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Allyship Education – First Nations Performing Arts

Posted by Team APATA | Jun 9, 2020

APATA acknowledges the custodians and elders, past and present, of the land on which we work, practice, rehearse, perform and present across Australia. We pay respect to the cultural authority and traditions of the land. The First Peoples of this nation express their culture through music, dance and storytelling, and it is a privilege to continue a tradition of storytelling and performance in this country. We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn and work.

To all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers please be advised that this article may contain, names, links to or images depicting people whom have passed.

[This article updated 12 January 2022, on Aboriginal Land – Get Up. Stand Up. Show Up.]

Ally [noun] someone who stands with or advocates for individuals and groups other than their own.

Privilege [noun] a special benefit or advantage that may be earned or unearned.

Note: A person may or may not be aware that they are benefiting from privilege!

Identity [noun] the qualities, characteristics or beliefs that make a person who they are.

image via @reconciliationaus


Being an effective ally requires significant self-reflection and a strong sense of self-identity.

Education is imperative to teach tolerance but also a true understanding of others – educators can become an ally, but the journey might look different depending on one’s identity, experience and familiarity with issues, for example, power and privilege.

If you are a non-First Nations person engaged in the work of reconciliation, then you can better understand your role in this movement as being an ally to First Nations people.

An ally is someone from a privileged group who is aware of how oppression works and struggles alongside members of an oppressed group to take action to end oppression.




An ally:

  • Does not put their own needs, interests, and goals ahead of the First Nations people they are working with.
  • Has self-awareness of their own identity, privilege, and role in challenging oppression.
  • Is engaged in continual learning and reflection about First Nations cultures and history.

In Becoming an Ally: Breaking the Cycle of Oppression in People’, activist, author, and educator Anne Bishop explains how a central aspect of being an ally is recognising and being aware of one’s own role in a system of oppression.

Remember that everyone in the oppressor group is part of the oppression. It is ridiculous to claim you are not sexist if you are a man or not racist if you are white and so on. No matter how much work you have done on that area of yourself, there is more to be done. All members of this society grow up surrounded by oppressive attitudes; we are marinated in it. I do not believe anyone raised in Western society can ever claim to have finished ridding themselves completely of their oppressive attitudes. It is an ongoing task, like keeping the dishes clean. In fact, the minute I hear someone claim to be free of the attitudes and actions of a certain oppression (as in “I’m not racist”) I know they have barely begun the process. Humility is the mark of someone who has gone a ways down the road and has caught a glimpse of just how long the road is….  Having accepted that every member of an oppressor group is an oppressor, try not to feel that this makes you a “bad” person. Self-esteem does not have to mean distancing yourself from the oppressor role, it can come instead from taking a proud part in the struggle to end oppression. This involves learning to separate guilt from responsibility. Guilt means taking on all the weight of history as an individual; responsibility means accepting your share of the challenge of changing the situation. (p. 114-115)

[added note Jan 2021 – a PDF of Reconciliation Australia’s 2021 State of Reconciliation Report Summary’ can be found at the end of this article or hit this link]

image via @reconciliationaus

Becoming an ally in education and working to create a more equitable and inclusive school, community and society starts by looking inward.  It is important to accept that there is no magic bullet. Change that leads to equity and inclusion occurs as a result of a continuous process of learning, asking, exchanging, listening, explaining, and trying. It requires patience, determination, and the knowledge that the work will never be finished, and we will make mistakes. Compassion for ourselves, our colleagues and our students is absolutely essential as we move forward together.

It is important to acknowledge the particular challenge faced by teachers who, from a position of authority, try to discuss issues of societal power imbalances with their students. There is a dynamic tension inherent in this situation that teachers resolve when we use our power responsibly in ways that communicate our perception of children and youth as whole people. Children and youth can learn important lessons about being an ally when teachers, parents and other adults act as their allies.

We don’t have all the answers, but as Maya Angelou once said, ‘We are only as blind as we want to be’. We’re committed to listening and learning more and using the platform we have to take and ignite action. We want to continue to amplify (and increase) the diverse voices we present on our stage.

Below is a list compiled of resources, websites, leaders, groups, books and businesses created by, or supporting, Australia’s First Nations people mostly involving the performing arts. This is by no means an exhaustive list and we welcome any and all additions.

For further suggestions for this list please contact hello@apata.com.au


Dark Emu

Dark Emu argues for a reconsideration of the ‘hunter-gatherer’ tag for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians and attempts to rebut the colonial myths that have worked to justify dispossession. Accomplished author Bruce Pascoe provides compelling evidence from the diaries of early explorers that suggests that systems of food production and land management have been blatantly understated in modern retellings of early First Nations history, and that a new look at Australia’s past is required.

