Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts and Cultures


The ACT Government understands the vital contribution that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture make to the identity and vibrancy of our city. The ACT Government acknowledges the Ngun(n)awal people as the traditional custodians of the ACT and surrounding areas.

artsACT supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists through the ACT Arts Fund and Community Arts and Cultural Development Program.

The ACT is home to significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, including Jenni Kemarre Martiniello winner of a Fellowship at the National Indigenous Art Awards.

ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Network

The ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Network (Arts Network) is a newly established working group to ensure self-determination for ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in co-designing policy and programs. The group will focus on promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures through the arts. The establishment of this Network is a deliverable of the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan.

The Arts Network was established in response to community feedback emphasised in the ACT Aboriginal and Torre Strait Islander Arts Consultation Report. This feedback highlighted the need to support policy and program making co-design opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the arts implementing the Action Plan. This priority is in line with The ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Agreement 2015-2018 which supports the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to freely determine their political status and to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development in line with the right to self-determination.

Establishment of the Network ensures that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are directly involved in the design of new initiatives. The Arts Network is not a Ministerial Advisory Committee. Instead it has been envisioned as a flexible working group that will collaborate with artsACT in new program development and co-design for targeted and specific Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts programs in 2018. These programs will consider the priorities set out in the Action Plan. The Arts Network will assist in the evaluation of these programs and activities. The Arts Network will also be an important way to communicate with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through their own channels and provide ongoing advice to artsACT about all its activities and programs on an as needed basis.

The Arts Network currently has six members, chosen as a reflection of their cultural expertise, skill sets, artistic practice and role in their communities. Members of the Arts Network are Ngunnawal Elders Adrian Brown and Tina Brown, Jilda Andrews, Samantha Faulkner, Dale Huddleston and Jenni Kemarre Martiniello.

The Arts Network is a new way for the ACT Government to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and we have the privilege of working with Ngunnawal Elders to guide our processes providing a strong cultural basis for our work. Meetings have been held on country at Tidbinbilla and London Bridge at Googong. It is envisioned that the Arts Network will have up to ten members and meet no more than two or three times a year. Terms will be for two years.

The Arts Network has worked with artsACT to develop new Program Principals to guide the design of new initiatives.

Cultural practice is at the heart: Programs bring the art forms to the story and not the other way around. Programs use the arts as a way of promoting cultural reconnection.
Ngunnawal Country: Programs reflect what is unique about place and site and those living on it, both traditional custodians and their unique role and those living off country.
Things take time: Programs are about deep engagement and cohesion, upskill and grow local communities and arts content sustainably.
Engaging children and young people in culture: Programs connect young and old people for cultural exchange through the arts at the right moments in their trajectories (9-13 years)
National Voices: Programs are of national significance and leverage off the broad range of national and local arts organisations for the benefit of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Professional Pathways: Programs consider promotion and professional practice/ business development opportunities arising from arts practices.
Developing Audiences: Programs consider the preparedness of audiences, what is the responsibility of listening and the context of non-indigenous audiences observing and participating in cultural practice. Are they interested, ready (have the skill to listen deeply), responsible? How is that opportunity created?

A register of interest for future members is open to be considered by the Arts Network as vacancies arise. To register your interest please provide contact details and a brief CV or description of your experience in the arts and why you are interested in joining the Arts Network by emailing artsACT@act.gov.au

The Arts Network will consider video and sound recordings instead of written material.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Engagement

The ACT Government's 2015 ACT Arts Policy prioritises engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and cultures as a core principle. artsACT has been working with ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across the last 18 months to improve engagement.

Consultation with ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Arts communities has strengthened relationships and given us new and valuable insights into what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are making and why.

This work has resulted in the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Report (Consultation Report) and Action Plan. A Summary Snap Shot has also been prepared. You can download the full PDF and Word versions of the documents here:

The purpose of the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Consultation Report is to reflect the views of ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists about the role of the arts, their strengths and their priorities for arts development. The ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan is a response to the Consultation Report reflecting the views of the consultation participants to provide a strategic vision for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts activities in the ACT.

The ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Consultation and Action Plan will help inform targeted programs for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. A new allocation of $100,000 per year to the sector through the 2016-17 budget and beyond will support new initiatives.

Useful Links

The ACT Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs External Link is located within the ACT Government’s Community Services Directorate and offers a number of programs, services and grants for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. They also produce the fortnightly ACT Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Community Newsletter. If you wish to contribute any deadly news to the deadly corner, interesting stories, community events or other items that you may think will be of interest, please feel free to submit them to oatsia@act.gov.au Photographs to accompany your submissions are also welcome. If you would like to be added to the newsletter contribution list please email oatsia@act.gov.au

The Australia Council for the Arts External Link is the principal Australian Government arts funding body and provides a range of funding programs for individual artists and arts organisations.

The Australian Government Ministry for the Arts External Link administers a range of Australian Government funding that supports Indigenous culture, languages and visual arts including:

The Aboriginal Studies Press (ASP) External Link is the publishing arm of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), the world’s premier research and collecting institute of Australian Indigenous studies.

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torrres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) External Link is the world’s premier institution for information and research about the cultures and lifestyles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, past and present.

The Burrunju Aboriginal Corporation External Link was established in 2006 to provide local Aboriginal people with an opportunity to realise their dream of self–determination by providing an avenue to sell art.

The ACT Indigenous Textile Artists Group External Link first came together in 2003 and represents an impressive diversity of contemporary Indigenous cultures from Victoria, Western Australia and Central Australia to Queensland and New South Wales.

Solid Arts External Link is a website dedicated to respecting and protecting Indigenous intellectual property.

World Intellectual Property Organization External Link is the global forum for intellectual property services, policy, cooperation and information. They are a self-funding agency of the United Nations, with 186 member states.

Please note that this is not a comprehensive list. If you are an ACT-based Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artist, organisation or group and would like to add your website to the list above, please contact artsACT@act.gov.au

artsACT is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. Links provided are not an endorsement of the sites' content or the entities related to those sites.

Bogong Moths

Bogong Moths by Jim Williams and Matthew Harding