Your free what's on guide to the NT


The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) has grown exponentially since it was founded in 1966.

Originally housed in Darwin’s old Town Hall, destroyed in 1974 by Cyclone Tracy, it’s grown over the years to include seven sites across Darwin and Alice Springs. And it’s set to get even bigger.

By Tierney Seccull

Affectionately referred to as ‘Magnet’ by its dedicated team, MAGNT continues to evolve, with construction of the new and exciting State Square Art Gallery set to start in the coming months, promising to draw us in even further.

The pull of MAGNT also got its grip on Adam Worrall, the institution’s newly appointed Director, who brings with him 35 years of experience including positions at the National Gallery of Australia and the Western Australian Museum.

Joining the ranks in July – just weeks before MAGNT’s biggest annual event of the year, the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) – there's no doubt Worrall was thrown right in the thick of things.

“I feel so privileged, particularly after this institution had worked so hard [on NATSIAA] for 12 months … I walked in right at the very pointy end and got to stand on stage and give out the awards. I was kind of given the congratulations for all of the work this amazing team put in prior to my coming on board. I felt like a bit of a fraud having done that,” he laughs.

The Awards were developed by MAGNT in 1984, originally the National Aboriginal Art Award, to celebrate the creative talents of First Nations artists from around the country, and have grown to be Australia’s richest art awards. The many beautiful works from the 2022 Awards remain on display until mid-January next year.

The large halls of MAGNT’s main facility, which sits on Larrakia Country next to Fannie Bay, have been consistently replenished and brought to life with varied art works and forms over the years, and also house internationally renowned cultural and scientific collections. MAGNT also oversees the operation of Fannie Bay Gaol, and manages the historic Lyons Cottage and the Defence of Darwin Experience at East Point.

On Arrernte Country in the desert, MAGNT proudly runs the Museum of Central Australia. The Museum incorporates the Strehlow Research Centre, the team working closely with Traditional Owners to maintain an ethnographic collection relating to Indigenous ceremonial life, regarded as one of the best in the world.

Megafauna Central rests in the heart of Alice Springs, down Todd Mall, showcasing the unique megafauna that roamed the region 8 million years ago, and also holds a vast fossil collection.

On the whole, MAGNT documents and preserves Territory history, inspires interest, facilitates cultural experiences and encourages exploration, from Top End oceans to the Red Centre desert. And although it’s early days for the new Director, he’s got a few plans up his sleeve.

“The thing I really want to do is provide access to the visual arts collection that’s currently not accessible. We have a massive process ahead of getting that digitised … and online, so people can actually see and access the treasures we have tucked away in this institution,” he says.

“I want to be able to provide access to all of the Indigenous material to the First Nations groups that made it, allow them to be able to see what we have, and have some control over how it’s accessed and who sees it.”

Other projects include a reimagining of the main site at Fannie Bay, to house the museum and science component of MAGNT, and the construction of the new State Square Art Gallery, the future home of the extraordinary visual arts collection.

“That will tell the story of the incredible art created in the Territory – there is so much of it, we represent so many of Australia’s greatest Indigenous artists – and we’ll be telling that story at State Square and the history of art in the region.”

Although still settling in, Worrall says the Territory has captured his heart.

“I’ve come from chilly Melbourne and I’m walking around in my singlet and my sunglasses, living my best life. I’ve seen some of the natural wonders the NT has, and I’m heading to Alice Springs and look forward to experiencing the beauty of the desert,” he says.

“It’s an exceptional place to be, there’s just so much diversity here. The people I’ve met are just real, genuine people – there’s no pretending up here, which I really appreciate. It’s refreshing and I’m really enjoying it – my first couple of months here, I just couldn’t imagine it being any better.”

The NT with its history, art and culture is like nowhere else. And no matter the time of year, whether you’re in the Top End or the Red Centre, there’s always something to pull you in at MAGNT. It’s no wonder we’re so drawn to it.


Header: Official party at the opening of the MAGNT Darwin building in 1981. Adults front, L-R: Deputy Chief Minister Marshall Perron, MAGNT Director Dr Colin Jack-Hinton, & Governor-General Sir Zelman Cowan.
Thumbnail: Ray Mudjandi, 'Virus Man', 2021, earth pigments, gumnuts, wire, plywood, 60x46cm. Courtesy of the artist and Marrawuddi Arts & Culture. Photo: Mark Sherwood.
Inset: Newly appointed MAGNT Director Adam Worrall admires Ray Mudjandi's work, which was awarded Highly Commended in the Wandjuk Marika Memorial 3D Award in the 2022 NATSIAA.

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