Magabala Books

Australia’s leading First Nations publishing house. First Nations owned and led, they celebrate and nurture the talent and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices. www.magabala.com

Reconciliation Australia

Novels to non-fiction, poetry to prose, Reconciliation Australia has collected a range of some of the most mind-expanding and heart-capturing stories from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors to get you started. www.reconciliation.org.au

Blackfulla Bookclub

An initiative started during the COVID-19 isolation period by Teela Reid and Min Dutton, Blackfulla Bookclub is an Instagram account that shares First Nations books, stories and writing with the aim of being ‘A First Nations thinking platform’. @blackfulla_bookclub

How To Be An Antiracist

Ibram X. Kendi’s concept of anti-racism re-energizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America–but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. Instead of working with the policies and system we have in place, Kendi asks us to think about what an anti-racist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it. www.ibramxkendi.com




Dark Emu – Bruce Pascoe

Australia Day – Stan Grant

Talking To My Country – Stan Grant

Mullumbimby – Melissa Lucashenko

Am I Black Enough For You – Anita Heiss

Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia edited by Anita Heiss

Fire Country – Victor Steffensen

Welcome to Country – Marcia Langton

Sand Talk – Tyson Yunkaporta

Salt – Bruce Pascoe

The Biggest Estate on Earth – Bill Gammage

Deep Time Dreaming – Billy Griffiths

Talking Sideways – Reg Dodd and Malcolm McKinnon

Not Just Black and White – Tammy and Lesley Williams


Kindred – Kirli Saunders

Fire Front: First Nations Poetry edited by Alison Whittaker

Blakwork – Alison Whittaker

Too Much Lip – Melissa Lucashenko

Carpentaria – Alexis Wright

The Swan Book – Alexis Wright

Taboo – Kim Scott

That Dead Man Dance – Kim Scott

The White Girl – Tony Birch

Throat – Ellen van Neervan

Comfort Food – Ellen van Neervan

Heat and Light – Ellen van Neervan

Common People – Tony Birch

After the Carnage – Tara June Winch

Swallow the Air – Tara June Winch

Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms – Anita Heiss

Terra Nullius – Claire G. Coleman




Black is the New White – Nakkiah Lui

City of Gold – Meyne Wyatt

Contemporary Indigenous Plays introduced by Larissa Berhrendt.

Cracked, Banned, Own Way and more – Barbara Hostalek

The Drover’s Wife – Leah Purcell

No Sugar – Jack Davis

The Seven Stages of Grieving – Wesley Enoch

The Shadow King – Tom E. Lewis [an adaptation of King Lear set in a remote Indigenous community]

Stolen – Jane Harrison

Sunshine Super Girl: The Evonne Goolagong Story – Andrea James

Walking into the Bigness – Richard Frankland

Waltzing the Wilwarra – David Milroy

Yibiyung – Dallas Winmar

For more go to www.australianplays.org/blakstage


Occupation: Native

First Nations filmmaker Trisha Morton-Thomas, bites back at Australian history in this inspired satire. www.roninfilms.com.au

In My Blood It Runs

An observational feature documentary following 10-yr-old Arrernte First Nations boy Dujuan as he grows up Alice Springs, Australia. www.inmyblooditruns.com

The Australian Dream: Adam Goode

The remarkable story of First Nations AFL legend Adam Goodes. Through the backdrop of Goodes’ journey, the feature documentary explores race, identity and belonging in Australia today. www.madmanfilms.com.au or  www.iview.abc.net.au

We Don’t Need A Map

A bold and provocative essay film by Warwick Thornton about the deeply spiritual meaning of the Southern Cross constellation for Australia’s First Nations people. www.roninfilms.com.au


Utopia is intent on lifting the veil on Australia’s racist treatment of its First Nations population, calling the conditions they faced the country’s “dirtiest little secret”. An epic production by the Emmy and Bafta winning film-maker and journalist John Pilger, Utopia is both a personal journey and universal story of power and resistance and how modern societies can be divided between those who conform and a dystopian world of those who do not. www.beamafilm.com/watch/utopia

Samson and Delilah

Director Warwick Thornton’s first feature, about a pair of outcast First Nations kids who flee from their tiny central Australian community, went on to win many awards including the Camera d’Or (Gold Camera Award) for Best First Film at Cannes along with the Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Film in 2009. Samson & Delilah youtube

More Films:

Mabo 2012   /  Goldstone 2016 /  Jedda 1955  /   Walkabout 1971  /  Rabbit-Proof Fence 2002  /  The Tracker 2002  /  Ten Canoes 2006  /  Charlie’s Country 2013  /  Beneath Clouds 2002  /  Radiance 1998  /  Where the Green Ants Dream 1984  /  The Sapphires 2012  /  Storm Boy 1976  /  The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith 1978  /  Murundak 2011  /  Black Divaz 2018  /  Ella 2016  /  Our Generation 2010

