Nakkiah Lui a playwright who grew up in Western Sydney and is the daughter of a Gamilaroi woman from Gunnedah and a Torres Strait Islander. As a playwright she had drawn from her own life and community in the Mount Druitt area, and wrote her first play whilst studying in Canada.
Nakkiah was the first recipient of both The Dreaming Award by The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Arts Board of the Australia Council; and the Balnaves Foundation Indigenous Playwright award.
Leah Purcell is an award-winning actor, singer and writer. She was born to a black mother and a white father who did not publicly acknowledge her as his daughter. In Year 10 at Murgon High School she gained the role of Gloria, the secretary in Bye Bye Birdie. Performing saved her from the consequences of heavy drinking that started when she was seven. Her professional acting career began in 1992 and she came to prominence in 1993 with a role in Jimmy Chi's Bran Nue Dae. Purcell subsequently appeared in film and television roles including a part in Lantana, the adaptation of Andrew Bovell's play, Speaking in Tongues. She also appeared in Nick Cave's The Proposition. and the award-winning film Jindabyne (2006). Purcell received a Matilda Award for theatre in 1994 for her performance in 'Low'.
In 1997, Purcell starred in her own highly acclaimed, one-woman play, Box the Pony. She performed in successful seasons around Australia and in London, Edinburgh and Broadway. Purcell won a number of awards both for the script and for her acting, including the Premier's Literary Award in New South Wales and Queensland. The script is on high-school syllabuses in four states and an audition monologue at NIDA. In 2004, Purcell was invited to the United States for the three-month Eisenhower Fellowship. She was the first indigenous person to be offered this opportunity. In 2005 Purcell played Condoleezza Rice in David Hare's play, 'Stuff Happens' and in 2006 Eve Ensler's acclaimed one-woman show about body image, 'The Good Body'. In 2007 Purcell was nominated in the Best Actress in a Lead Role category in the Sydney Theatre Awards for her performance in the play, 'The Story of the Miracles at Cookie's Table'.
In 2016, Purcell wrote an adaptation of The Drover's Wife, which won 11 awards, and has since been published as a novel, and adapted into film. Her children's television series Little J and Big Cuz won Most Outstanding Children's Program at the 2019 Logie Awards.
Dancer, writer, comedian, film and theatre director and actor, Wayne Blair graduated from university in 1997. Since graduating, Blair has worked with several theatres (including Bangarra Dance Theatre), film and television productions. Blair portrayed Othello for the Bell Shakespeare Company. He directed short films: Black Talk (2002), and The Djarn Djarns (2005). Blair starred in Shifting Sands - Grace (1998) and Mullet (2001). In 2008, Blair was appointed the Artistic Associate of Belvoir St Theatre.
In 2012, Blair was nominated for an AACTA Award, Best Direction, for The Sapphires.
Richard Frankland is one of Australia's most experienced Indigenous singer/songwriters and filmmakers. Born on the coast in South-West Victoria, Richard worked as a soldier, fisherman, and also as a Field Officer during the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. His work on the Royal Commission led to his appearance as a presenter in the award winning Australian documentary, Who Killed Malcolm Smith.
Frankland has written, directed, and produced a wide range of video, documentary, and film projects including the award winning No Way to Forget, After Mabo, Harry's War and The Convincing Ground documentary. Richard is also a musician whose music features on soundtracks to many of his films and some of his songs have been recorded by acclaimed Indigenous singer/songwriter Archie Roach.
He was also selected as part of a group in 2007 to participate in a project by the Australian Film Commission (AFC) that was designed to nurture and assist the talents of upcoming Indigenous filmmakers. The project was designed to give the chosen individuals the opportunity to develop their first feature film with the assistance of respected directors and producers such as Phillip Noyce, Zachary Skiar and Ray Lawrence.
Boori Pryor is a descendant of the Kungganji and Birri-Gubba people of North Queensland. Boori has worked in the film and television industry and also theatre-in-education. He is best-known as a storyteller, travelling widely to introduce his culture to young Australians.
In collaboration with Meme McDonald, he has published a series of books based on his life and the stories of his family. Their first collaboration, Maybe Tomorrow (1998), received a Special Commendation from the Human Rights Awards and their second, My Girragundji (1998), won a Children's Book Council of Australia Award. They have since published several more books, most notably The Binna Binna Man (1999), which won several awards, including the Ethnic Affairs Commission Award in 2000.
In 2012-2013, Pryor was the joint inaugural Australian Children's Laureate. His work has been taught in universities across Australia, and has won multiple awards, including the Prime Minister's Literary Award, the Victorian Premier's Literary award, and the New South Wales Premier's Literary Award (which he won in three categories, for the same novel, in 2000).
Boori's father was Monty Prior.
Tony Briggs is a playwright and actor who has appeared on stage in many productions such as Stolen and Yanagai! Yanagai!, Corrugation Road' and 'Jandamarra' as well as on film in Australian Rules and Joey.
