Tuggeranong Arts Centre: Indigenous Engagement

For 25 years the Tuggeranong Community Arts Association has run inspired artistic programs and events, which have focused on participation, inclusion and accessibility, and helped shape a sense of pride in the community that we are today.

Footprints on Our Land: A documentary on the ACT’s living treasure: Aunty Agnes Shea

The production of a 38 minute documentary was successfully completed in 2015. The film documentary, Footprints on Our Land, captures the life and times of the ACT’s most senior Ngunnawal Elder, Aunty Agnes Shea.

Funds for the project were largely made available through surplus CACD funding as well as 2016 allocated funds plus the Regional Arts funding allocated for 2016. A small contribution was made by OATSIA funding, which enabled the employment of an emerging Indigenous filmmaker who became the associate producer of the film and also worked alongside the research and coordination officer Julian Hobba.

A professional documentary maker, Pat Fiske was engaged and extensive consultation work with the Shea/Walker family and other Indigenous community members had already commenced in late 2015.

Creating a film from narratives and local history sources whilst carefully navigating cultural sensitivities and boundaries, was mainly the role of Tuggeranong Arts Centre. A key outcome was not only a high quality documentary that captures a beautiful and mostly positive story, but creating strong ties to the Indigenous community and laying a foundation that would allow and spark further arts and cultural engagement with the Indigenous community of the region.

Footprints on Our Land was invited to the Canberra International Film Festival and was the opening film. Since then the film has been introduced to several high schools and colleges across the ACT as a curriculum tool with the assistance of the Education Directorate. Outcomes of this pilot have been evaluated by the Directorate. Screenings across many government departments, schools and NGO’s across the region have taken place and promotion of the film continues. The film was recently presented at the National Aboriginal Healing Conference in Ballina NSW as an example of cultural healing through arts and heritage projects.

Deadly Funny and Black Comedy

In March 2016 a collaboration between the Arts Centre and the Deadly Funny Black Comedy Program of the Melbourne Comedy Festival commenced. This was an exciting opportunity to work with interstate and local budding Indigenous comedians.

The arts centre became the venue for comedy workshops and the final comedy competition, which was hosted by Sean Choolburra, who also agreed to host the opening of the Midnight Oil Exhibition.

Feedback from the Indigenous community was enthusiastic and prompted the Black Comedy Project for 2017- again in collaboration with the Deadly Funny competition.

In early 2017, Aboriginal comedy star Kevin Kropinyeri was a comedian in residence at TAC, who shared him with several Aboriginal organisations and two ACT schools. Kevin worked with the West Belconnen Child and Family Centre as well as Winnunga Health Services and Gold Creek and Caroline Chisholm High Schools. 92 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members shared the experience of learning basic comedy and presentation skills.

Quotes below courtesy of Julie Tongs:

"Kevin was in town to conduct a number of free comedy workshops across the ACT, including two workshops at Winnunga AHS, which were attended by over 20 of our local community members and staff."

"They say laughter is the best medicine and comedian Kevin Kropinyeri certainly tested that theory on a recent visit to Winnunga AHS.

The funny fella from Ruakken in South Australia, whose mob is Ngarrindjeri, has been performing for over nine years now and is easily becoming recognisable from his appearances on NITVs comedy show Express Yourself, is a regular performer at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and can be found touring around the country with the Aboriginal Comedy All Stars.

Kevin was in town to conduct a number of free comedy workshops across the ACT, including two workshops at Winnunga AHS, which were attended by over 20 of our local community members and staff. Kevin said he couldn’t thank Winnunga AHS enough for the warm welcome he received.

"The participants had a lot of great questions. I was able to give them an insight into what it’s like being a stand-up comedian and what it’s like performing stand-up comedy. It’s also special that I have the opportunity to meet mob from all around Australia. I enjoyed being at Winnunga, everyone was warm and welcoming," Kevin said.

When the participants weren’t cracking up at Kevin’s jokes or at his many funny facial expressions, there was also a serious side to the workshop with passing on of valuable skills, not only related to comedy, but on how to get up and present or perform confidently without shame, and to be strong and deadly.  One participant said the workshop was really interesting. "Even though I’m definitely not interested in being a stand-up comedian, it was still a good interesting experience to hear about Kevin’s journey. He also shared with us handy tips to help us not get shame when getting up and presenting, talking to a groups of people’ she said. We would like to thank the Tuggeranong Arts Centre for making it possible for the free comedy workshops to be held at Winnunga AHS."