Commission Gets To The Heart Of Creative State

A groundbreaking First Nations theatre project will bring the stories of generations of Victorian Koorie women to life and kickstart a new generation of Aboriginal theatre makers in Victoria.

Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley announced today that ILBIJERRI Theatre Company, in partnership with Boonwurrung Custodian Caroline Martin, will receive $931,450 to create their Bagurrk (woman) project – the largest grant for a single creative project in the state’s history.

The work will be based on Board of Protection records, letters written by Koorie women in the 1800s and stories that will be collected from women across the state. It will celebrate the untold stories of Victorian Koorie women from before colonisation to today who defied great odds to keep their families, community and culture alive.

As well as creating a theatre production to premiere at Arts Centre Melbourne in 2021, the work will establish new protocols for consulting with First Peoples that will help other projects in the creative industries that tell their stories – as well as offering work placements to kickstart the careers of First Peoples theatre makers.

The project will use the skills of Yalukit Marnang and ILBIJERRI’s Elders in Residence Arweet Carolyn Briggs and Uncle Larry Walsh to bring together descendants of the women behind the records and letters, who will act as advisors to the work – ensuring self-determination and cultural authority are central to the project.

The project was selected from a field of 27 applications for the Andrews Labor Government’s Creative State Commissions program, and a shortlist of seven impressive projects – two of which have also received support for further development.

The Victorian Budget 2018/19 includes $1 million to implement the Creative Victoria First Peoples Plan, to support Aboriginal festivals and events across the state, and provide more opportunities for Aboriginal Victorians to work across our state’s creative industries.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley

“ILBIJERRI is one of our nation’s most respected performing arts companies and the Bagurrk project embodies the vision, passion and dynamism of our creative state.”

“Bagurrk will not only create an incredible theatre performance, it will forge new, culturally appropriate ways to tell First Nations stories – and we’re honoured to support a new generation of Indigenous theatre makers.”

Quote attributable to Artistic Director and Co-CEO of ILBIJERRI Theatre Company Rachael Maza

“When we embarked on exploring the feasibility of this work, we only knew one thing; that we have never felt more ready to tell a significant, Victorian story that shows the country and the world the resilience, benevolence and strength of Koorie people.”