The Future of Australia's Soft Diplomacy

Scrapping funding for culture 'beyond belief'
The Australian, 1/17/2008

"Just as other countries, those in our region included, are ramping up programs designed to project soft power, the Rudd Government has decided to scrap Australia's. A program aimed at enhancing Australia's cultural image internationally has taken the brunt of cuts to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's budget. Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner announced this week that more than $20 million would be saved by scrapping the Australia on the World Stage initiative, and 'through reductions in other cultural relations funding.'",25197,23064588-5013871,00.html



by Katherine Thomson

On the Wednesday before Easter, 1998, a few hundred metres away from the site of the new Sydney Theatre, one of the most dramatic events in recent Australian history took place. It was the culmination of a tightly planned scheme between the Federal Government and a stevedoring company. An attempt to smash the Maritime Union of Australia — the wharfies.

This play is set against the backdrop of this explosive industrial dispute. Sandy – a retired wharfie – comes home after a six year absence to find his family divided. His kids have moved on — and up. They're on opposite sides of the political divide. His wife doesn't want to be in the same room as him. 
The world has changed, and it seems he no longer has a place in it. But he's a battler, with a burning desire to unite his family and set the past to rights. A past full of explosive secrets that threaten to blow them apart forever.

Katherine Thomson began her career in the theatre as an actor working with Sidetrack, Sydney Theatre Company and Theatre South. Her first play, A Change in the Weather, was presented at the 1982 Women and Arts Festival. Later, under commission from Des Davis at Theatre South she wrote Tonight We Anchor in Twofold Bay, which premiered in Eden played a season at STC's Wharf Studio and toured the South Coast. From there, Katherine’s writing career never looked back.

In 1987 she wrote A Sporting Chance for State Theatre Company of South Australia and then Darlinghurst Nights – a musical play based on the light verse of Kenneth Slessor and written with composer Max Lambert which opened Sydney Theatre Company’s season in 1988 and was broadcast on ABC's Radio National. 

Katherine’s other theatre credits include : Diving for Pearls (premiered at Melbourne Theatre Company 1991), Barmaids (premiered at Deckchair Theatre 1991), Fragments of Hong Kong (1995), Navigating (premiered at Queensland Theatre Company and MTC 1997 and played at STC 1998), This Hospital is My Country and Mavis Goes to Timor (for Deckchair Theatre in 1999 and 2002 respectively – the latter toured through regional Australia in 2003). 

In 2001, as part of their Borderline project, Griffin Theatre Company commissioned Katherine to write Kayak. More recently her commissions have included Wonderlands for Hot House Theatre and Griffin Theatre and Harbour for Sydney Theatre Company to open the new Sydney Theatre in January 2004. 

Katherine's extensive television screenwriting credits include Blackjack, Young Lions, All Saints, McLeods Daughters, Wildside, Grass Roots, Halifax fp, Fallen Angels, Snowy and GP. She is the Australian co-writer of Answered By Fire a two part series in production for Beyond Simpson Le Mesurier, the ABC and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. She is the writer of the Becker Entertainment/Film Australia feature documentary A Colourful Life based on the life of Florence Broadhurst, directed by Gillian Armstrong.

Katherine’s many industry awards include the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Diving for Pearls; five nominations for the NSW Literary Awards for Wonderlands, Diving for Pearls, Barmaids, This Hospital is My Country and GP (Close to Her Chest); a nomination for the 2002 WA Premier’s Book Award for Best Script for Mavis Goes to Timor; Australian Writers' Guild Awards (AWGIE) for Barmaids and Mavis Goes to Timor; an AWGIE for Best Single Script in a Series for GP (Shaking Hands with Time); and a 2002 AFI nomination for Halifax fp (Cradle and All).  

Katherine received the 2003 Rodney Seaborn Playwrights’ Award for Wonderlands. For her play Harbour, she received the 2005 NSW Premier’s Literary Award and was named a finalist for the internationally prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. 

Windmill Baby

by David Milroy

Maymay, an elderly Aboriginal woman, revisits an abandoned Kimberly cattle station in  the far north of Western Australia. She explains to her daughter, who interrupts her on her cell phone, that she has unfinished business on the station which she has no intention of sharing with her daughter. Maymay discovers her old clothes line and wash tub and sets about hanging up the now rotted sheets that she never got to hang out forty years prior. Maymay explains that “If you start something you must finish it even if it doesn’t matter anymore”. She traces the journey of her life on the station and the interaction between the white station owner, his wife and the Aboriginal workers. We learn of the hardships for both black and white in establishing the cattle industry as well as the cultural and social stigma attached to mixed relationships and babies born of mixed blood.

