle Visual Arts Award (2018)
  • 2017: Still in my mind: Gurindji location, experience and visuality, Curator and participating artist; doctoral Still in my mind: Gurindji location, experience and visuality, doctoral practice-led research project in partnership with Karungkarni Art and Culture Centre, UNSW Galleries, UNSW Art & Design, (5 May – 29 July) and UQ Art Museum, UQ, CoEDL UQ Node (12 August – 29 October). Curator and participating artist; Touring nationally 2018 – 2022. Public panels include: Charles Darwin University Collection and Art Gallery, Charles Darwin University, 2018 – 19; South Australian Museum, 2019
  • 2016: subalter/N/ative dreams, Stills Gallery, Sydney, 27 July – 27 August. Curator/Artist, Solo exhibition, doctoral practice-led research project. Artist talk, 15 August
  • 2012 - 15, Australian Research Council Discovery Indigenous Award (Project ID: IN120100048), 'Still in my mind: Gurindji location, experience and visuality', UNSW (National Institute for Experimental Arts, UNSW Art + Design)

Artistic practice, selected

Curatorial practice, selected

  • 2017: Still in my mind: Gurindji location, experience and visuality, in partnership with UNSW Galleries, UNSW Art + Design; University of Queensland Art Museum; Karungkarni Art + Culture Aboriginal Corporation; with support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language. National tour (2018 - 2022) supported by Visions of Australia and Artback NT Touring Agency
  • 2017: A Change is Gonna Come: 50th Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum/25th Anniversary of the Mabo Decision, Senior Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs, National Museum of Australia, 1 December 2016 – 31 May 2017
  • 2015: 'We are in Wonder LAND' Symposium, presented as part of We are in Wonderland: New Experimental art from Central Australia, UNSW Galleries/National Institute of Experimental Arts, UNSW Art + Design. Symposium Mistress of Ceremonies, Q+A Facilitator,15 May; Exhibition Curatorial Advisor
  • 2011: Stop(the)gap/Mind(the)gap: international Indigenous art in motion, Adelaide Film Festival 2011, with Samstag Museum of Art, UniSA and associated venues. Guest curator commissioned by Adelaide Film Festival and Samstag Museum of Art. Lead curator with Megan Tamati-Quennell (Aotearoa/NZ), David Garneau (Canada) and Kathleen Ash-Milby (USA). Artists: Rebecca Belmore (Canada), Dana Claxton (Canada), Nova Paul (Aotearoa/NZ), Alan Michelson (USA), Lisa Reihana (Aotearoa/NZ), Warwick Thornton (Australia). Stop(the)Gap generated extensive media, with high attendances of students, festival visitors and the general public to accompanying associated symposia in 2010 – 11, including Looking Forward/Looking Blak: Indigenous Identity in Australian Cinema, a panel accompanying a film program I curated, with all having a capacity audiences
  • 2007 - 9: National Indigenous Art Triennial: Culture Warriors, National Gallery of Australia, and national tour, 2008; international tour to Katzen Art Center, American University, Washington, DC, USA, 2009
  • 2006 - 8: Michael Riley: sights unseen, National Gallery of Australia, ACT 14 Jul. 2006-16 Oct. 2006, Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Vic. 16 Nov. 2006-25 Feb. 2007, Dubbo Regional Gallery, Dubbo and Moree Plains Gallery, Moree, 12 May-8 Jul. 2007, 19 May-15 Jul. respectively, Museum of Brisbane, Qld 27 Jul-19 Nov. 2007, Art Gallery of New South Wales, NSW 22 Feb.-27 Apr. 2008
  • 2002 - 6: First Nations cultural exchange from the federal Government to the French Government, facilitated through the Australia Council for the Arts. The works of the selected artists Ningura Napurrula, Lena Nyadbi, Judy Watson, Gulumbu Yunupingu, John Mawurndjul, Paddy Nyunkuny Bedford, Michael Riley and Tommy Watson were integrated into the facades, ceilings and rooftops of the Musée du quai Branly, designed by renowned architect Jean Nouvel during President Chirac’s presidency. Research and development required extensive consultation with the artists in their home communities and studios, high level diplomatic discussions between the Australia Council for the Arts and their French counterpart, site visits to Paris during the building’s construction, extensive liaison between Cracknell Lonergan Architects (on Australia’s behalf) with Jean Nouvel's team and the Musée du quai Branly’s Curatorial team. ‘The French Connection’ (2007), documented the project from concept to realisation
  • 2003: South West Central: Indigenous art from south Western Australia 1833-2002, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Guest curator for the 2003 Perth International Art Festival
  • 2000: Beyond the Pale: contemporary Indigenous art Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Adelaide Festival 2000. Guest Curator
  • 1997 - 9: fluent: Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Yvonne Koolmatrie & Judy Watson Australian Pavilion 47th Venice Biennale, & Australian tour. Curatorial team member with Hetti Perkins & Victoria Lynn for the Art Gallery of NSW. 1997 (Venice), 1998 (Australian tour), see


Available student projects

I am available to supervise students whose research areas include:

  • Australian First Nations art and culture
  • creative-led practice and methodologies
  • critical First Nations performative autoethnography
  • public and personal archives
  • creative narratives, First Nations Storywork
  • identity and representation
  • social justice and self-determination

Current student projects

Supervisory Panel Member, PhD candidates:

Sam Provost, 'Dreaming digital Country: Reframing Indigenous futurity with emergent spatial technologies' 

Lisa Hill, 'Both Sides of the Lens: Visual representation and agency of Papua Niuginian women in photography and filmmaking'

Past student projects

Honours students:

2019 - Matilda Skerritt, Thesis project: Handle With Care: Porcelain in Contemporary Australian First Nations Art Practice. Awarded Kate and Bill Guy Art History and Theory Honours Prize. Supervisor, with Dr Sarah Scott.


Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

Return to top

Updated:  23 July 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers