For three months, Carriageworks – Sydney’s thriving multi-arts centre housed in the old Eveleigh Rail Yards – is giving over its huge main foyer and white-box space in Bay 21 to a broad-ranging exhibition of contemporary Australian art, most of it new.

Exploring “the fluidity of identity” as a loose theme, the work is nothing if not diverse: from live performance to video; from a sawdust carpet to six customised strait jackets representing the reasons women stay in abusive relationships; from imagined Aboriginal flags to metal dustbin lids inscribed with poetry.

The exhibition is part of a new biennial called The National: New Australian Art co-presented by three of Sydney’s premiere visual arts institutions: Carriageworks, the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Entry is free.

Aiming to survey “the latest ideas and forms in contemporary Australian art”, the current event is the first of three editions to be held every two years until 2021, taking place in the alternating years between the Biennale of Sydney (which surveys international and Australian art ) and the Adelaide Biennial (which surveys contemporary Australian art).

“The plan is to present over 150 Australian artists...