Hurrah! The Art Gallery of NSW has belatedly come up with an Aboriginal name for its new $344m building – and a matching name for the 132 year old sandstone building next door.

Appropriately, the new flow of buildings down to the Harbour at Wooloomooloo is to be called ‘seeing water’- Naala Badu; while the old girl next door facing the Domain becomes ‘seeing Country’- Naala Nura. Nura – or Ngurra – seems to be a common word for Country across much of Aboriginal Australia.

What’s intriguing is the eventual use of the Dharug language for this nomenclature. For that’s almost certainly the base language for the 29 clans of Sydney since so few Gadigal survived the smallpox epidemic brought in by colonists. And Sydney should probably be recognised as the land of the Dharug Nation rather than Eora, which was pretty much a whitefellar invention.

It seems these two names were at the top of the Trustees list when Naala Badu opened in December 2022. But – as so often seems to happen with Indigenous consultation (think of the recent Referendum campaign) – special interests emerged, and both the Metro Aboriginal Land Council and the La Perouse mob had to be satisfied that Dharawal wasn’t a more appropriate language to apply to the Gallery buildings – which, by the way, will retain their English name as a whole.

Art Gallery trustee and inaugural chair of the Gallery’s Indigenous advisory group, Tony Albert (a Kuku Yalanji, Girramay and Yidandji man from Rainforest Queenlander) said of the new names:
“As an Indigenous Australian for whom English is my second language, having not had the opportunity to learn my first language, I applaud the gift of living, breathing language for the Art Gallery’s two buildings.

“With the spotlight on the Art Gallery’s new initiatives for Aboriginal art and culture, we’ve created a globally renowned art destination where visitors can experience the best art and culture Australia has to offer”.

The new names are displayed on both buildings as of today, and will be reflected online.

Now all that Naala Badu and Naala Nura need is the intended linkage designed by another Blak artist, Jonathon Jones – his ‘bial gwiyungo’ garden which has been interminably debated and endlessly under construction.