In the early 1980s the Museum began actively acquiring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art to augment teaching and research within the (formerly known) Discipline of Visual Arts and Archaeology.
Initially sourced from Central Australia, such works were collected at a time when Aboriginal art was not yet regarded an integral part of contemporary art practice and received scant academic interest. This initiative proved the Museum to be at the forefront of the collection and promotion of Indigenous art alongside major institutions such as the Art Gallery of South Australia.
The University’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Collection has grown to encompass some 2500 works and owes much of its strength to the insight and discernment of Emeritus Professor JVS Megaw, now a long standing patron of the Museum. Areas of national significance include Papunya early boards, Utopia works from the Rodney Gooch Collection, Hermannsburg watercolours and works which form the Ernabella Arts Archive.
Today the Museum holds representations of Australian Indigenous art from all regions including Arnhem Land, the Kimberley, Tiwi Islands, Cape York, Tasmania, Anangu Pitjantjajara Yankunytjatjara Lands as well as from urban and regional centres.