• Neville Bonner was the first Aboriginal person to enter parliament in 1971. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
'Finders Keepers' explores the lives of five fascinating Australians and their personal collections, among those, Australia's first federal Indigenous parliamentarian, Neville Bonner.
20 Jun 2017 - 4:47 PM  UPDATED 20 Jun 2017 - 5:03 PM

The cherished mementos of Australia's first Indigenous parliamentarian are part of a new exhibition in Canberra, peeking into the lives of five fascinating Australians.

Neville Bonner's collection is unlike the others in 'Finders Keepers'. It includes a group of twenty-six items used by him in the course of his life.

The objects have been collected by his family and reveal much about his Aboriginal heritage, spirituality, and his politics.

His son, Alfred, hopes visitors remember his father's remarkable legacy and the hardships that he faced. 

"He fought hard all his life, and what he done in the later part of his life to help other Aboriginal people, plus a bit of knowledge of the black people to the white man to the younger generations. He done a good thing," he told NITV News. 

"Some people, if they look at what he went through and how he coped with it, he'd be the greatest man ever walking." 

Neville Bonner, a Jagera man from the Tweed River area in New South Wales, became the first Indigenous person to enter federal politics. He served as a Senator for Queensland from 1971 to 1983.

His family, including his step-son Rory, remembers some the racism Neville faced at the time.

"We thought for a long time it was part of life, but everyone was saying this is not a part of life. I was kicked out of many homes because my mother was married to a black. But growing up I was very welcome, and very welcome in the Indigenous community," he told NITV.

He says seeing some of the items in the collection were like a walk down memory lane. 

"A lot of those things are real. We grew up with them, we lived in the house with them. It was good to see." 

Exhibition curator, Dr Kate Armstrong, says Neville's collection was varied and diverse. 

"It told a really fabulous story of his time here as a parliamentarian. We also thought it was important to mark the career of the first federal Indigenous parliamentarian for Australia," she told NITV News. 

Dedicated to the act of preserving and collecting, Finders Keepers tells stories about the ideas, movements, individuals and events that have shaped the nation, through five personal collections donated to the museum.

Museum of Australian Democracy Director, Daryl Karp, says the collections will take visitors on a journey through Australia's democratic history. 

“This exhibition also marks an important milestone for the museum. With 269 objects, Finders Keepers is the most comprehensive display of material drawn from MoAD’s own collection to date,” she said. 

His son Alfred and his family are very proud to see their biggest inspiration remembered in the exhibition. 

"I am proud of what he achieved and what he's left for the next generation." 

Finders Keepers: Collectors and their Stories is open at the Museum of Australian Democracy.