Connection to Country

Australia is home to the world’s oldest continuous culture. And yet First Nations elders from the Pilbara region of Western Australia, must fight like mad to preserve their unique heritage from the ravages of Australia’s booming mining industry. www.screenaustralia.gov.au

Reconciliation Film Club

Screen one of these documentaries from Australia’s leading First Nations filmmakers with the Reconciliation Film Club. This platform has everything you need to support a successful event in your workplace or community. www.sbs.com.au/learn/reconciliationfilmclub



Moogahlin Performing Arts  /   Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts  /    NAISDA Dance College  /  DIGI Youth Arts  /  Access Arts – First Australian Arts Program  /  Blakdance  Short Black Opera   




NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in First Nations communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. www.naidoc.org.au

National Reconciliation Week

National Reconciliation Week is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. www.reconciliation.org.au

Cairns Indigenous Art Fair

The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) is dedicated to supporting the careers of Queensland indigenous artists by providing a platform for exposure and income generation. CIAF is focused on offering an ethical art market place, attracting national and international collectors and curators, commissioning new work and providing pathways for emerging visual and performance artists. www.ciaf.com.au

Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair

The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair offers a rich exchange of art, culture, and ideas with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from across Australia. DAAF provides a genuine opportunity to purchase artwork directly from over seventy Indigenous owned community Art Centres, whilst being immersed in an exciting program of traditional dance, workshops, film, fashion and music. www.daaf.com.au




Bangarra Dance Theatre


Short Black Opera

Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company

Ilbijerri Theatre Company

Miriki Performing Arts

Laura Dance Festival

Dance Rites

Indigenous Hip Hop Projects

Marrugeku Theatre


Desert Mob

Cairns Indigenous Art Fair

Tarnarthi Art Fair

Karijini Experience

Tribal Experiences

Nintiringanyi Cultural Training Centre

Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park


Yugambeh Museum

Yugambeh Youth Choir




3 Rivers Festival

Taste of Kakadu

Barunga Festival

Garma Festival

Parrtjima – A Festival In Light

Two Worlds Festival

Boomerang Festival

Winds of Zenadth


Yaluk-Ut Weelam Ngargee


Bábbarra Women’s Centre

Women from more than 12 language groups in the Maningrida region who have come together to share knowledge and ideas through the social enterprise, Bábbarra Designs, designing and hand-printing textiles that are sold around the world. www.babbarra.com

Grace Lillian Lee

Grace is a weaver, curator, artist and designer and the founder of First Nations Fashion + Design – a progressive platform created to nurture and support Indigenous creatives. @gracelillianlee   /  @first.nations.fashion.design  /   www.firstnationsfashiondesign.com

Jenna Lee

Jenna is a mixed race Larrakia, Wardaman and Karajarri woman whose contemporary art practice explores the acts of identity/identification, label/labelling and the relationships formed between language, label and object. Being a Queer, Mixed Race, Asian (Japanese, Chinese and Filipino), Aboriginal Woman, Jenna’s practice is strongly influenced by her overlapping identities, childhood memory as well as maternal teachings of subject and process. www.jm-lee.myportfolio.com

Rachael Sarra

As a contemporary First Nations artist, speaker, author and radio host from Goreng Goreng Country, Rachael uses art as a powerful tool in storytelling to educate and share her culture and its evolution. Rachael’s work often challenges and explores the themes of society’s perception of what First Nations art and identity is. @sar.ra_  /  www.rachaelsarra.com

Elisa (LeeCee) Carmichael

Quandamooka woman Elisa Jane Carmichael is a multidisciplinary artist who honours her salt-water heritage by incorporating materials collected from Country, embracing traditional techniques, and expressing contemporary adaptations through painting, weaving, and textiles. @leeceecarmichael

Charlotte Allingham

Charlotte is a 26 year old Wiradjuri, Ngiyampaa woman from New South Wales, with family ties to Condobolin and Ivanhoe. She currently lives in Naarm, creating Illustrations about her culture and identity and the impacts of Colonization. She focuses on community love and body positivity as well as Black strength and power. Challenging the perception of her people through her own creative expression in a range of themes of modern subcultures, occultism and the First Nation’s futurism. www.charlotteallingham.com

Aretha Brown

Aretha describes her art practice as a means of giving herself a context in which to live. Brown is inspired by Melbourne’s Western Suburbs and her journey as a queer teenager. Aretha’s first painting “Time is on our Side, You Mob”, was shown in the 2019 Top Arts exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). The work itself draws upon her experiences in social and political spaces as a young indigenous teenager. She now produces her own independent Youtube channel – speaking about politics, culture and art in her own Australian context. arethabrown.bigcartel.com