Bob Maza was born on Palm Island, a Murri Reserve in Queensland. His father was from Murray Island in the Torres Strait and his mother from the coastal Yidinjdji people. He completed his schooling in Cairns, spent some years as a manual labourer and then worked as a store clerk in Darwin. Maza began acting in Melbourne in 1969 with little formal training. He was a founding member of the National Black Theatre in Sydney in 1972. In 1970 Maza was a delegate to the 25th United Nations Assembly in New York to highlight the Third World status of Indigenous Australians. In that year he was also involved in the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, where he often used theatre as a means of showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues. In 1981 he was an official delegate to the World Indigenous Festival held in Canada.
Maza directed his first play, the premiere of Richard J. Merritt's The Cakeman, at the National Black Theatre in 1975. After that he worked as an actor, director, playwright and a consultant in theatre, radio, film and television. Maza's pioneering role in the ABC program Bellbird, which saw him playing a barrister, was vital in changing the way Indigenous people were portrayed in the media. His eminent acting career included countless roles on television, in theatre and feature films such as The Fringe Dwellers, The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith and Reckless Kelly. In 1993, in recognition of his work in the Arts and for his people, Maza was awarded an Order of Australia (AM). During his years as an AFC commissioner (1995-98) he made a significant contribution not only to the development of Indigenous filmmakers in Australia but to the Australian filmmaking community generally. Maza is the father of Lisa Maza and actor and director, Rachel Maza Long (qq.v).
Mitch Torres began an extensive career in the performing arts in 1986 as a theatre and film actor, researcher, writer, film director, film producer, radio broadcaster, television presenter and locations manager. Mitch has also been a children's author and a media consultant. Mitch Torres has been active in Film and TV as a Director/Writer working on a number of important documentaries detailing Indigenous histories and people.
Ernie Dingo attributes his entertainment beginnings to being a talented basketball player who was selected for the Western Australia State team in the 1970s. His acting career had also began, after meeting Richard Walley, a fellow basketball player. During this period he joined The Middar Aboriginal Dance Theatre and began working as a stand-up comedian and then as an actor. He has also been a musician and songwriter and has appeared in a number of Australian films and in television soap operas. He is well known as a host on the TV program The Great Outdoors.
Eric Willmot is a leading Aboriginal scholar, engineer, administrator and author. During his primary school years he moved from school to school in Queensland and the Northern Territory. After leaving primary school he began working as a drover and horse breaker and returned to complete his education after a rodeo accident at eighteen which left him unable to work in that field. Willmot graduated from the University of Newcastle in 1968 with a science degree and worked as a maths teacher before gaining a Master's degree in educational planning. He has also worked as a public servant at state and federal level. During his academic career Willmot published in the areas of education and anthropology and gained awards for his inventions.
Willmot's appointments at tertiary institutions include lecturer in the School of Education at the Cancerra College of Advanced Education; director of research for a project on indigenous teacher training at the Australian National University; principal of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra; professor in the School of Education, James Cook University, Townsville.
Danielle MacLean is a Luritja/Warumumgu woman. Maclean's interest in film began in the mid-1990s at Central Australia Aboriginal Media Association Productions, where she spent six years in a directing traineeship under the guidance of indigenous director Erica Glynn. Maclean was also involved with the Nganampa Anwernekenhe documentary series where television programmes were presented in Aboriginal languages.
Maclean was also screenwriter and director for My Colour Your Kind (1998) and worked on the Bonita Mabo documentary, For Who I Am (2002). She has also worked as a researcher for television.
Visual artist and author Sue McPherson was born in Sydney to an Aboriginal mother from Wiradjuri country and a Torres Strait Islander father. She was a Ward of the State for a number of years before been adopted into the McPherson family, land owners from the Batlow area in southern New South Wales. After leaving school McPherson worked in various jobs before moving to Wagga Wagga, New South Wales where she worked with the Regional Aboriginal Land Council. Later she gained her Bachelor of Teaching from Charles Sturt University, and worked as a teacher at the Riverina Institute of TAFE.
McPherson’s inspiration to write came from her sons; this prompted her to take up a writing workshop advertised in the local paper in Coolum, Queensland. Subsequently, she began writing her first novel Grace Beside Me (2012), which she entered the first manuscript in the Black& Write! Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Writing Fellowship and was a joint winner in 2011. And, in 2013 it was shortlisted in the Young Adult category of the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards; McPherson was the only first time novelist on the shortlist. Her novel also gained recognition by the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany and was listed on the White Raven’s list for 2013. (A list of books that are deemed to deserve worldwide attention because of their universal themes and/or, their exceptional and innovative artistic and literary style and design). McPherson continues to live on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane. (Brisbane Writers Festival; Magabala Books website; Queensland Government website; State Library of Queensland website; The Gallery Eumundi website)
Jon Bell is a film and television producer. He grew up in Casino. His mother was Bundjalung and his father Wiradjuri. Bell made the short film And Justice For One before being commissioned to make another for SBS called Two Big Boys. He has also worked as a family case worker for the New South Wales Department of Children's Services.
