The future of Indigenous theatre is expected to become more self determined than ever before due to promises made in the recently announced “revive cultural policy.”
The outline of the policy calls attention to a greater focus on Indigenous cultural production, highlighted in the formation of an Indigenous-led cultural board for Aboriginal artists in order to establish a strong and vibrant First Nations arts sector.
CO-CEO and executive producer of Brisbane-based choreography group Blakdance, Merindah Donelly, said that the long term impact of the policy will see Indigenous productions having a grander scale and becoming fully self determined with full Aboriginal casts and crew.
“I think the impact on the dance and theatre sectors over the next ten years will mean that there will be more stories from our people that will be delivered in a completely self determined way.
“Every single hand that touches the work being a black hand is something we will be seeing in the next ten years,” she said.
Donelly also highlighted how the reforms will address a rising issue in the Indigenous creative sector where First Nations creatives advancing their careers are always inevitably employed by non-Indigenous production companies.
This turns the Indigenous theatre scene into what Donelly describes as a training ground.
“All of us are the training ground for the next generation of arts workers, designers and production managers.
And often what happens is once we have finished training them, it might be a five year commitment – maybe even three years.
But what ends up happening is they will get offered new positions which is great and what we want to happen, but in non-Indigenous institutions being offered twice as much – sometimes even three times as much money – as the black organisations can offer.
“It kind of puts us in a place of stasis because us black organisations can never really get ahead,” she said.
In terms of the policy, there are some concerns that the $256 million in funding may be stretched too thin with the funds going into every aspect of Australia’s cultural pursuits including literature, theatre, music, and film and television.
CO-CEO and Business director of Blakdance theatre company Kate Eltham said that even more of a sizeable portion of the funding, roughly $45 million will go into the Australian Council of the Arts.
Eltham was also quick to acknowledge the positive impact the funding given to First Nation’s creative’s will have.
“It recognises the importance of having funding that has been isolated just for First Nations People’s arts and culture.
And for the distribution of that money to be decided upon by First Nations People, I feel some confidence for our sector, because I feel that there will be more of a levelled playing field then there has been in the past for the self determined First Nations arts companies,” Eltham said.
Image Credit: Emmanuel Berrod