Kelli Cole is the Assistant Curator of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Art at the National Gallery of Australia.
"It has the largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island art in the world with over 7500 works of art. The collection is diverse and connected to the past whilst engaging strongly with the present. It is both positive and political," Kelli explains.
Her hair, red, fiery and wild, seems to move with a life of it's own as she speaks. She makes direct eye contact, which is adversely challenging but friendly at the same time.
"I am a Waramungu/Luritja woman from Central Australia," says Kelli. "I grew up moving between Alice Springs and Darwin with my Indigenous Australian/Irish mother and first generation born New Zealand/Scottish father."
Kelli is keenly "proud of her cultural heritage, in all it's diversity".
"It has given me the capacity and strength to embrace difference," she says.
But it hasn't been easy, Kelli acknowledges.
"[I have been challenged] as many others have been challenged; ‘[You] don’t look aboriginal enough so why [are you] claiming it’. I tend to get this comment mostly when people are being racist, unjust or unfair and I get vocal.
"I grew up surrounded by language and culture coming from a family with over 70 first cousins from my mother’s side," says Kelli. "And I get extremely frustrated when people have disparaging views on Indigenous Australians and our lifestyles."
Kelli is describes the ACT as generally accepting of cultural diversity, but briefly notes, "There are always people outside your circles who surprise you with their comments."
Kelli describes the utopian Canberra as involving, "The acceptance and understanding of difference, and diversity being the accepted norm."