CMAG Canberra Milk exhibition
CMAG curators Sharon Bulkeley and Tiaan Zampaglione said new exhibition Don’t Forget the Milk explains the backstory of the company and how it has endeared itself to the Canberra community. Photo: Denholm Samaras.

To celebrate their golden birthday, Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG) has opened a new exhibition celebrating a beloved local business; Don’t Forget the Milk: Celebrating 50 Years of Canberra Milk.

Over the last 50 years, Canberra Milk has become one of the most recognisable and iconic brands in the region.

Having returned to Australian ownership through Bega Cheese as of 2021, Canberra Milk has operated throughout of the Canberra region since the ACT Milk Authority was established in 1971.

Today, the now legen-dairy company directly employs approximately 70 people and supports the local community in a variety of ways from grassroots sport and local charities to, of course, the Canberra Raiders.

CMAG curators Sharon Bulkeley and Tiaan Zampaglione told Canberra Weekly the exhibition came about when Canberra Milk approached the Museum to celebrate their 50th anniversary this year.

CMAG Canberra Milk exhibition
CMAG curator Tiaan Zampaglione said their Canberra Milk exhibition features unique dairy objects from their collection and private lenders, including a curious milk carton cow! Photo: Denholm Samaras.

Don’t Forget the Milk explores the history of the capital’s early dairy industry, the creation of Canberra Milk, and the brand’s development.

Bulkeley explained the exhibition shows people “not only that backstory of how it gets into your fridge”, but also how Canberra Milk has built its brand and endeared itself to the community.

“To have Canberra Milk be back now in Australian hands and to have such longevity and to have really made such a commitment to the city … I think people respond to that and appreciate it,” Bulkeley said.

“The milk might be a little bit more expensive, but you get what you pay for and they put a lot of that back into the community.”

Featuring unique dairy objects from the CMAG collection and private lenders, the exhibition is divided with a wall dedicated to Canberra Milk’s tireless and prolific efforts to support local sport and the community.

The other wall chronicles the history of dairy farming in the ACT through objects and photos, and even includes some of CMAG’s own objects from their collection, such as old milking aprons and some of the material from Duntroon dairy that clearly demonstrates how much the technology has changed.

“It was literally delivered on the back of a cart in these big cannisters, ladled out quart by quart to today where you just duck down to the servo,” Zampaglione said.

“We had cows roaming around in Canberra; that’s how it was, and everything was done by hand.

“Then all of a sudden when the lake was filled in, we lost a lot of our land, and the dairy industry decreased in Canberra.”

While as of 2021 there are no dairy cows left in Canberra, the milk is still sourced from the local region and processed in town at Canberra Milk’s Fyshwick facility.

‘The Milk’: more than just a tale of two teams

CMAG Canberra Milk exhibition Raiders
Perhaps best known for their place on the front of the Canberra Raiders’ jersey, the community-centric Canberra Milk have done a lot more than that to support local sport. Photo: Raiders Facebook.

Perhaps best known for their place on the front of one of Australian sport’s most iconic jerseys, the community-centric Canberra Milk have done a lot more than that to support local sport.

Canberra Milk are a foundation sponsor of the Canberra Raiders, and have returned as front-of-jersey sponsor this year, 26 years after the iconic early-1990s stint.

Green Machine fans were pumped up when it was announced the 2021 jersey would see ‘The Milk’ return – with the heritage jersey selling out in record time.

They’re also foundation sponsors of the Brumbies, and were front-of-jersey sponsors too for their first few seasons from 1996.

According to Bulkeley, part of the brand’s resonance as a front-of-jersey sponsor even outside of Canberra comes down to the wholesome nature of the business.

“People respond to it … they love seeing a brand that’s healthy and local and basically family oriented as opposed to an alcohol company or a betting agency,” she said.

“From a family and community point of view, it’s something people recognise and respect and identify with.”

However, it’s not just the Raiders and the Brumbies ‘the Milk’ have backed.

They have long supported female sport through local W-League team, Canberra United, in addition to bike racing, the GWS Giants, the Cavalry and a lot of grassroots sport.

“They’re behind the scenes working to make sure those sports are getting off the ground and people have got the opportunity to play them, which is really important,” Bulkeley said.

Don’t Forget the Milk: Celebrating 50 Years of Canberra Milk is on display at CMAG until 31 July; click here for more.

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