Please note: Some of the content on this page was published prior to the launch of Creative Australia and references the Australia Council. Read more.

Showcasing Creativity: Programming and presenting First Nations performing arts

Sep 01, 2016


Showcasing Creativity reports on the level and types of First Nations performing arts programming in Australia’s mainstream venues and festivals; the presenting of works to audiences; and the motivations and obstacles for presenters and producers.

Showcasing Creativity provides an opportunity and evidence base for the broader arts sector to examine decision making processes about programming, presenting and marketing First Nations works to Australian audiences. It aims to promote and inform discussion about what is needed to achieve a culturally ambitious nation that cherishes First Nations arts.

Key Findings

National mapping of the programs of 135 Australian presenters found that First Nations performing arts are under-represented in Australia’s mainstream venues and festivals. They comprised around 2% of the almost 6000 works programmed in 2015 seasons.

Almost half of Australian presenters did not appear to program works with First Nations creative control, involvement or content in 2015, including major venues and festivals that presented over 100 works each.

There is a need to build sector capacity for cross-cultural engagement both ways; between mainstream presenters, and First Nations artists and communities.

Through this research, presenters and producers called for:

  • proactive initiatives, long-term planning and support to build First Nations representation across the sector and in programming; and
  • personal, organisational and sector-wide leadership and commitment to an important two-way cultural conversation.


Quotes from research participants:

Our theatres need to tell contemporary Australian stories and it’s incumbent on us if we’re telling those contemporary Australian stories, to tell the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander story.

I thought it was too hard hitting a work for this community. I didn’t have the courage to do it. And I probably should have… It was such a strong, brave, fabulous work.

So often Aboriginal arts get pigeon-holed as just something cultural, but I want to show that…it is evolving and there is innovation and there’s really exciting and talented artists that are producing fabulous work

Related Australia Council First Nations research

Showcasing Creativity is the latest study in a series commissioned by the Australia Council for the Arts with the aim of connecting more Australians to First Nations arts experiences and increasing opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

Related resources and initiatives

Spreading Like Bushfire – Jacob Boehme speaks out about underrepresentation, cultural responsibility and allowing First Nations voices to be heard (UK ArtsProfessional article). Jacob Boehme is a First Nations artist, collaborator and Creative Director of the YIRRAMBOI First Nations Arts Festival.

YIRRAMBOI delegation – the Australia Council for the Arts is offering presenters and programmers an opportunity to join a delegation to the 2017 YIRRAMBOI First Nations Arts Festival.

Hear Ilbijerri’s Artistic Director Rachael Maza discuss the Showcasing Creativity research on Radio National’s AWAYE! program – Performance anxiety: why venues don’t stage Indigenous theatre

Indigenous Cultural Protocols and the Arts – A book of case studies by Terri Janke and Company that are based around the Australia Council’s protocols. The case studies represent best practice when working with Indigenous Australians on arts projects.

Protocols for working with Indigenous artists – Australia Council’s protocol guides.

Performing Lines Indigenous community engagement pilot evaluation – an evaluation by Denise Wilson and Tandi Williams, of the Indigenous Community Engagement Coordinator role.

Performing Arts Touring Needs Analysis – this report on an APACA survey of performing art centres’ touring needs, and other resources can be downloaded from the APACA website.

Artists in the Black – a rich source of information from Arts Law on a range of issues including Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP).

Showcasing Creativity – Presenting First Nations Work

Speakers: Mandy Whitford, Jackie Bailey, Hung-Yen Yang, Lydia Miller, introduced by John Knell

The Australia Council for the Arts presents findings from research about programming and presenting First Nations Performing Arts at the 2016 APACA conference.

Getting it Right: Cultural Protocols for Presenting Work

Speakers: Rhoda Roberts AO, Lee-Ann Buckskin, introduced by Karilyn Brown,

Rhoda Roberts and Lee-Ann Buckskin provide advice and suggestions on how you can cultivate Indigenous cultural protocols at this session from the 2016 APACA conference.

Community Engagement – The Basics

Speakers: Jade Lillie, Narelle Lewis, Denise Wilson

This session from the 2016 APACA conference is all about community engagement.