Miimi and Jiinda

An Australian art business, founded by First Nations mother and daughter, Lauren Jarrett and Melissa Greenwood, Miiimi & Jiinda was established to not only create beautiful sacred artworks by sharing their rich cultural history, but to also implement change by creating national projects. @miimiandjiinda  /  www.miimiandjiinda.com

Nungala Creative

Established by proud Warumungu / Wombaya woman Jessica Johnson, Nungala Creative is a 100% First Nations owned and operated creative communications agency that produces innovative content with a distinct First Nations voice. The Nungala Creative product range reflects their ongoing commitment to the visibility, strength and empowerment of their people. www.nungalacreative.com

Warlu Art

Warlukurlangu Artists is one of the longest running and most successful Aboriginal-owned art centres in Central Australia, producing gloriously coloured First Nations art, promoting Aboriginal culture and supporting the remote communities of Yuendumu and Nyirripi since 1985. @warlu_art  /  www.warlu.com

Katie Wularni West

Yindjibarndi (Pilbara region, WA) textile artist using eco-dyeing (with plant matter foraged from the banks of the Yarra) to express her connection to country. www.katiewularniwest.com

Mornington Island Designs

MIDesigns explore the boundaries of First Nations art and fashion through their highly revered colourful designs. @miartdesigns

Maryann Talia Pau

A Samoan-Australian artist and practising weaver based in the Redland’s, Quandamooka Country, Queensland, Maryann’s weaving practice is based on exchange and collaboration. Born in Samoa and raised in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia, she is a maker of ‘Pasifika bling’ and creator of the One Million Stars To End Violence project along with recently co-founding Super Native Unlimited with her husband Mark Yettica-Paulson – a creative consultancy and clothing brand harnessing their love for Australian First Nations and Pacific Island cultures. www.onemillionstars.net  /   www.supernativeunlimited.com

Hopevale Art and Cultural Centre

The Hopevale Arts and Cultural Centre, along with the Nganthanun Bamawi Bayan Gallery, displays locally produced textiles, arts, crafts and artifacts as well as offering a workshop space for local artists. The centre offers a space to learn ancient skills, such as gathering and weaving of local fibres and dyeing them with bush dyes, and modern skills such as printing, etching and contemporary art techniques. www.hopevaleart.org.au


Common Ground Australia

A social enterprise created by Rona Glynn-McDonald to share stories of Australia’s First Nations, Common Ground works towards a society that celebrates and embraces our First Peoples.  www.commonground.org.au

Share Our Pride

This website was created by Reconcilaition Australia in response to a request from industry for an introductory site for employees.  By working through the material chapter by chapter readers will build an understanding of our shared history and  the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective. www.shareourpride.org.au

The Uluru Statement

The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an invitation from First Nations to “Walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future”. It was issued to the Australian people in May 2017 following almost two years of work. The Uluru Statement calls for structural reform including constitutional change. Structural reform means establishing a new relationship between First Nations and the Australian nation based on justice and self-determination where Indigenous cultures and peoples can flourish, and we all move forward. www.ulurustatement.org

Know Your Country

A call for Federal, State and Territory Education Ministers and Shadow Ministers, by their next election, to commit funding for all primary schools to employ locally approved, First Nations Cultural Educators. Join the campaign

Koori Curriculum

Koori Curriculum is an Aboriginal Early Childhood consultancy that supports early childhood educators to grow their cultural confidence and capacity. Working with educators across all different service types assisting them to embed Aboriginal perspectives in their curriculum and form meaningful relationships with their local Aboriginal community. www.kooricurriculum.com

Wingaru Education

A leading Aboriginal education company, Wingaru develops and delivers programs and resources to support schools and teachers in the classroom, as well as organisations wanting to increase cultural competency in the workplace. Wingaru’s mission is to change the narrative around the issues impacting Indigenous communities via greater understanding and shared knowledge for the wider community. www.wingaru.com.au

Traditional Places Names in addresses

Australia Post Guidelines for adding traditional place names to your post from the campaign led by Rachael McPhail.

Deadly Story

This fantastic resource aims to support First Nations children and young people to grow in their knowledge of; Who you are, who you belong to, where you belong, where you come from, what you do, what you believe and what symbolises your culture. www.deadlystory.com

As stated at the beginning of this article this is a list compiled of resources, websites, leaders, groups, books and businesses created by, or supporting, Australia’s First Nations people involved in the performing arts. This is by no means an exhaustive list and we welcome any and all additions as we continue to do the work and start reading, watching, listening, learning and following.

For further suggestions for this list please email hello@apata.com.au

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