National Capital Exhibition opens

After two years in development, the new National Capital Exhibition opened on 21 September 2018.

Working with exhibition designer Chris Mether of Studio Mether and graphic designer Bianca Tweed of Studio Tweed, Toni Roberts undertook research, interpretation strategy, content development and writing of the exhibition text.

The exhibition interprets the diverse contributions to the development of the capital, including indigenous culture, migrants and women (most notably Marion Mahoney Griffin, who worked with Walter Burley Griffin on the winning design but wasn’t credited in their competition entry). It makes use of digital animation, digital interactives, and an augmented reality experience in the foyer. The new exhibition also interprets the view to the National Triangle and other sites of national significance through interactive touch screens.



This multi-million dollar project was commissioned by the National Capital Authority. The exhibition is open all year round and has over 150,000 visitors annually.

More about the project

Visitor information.

Tiger Trek takes out top award

Taronga Zoo’s Tiger Trek has won Interpretation Australia’s top award.  The new precinct, which opened in 2017,  is a huge project in scale and ambition.

The precinct interprets the Sumatran Tigers by creating the Way Kambas National Park setting. One of the precinct’s main aims is to raise visitor awareness of the impact that unsustainable palm oil plantations are having on tiger habitat. Visitors exit the precinct through the Choicemart kiosk, where they can actively engage with the palm oil issue.

Photo by Toni Roberts
Photo by Toni Roberts
Tiger trek kiosk

Visitors engage with the supermarket kiosk which displays real products in a virtual context. As visitors shop, they discover the sustainability rating of the product and are invited to email the company that produces it to congratulate them for using sustainable palm oil or encourage them to do so.

Dr Toni Roberts contributed to the success of the Choicemart Supermarket kiosk experience within the precinct by undertaking formative user testing of this digital interactive at prototype stage, which led to significant improvements in its design. The research identified the barriers to visitors engaging with the interactive display and factors that limited the length of time they participated in the activity. This led to improvement that increased the level of understanding, engagement and number of emails sent.

In the 12 months that the precinct has been open, visitors have sent over 66,000 emails to suppliers of everyday consumer items. This element of the Tiger Trek precinct not only raises consumer awareness, but also turns visitors into activists.

IA award winners:


Taronga Zoo Tiger Trek visitor information

Design team:
Tiger Trek intepretation design by Motherworks
Choicemart Kiosk design by Specialist Apps
Graphics by Nuttshell
Multimedia by Art of Multimedia

Whittlesea Bushfire Memorial

Remembering a community’s loss and celebrating its enduring spirit: the Whittlesea Bushfire Memorial is open to the public.

The devastating bushfires of Black Saturday will long be remembered for their scale and ferocity, the worst in Australia’s history. This was also a very personal, local tragedy for the Whittlesea community, with enduring impact. Designed by Hatchling Studio, The Whittlesea Bushfire Memorial is a reflective space in memory of the tragedy of Black Saturday, 2009. It was officially opened by Danielle Green MP, Member for Yan Yean Saturday 24 October, Toorourrong Reservoir Park. This place of remembrance is dedicated to those from Whittlesea whose lives were lost in the fires.

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We won the tender to design the memorial and develop interpretive content back in 2012. The granite pod form alludes to native seeds that propagate only after intense wild fires, with seeds dispersing from the pod and into the pond symbolising new life and regeneration. From the outset, I rejected the role of artist-author in preference for creating a platform for the community to author their own stories. In lieu of a didactic narrative, the memorial presents a thematic arrangement of text and image generated by the community to evoke the experience of the fires and their aftermath.

A ‘narrative wall’ presents themes of fire, loss and the community spirit through image and text, while a ‘memorial wall’ is dedicated to remembering loved ones lost in the fires. The memorial space embraces the visitor, offering a sanctuary for private remembrance and shared stories.

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The development process has had a number of hurdles, mostly relating to the redevelopment of the Toorourrong Reservoir Park, which was a huge project for Parks Victoria. I’m very pleased to be able to announce that the memorial and the park are now open to the public. Community members that I’ve spoken with have expressed great appreciation that the memorial is finally complete.

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My deepest thanks go to the Project Working Group, who selected our design concept and steered its development and the Word Weavers writing group, who bravely shared their heart rending memories, raw emotions and tragic experiences, some of which are represented in the narrative wall text. I’m grateful to the members of my design team, for their expertise, collaboration and friendship through such a long project: David Gargiulo (illustration and design documentation), Dianna Wells (graphic design) and Hamish Coates (landscape design). I’d like to thank Ralph Mertins and Emma Bennet from Whittlesea Council for all their work in getting the project moving and seeing it through to completion.

The Whittlesea community is amazingly warm and resilient and I hope that the memorial supports those affected by the devastation of Black Saturday in remembrance and recovery.


DSC_0040 (800x536) Whittlesea Bushfire Memorial

Photography by Toni Roberts and Dianna Wells.


Hatchling ceramics at Craft Hatch August 9

Craft Victoria’s Craft Hatch showcases emerging makers and those new to selling their wares. I will be selling my ceramics at this year’s makers market on Sunday 9th August at 1000 Pound Bend, so please pop in!

The cafe will be serving food all day and it will be a great place to hang out no matter what the weather is like.


Sunday 9 August 2015
10am – 4pm
1000 Pound Bend
361 Little Lonsdale Street

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Paper published in MMC

Those in the museums / zoo / interpretation fields may be interested in my paper that has just been published in Museum Management and Curatorship entitled, “Factors affecting the role of designers in interpretation projects“. It is available via Taylor and Francis here  or for up to 50 downloads on my Academia page here.


The application and significance of what is commonly known as interpretation design is increasing as museums and other cultural institutions seek to attract, educate and engage visitors, yet the field remains under-examined in relation to its methods,
management and outputs. Institutional practices outside the mainstream museum sector have often not kept pace with interpretation design’s role, and museum professionals often lack understanding of design and experience in its management.
Research into practice and articulation of the designer’s knowledge supports the optimal contribution of design expertise. Based on interviews with practitioners, the
paper examines the factors that influence the role of consultant interpretation designers. Timing of engagement, sequencing of contracts and client understanding of interpretation design emerge as the key factors that affect the scope and clarity of the designer’s role and effective application of their expertise. The paper argues that
interpretation design by external consultants can be more strategic and effective when supported by appropriate project structures.