Among his significant works for television are The Gods of Wheat Street, Cleverman, and The Warriors.
Hyllus Maris was born into the Yorta Yorta tribe, the original inhabitants of the River Murray area and traditional owners of that region. She also had Wurundjeri heritage. As a child Maris participated in the walk-out from Cummeragunha, a Government Mission. That event inspired an episode in Women of the Sun (1981). A sociologist and prominent activist in Aboriginal community development, Maris was the founder of Worawa College, Frankston, the first Aboriginal school in Victoria, and initiated several other Aboriginal organisations.
Cloncurry-born Stephen Oliver has trained as a dancer, actor and singer at the Aboriginal Music Theatre Training Program and at WAAPA. He is also a performance poet.
The former Assistant Artistic Director at Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts, he was one of the creative forces behind Black Comedy for ABC television. In 2016, he scripted his first play, and in 2018, his play From Darkness Whence We Came was produced for the National Playwrighting Festival. In May 2018, he was a featured writer at the NT Writers' Festival.
Elizabeth Wymarra has worked as a performing artist, comedian, playwright and freelance writer. Her father was a Gudang man and her mother, a Wakaidt woman from Badu Island in the Western region of the Torres Straits. Wymarra studied visual and performing arts at New South Wales TAFE in Sydney, and has completed a degree in Creative Writing. She is the mother of Wandihnu Wymarra .
She studied for her Batchelor of Arts Degree in Creative Writing and Language/Linguistics at Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Studies, Northern Territory.
Dallas Winmar is a producer-director with ABC Radio, and a playwright . Winmar's writing career began when she was approached by Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company to write her award winning play Aliwa, which premiered in Perth in 2000.At that time, Winmar was also commissioned by Kooemba Jdarra Indigenous Performing Arts to write Skin Deep. Her third play Yibiyung premiered at Belvoir Street in 2008, which won the Kate Challis Award in 2012.
Tricia Morton-Thomas worked in media, arts and entertainment industry for over twenty years. In 1983 she was a voluntary radio announcer for the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association, but later moved into journalism working for the ABC in Darwin in 1990. In 1991 she moved to Sydney and worked with the Bangarra Dance Theatre as a sound technician, where she to enrol in the Eora Centre for performing arts. She landed the role of Mae in the film 'Radiance'.
In 2004, Trisha went back to Alice Springs and again worked at the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association as a Production Co-ordinator. Since then she is a freelancer Filmmaker. (Source: Ronin Films website)
Narelle McRobbie, the youngest of nine children of Elizabeth and Kenneth Stewart, was brought up on the Atherton Tableland in Far North Queensland. The Magabala Books website reports that: ' Her maternal grandmother, Lucy Gordon, was a full blood Aborigine from the Atherton Tablelands who met Samwell Lifu (Lucy's future husband) when he came from New Caledonia with six brothers to work in the cane and corn fields around Queensland. Narelle's paternal grandparents, Jack and Nelly Stewart, were full blood Aborigines of the Yidinji tribe. They lived around Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine but their tribal boundaries stretched from the Tablelands, along the Mulgrave River, down to Babinda and up along the coast to Cairns.'
McRobbie's father died when she was a young child so she learnt the basics of the Yidinji language from her mother and other family members. At eight years of age, she was fostered out to an American couple who lived on the Atherton Tableland. Writing was McRobbie's biggest fascination as a child; she was encouraged to write letters to penfriends and family. McRobbie continued to live on the Atherton Tableland with her three children.
After graduating from the School of Indigenous Studies at the University of Western Australia, Kodie Bedford moved to Sydney to work as a journalist. She worked for SBS's Living Black before joining the ABC's Message Stick. When Message Stick was cancelled, she moved to the ABC Indigenous Department. After deciding she wanted to break into script-writing, she joined MediaRING, a volunteer association of industry and screen organisations with a focus on creating opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working in the media.
Her first film script, Yarrabah, was funded by Screen Australia in 2017. She also served as script and story editor on Grace Beside Me.
'Showcase on Indigenous talent – Kodie Bedford'. MediaRING, 4 May 2016. http://www.mediaring.com.au/news/showcase-on-indigenous-talent-kodie-bedford/
Tristan Savage was born in Maryborough and grew up in Townsville. He attended James Cook University and was awarded a Bachelor of Creative Arts, majoring in Theatre and a Bachelor of Theatre (Honours). Savage is a comedian and writer. He won the 2011 Deadly Funny Award, a national competition held as part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival. (Source: State Library of Queensland website and Rift Breaker)