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Bastian Fox Phelan: Future Leaders Program

Jan 15, 2020

Bastian Fox Phelan is a writer, musician and zinemaker. They live in Newcastle (Mulubinba) on the land of the Awabakal people. 



What attracted you to the Leadership Program?

I decided to apply for the Leadership Program because I am at a point in my life where I want to obtain greater maturity. After beginning to establish myself as a writer, gaining recognition for my contributions to the zine community, and being given the responsibility and privilege of becoming a teacher, I have often found myself asking: what is required of me personally to step up to the role of being a leader in my community? I am no longer working just for myself or my own ambitions – I now have the duty of doing justice to the values, hopes and dreams of my communities. I believe that the Future Leaders Program will allow me to go deep with this question of community leadership – to find questions that lead to more questions.

Why do you think it is important to develop Arts Leaders?

In my experience, it’s very difficult to find opportunities to develop your leadership skills in the arts sector. Most of my leadership development – learning to organise events, create programs, or share my ideas with a larger audience – has come from the relationships I’ve built with other community members or through relationships with research supervisors at university. As a writer, there have been times I’ve really yearned to have a mentor to guide me through difficult times. What more experienced writers have taught me, however, is that you need to go through it yourself and learn to be your own trustworthy guide. I think developing Arts Leaders is important because it allows space for people to build trust with themselves. Also, it’s an important opportunity to build trust within and across different arts communities. Right now, I think it’s so important for people to be able to trust one another.

Are there ideas around leadership that need to change for our sector to thrive? Are the current notions of leadership still relevant?

Right now I’m looking out the window at the smoke haze from numerous catastrophic bushfires burning in NSW. Ash is falling from the sky. It’s devastating. If you listen to the School Strike For Climate activists, they’ll tell you: we need better leadership in Australia, especially when it comes to the climate crisis. I strongly believe that the arts sector is meant to provide a vision for the future – art has always done that. So we need better leadership for climate action, and this needs to come, in part, from artists. I think the next decade could be a very exciting time for the arts sector to participate in creating a future that we can all share in. The important thing is that change needs to be from the bottom up, it can’t just be top down – people are fed up with inaction. Communities must lead.

What are the top three qualities of leaders that inspire you?

Empathy, intuition and honesty.


Bastian Fox Phelan is a writer, musician and zinemaker. They live in Newcastle (Mulubinba) on the land of the Awabakal people. Bastian has self-published their zines for fifteen years. Their much-loved zines are held in zine collections around the world, including the National Gallery of Australia and National Library of Australia. Bastian has worked with the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and National Young Writers’ Festival on their annual Zine Fair events.

Bastian’s writing has been published in Meanjin, The Lifted Brow, Runway and Scum Magazine. Bastian’s memoir about finding their identity as a queer outsider was recently signed to Giramondo Publishing, to be published in 2020. Bastian has a Master of Arts (Research) in Creative Writing from the University of Sydney. They will be a PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle in 2020.

Bastian is also part of dreampop duo Moonsign, who have been releasing music independently for over six years. Their most recent album ‘Okay You First’ was released on Melbourne label Yes Rave in 2019. It deals with grief about the climate crisis.

Learn more about the 2020 Leadership Program participants.