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.

Vanessa Elliott (WA) Jaru, Principal Consultant of Vanessa Elliott & Associates

Jan 15, 2020



What does custodianship mean to you?

Custodianship is the cultural expression, order and safety measures adopted to preserve and promote our cultural identity. Custodianship is intergenerational, it comes from our ancestors and Elders; it’s how I raised my daughter, navigate life relationships, maintain my cultural identity and integrity as a global citizen. Custodianship is demonstrated through systems, processes and rituals that affirm belonging, custodianship defines and celebrates who we are, where we going and what is sacred and important to us. It is the transfer of cultural knowledge and our sustainable relationship to place, time, people and purpose.

What attracted you to the Custodianship Program?

I have worked in many sectors across government, industry and community. It’s taught me that culture and arts is the only vehicle that brings mutual understanding, benefit and relationships, everybody has a voice of value – something to share and something to give. You can not address the chasm of race relations without recognising this space and having courageous conversations about nationhood, identity and belonging. Culture and arts is a bridge that does this every day; through street design, public art, performances, art collections, archives, artefacts, story-telling and events. Culture and arts showcases it all and moves people to think about the other, to think about self, purpose, emotions, functionality and happiness. I applied because it was an opportunity to know, grow and arrive back in the arts sector where I began my career.

Custodianship is the cultural expression, order and safety measures adopted to preserve and promote our cultural identity. 

Why do you think it is important to develop First Nations custodianship?

Culture and arts is not a sector or industry. It is a way of life for First Nations people. The First Nations art and cultural sector needs to be led by First Nations people, to build cultural security without compromising diversity, identities or cultural belonging. Courageous conversations need to be encouraged at a local, regional, national and international level. We need to decide what is private to our own kin as part of the intergenerational transfer of custodianship, and what is in the public domain.

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

Servant leadership, courage in complexity, visionary in obscurity.