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First Nations Arts supported through the Australia Council’s Signature Works Program

Dec 26, 2018

Badu Gili– meaning ‘water light’ explores ancient First Nations stories in a spectacular seven-minute projection, illuminating the Opera House’s eastern Bennelong sail daily at 7pm and at sunset year-round. Badu Gili is delivered as part of a three year partnership between the Council and the Sydney Opera House. 


Pictured artwork: Lin Onus. Credit: Daniel Boud.

In its first year of a strategic partnership with the Sydney Opera House, Badu Gili displayed artworks by five renowned First Nations artists: Jenuarrie, Alick Tipoti, Frances Belle Parker, and the late Lin Onus and Minnie Pwerle. Badu Gili was experienced by more than 160,000 visitors, and media and social media interest expanded its reach globally.

First Nations Arts supported by the Australia Council in 2018

The Council’s Signature Works program involves intensive workshops that support artists to develop concepts from production to distribution. The 2017 innovation lab led to four successful pitches funded by the Council in 2017–18: development of Andrea James’ theatre work Sunshine Super Girl about tennis champion Evonne Goolagong; Julie Gough’s LOST GROUND, which aims to profile, track and virtually record Tasmanian stone tools in museums and galleries nationally and internationally; Thomas ES Kelly’s documentary series about contemporary First Nations choreographers; and Tim Leha’s Truefullas, a documentary exploring what it means to be Aboriginal and male in Australia today. Five participants were also funded from the 2018 lab: Raymond Zada’s exploration of augmented reality to provide knowledge of Indigenous artworks and history; Nicole Foreshew, Phyllis Thomas and Marika Riley’s cross-generational approach to Making and meaning: the art of wirnan; Joel Bray’s BURBANG, a large scale theatre experience based on the Wiradjuri Burbang ceremony; Daen Sansbury-Smith’s short films with renowned musicians; and Nardi Simpson’s sonic representation of the town of Walgett. Two participants from the first Signature Works innovation lab in 2016 were funded for the third phase of their project: Gina Williams’ Koorlangka, an immersive performance of children’s lullabies in Noongar language with the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra; and performance artist Zane Saunders’ Spirit.

The Chosen program aims to ensure the vibrancy of cultural inheritance for future generations of First Nations artists by supporting the intergenerational transfer of artistic and cultural knowledge and its expression. Chosen empowers First Nations communities and arts sectors to develop their own cultural apprenticeships and residencies with the early career artists they identify. In 2017–18, 12 projects were supported through Chosen with an investment of $300,000. These projects ranged from Elders working with youth to revitalise language and culture, to on-country visits with Elders and youth to reconnect with cultural products and stories. The First Nations communities value this strategic program as there is limited funding opportunities for intergenerational knowledge transfer between Elders and youth. Over the last four years, the number of applications doubled due to increasing interest in the program and the significance of cultural maintenance.


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