David Milroy has been involved in theatre for a number of years as a musician, director and writer. He has written and directed a number of plays including King Hit which won the 1998 Premier’s Book Award, Runumuk and Windmill Baby. David was Artistic Director of Yirra Yaakin Noongar Theatre for seven years and received a Myer Award in 2002 for his contribution to the development of indigenous theatre. In 2000 David was a guest Director of the American Playwrights Conference in Connecticut and has attended the Australian National Playwrights Conference on a number of occasions as a writer and Director.


David has also directed No Shame for Mainstreet Theatre in Mt Gambier and worked with Polyglot Theatre in Melbourne. David has previously provided musical direction for Sistergirl and Dead Heart for Black Swan Theatre Company and Perth Theatre Company's production of Wild Cat Falling. David co-wrote and directed Sally Morgan's hit play Cruel Wild Woman and Barking Gecko's production of Own Worst Enemy for the Festival of Perth.

David is currently living in Sydney and recently won the 2004 Patrick White Award for his play Windmill Baby and received a Fellowship from the Theatre Fund of the Australia Council. 

Yanagai! Yanagai!

by Andrea James

YANAGAI! YANAGAI! is set in a mythical landscape on the banks of a mighty river.  We call him Dhungula (the Murray River).  The landscape is expansive, like a plain dotted with ancient trees.  Timezoned in the dreaming, present and future.  A clan of storytellers have banded together to remember a beautiful place they once knew.  Together they tell stories that happened thousands of years ago.   Some stories are told so that they may be remembered; others are told so that they may never happen again.

From the sky is dropped a thunderous black woman, we call her Munarra, and she is as mad as hell!  Cast out by her husband and our creator, Biami, she is our reluctant hero.  Sent – unbeknowns to her – to save the very stinking earth she now stands upon.  She cries for the land and people she once knew.  She cries a river.  Two dingoes and a sturdy nulla nulla are her only companions.

On a silent canoe she encounters an old foe – Edward Curr – the first invader to her lands.  His ghost haunts the land and refuses to leave.  Revenge boils behind her eyes and she realises her fate.  She must confront this ghost and in turn heal her land, her people.  Many times she returns to his ghostly homestead.  She’s come for more than a cup of tea.

Meanwhile another struggle is taking place.  In realtime, a landclaim war is being fought.  Eighteen Yorta Yorta claims to land and resources have been made since the arrival of Sir Edward Curr.  One man holds the key to land justice and freedom.  One man has the knowledge of a thousand years and more.  One man can stand in court and win his people’s land for once and for all.  But this one man, our Uncle,  wants nothing more but peace and quiet.  He has come back to his land to fish!  He has come back to his land to die!   And it is poor Lyall a young Yorta Yorta man who must convince this stubborn Elder to take to the gubbar law courts once more.  Bouyed by the success of Mabo and the determination and fire of his people, Lyall takes the hopes and dreams of an entire nation to the confines of the colonial courtrooms.  We cry and we laugh as one by one we see proud Yorta Yorta Elders confronted on the courtroom stand.

Memories are being stirred – the good ones and the bad.  Memories that are better off forgotten.  Memories that eat at your very soul.  

The entire universe is being shaken and Munarra her dingoe companions and her nulla nulla feel a stirring.  Edward Curr can feel something too, but he will never admit it.  He refuses to leave.  He refuses to see.

But deep into the beautiful dark forest one glorious victory is taking place.  One old man, our stubborn Elder, we call him Uncle, is dying.  As he planned.  Guided by the min min lights.  At his rightful place.  His tree.  His land.

And as always, another victory is being planned.  The right to land justice and freedom.  We are, after all, the Yorta Yorta – the “No!” People – and we will never give up.  

We are here.


Andrea James graduated from LaTrobe University as a Bachelor of Art in Drama in 1991 and then went on to complete a Bachelor of Performing Arts at the Victorian College of the Arts in 1996 as an Animateur.  In 1997 she collaborated with John Bolton, Tammy Anderson, Hank Kerr and Pauline Whyman to create the all-Indigenous clown troupe, The Oogadee Boogadees  who went on to tour the Sydney Festival of the Dreaming and MIFA.  She has taught and directed at Swinburne University’s Indigenous Performing Arts course and is Melbourne Workers Theatre’s Artistic Director where she directed “Magpie”  written by Richard Frankland and Melissa Reeves.  She was Associate Director to the MWT production of “Fever” directed by Julian Meyrick.  Andrea wrote and directed her first full length play, “Yanagai! Yanagai!” (inspired by the dreaming, stories , people and land claim of the Yorta Yorta Aboriginal Nation) which completed its world premiere season in September 2003 in co-production with Playbox at the Malthouse Theatre.  The play will tour in 2006 to regional Victoria and the UK.  She has just enjoyed directing the controversial and successful production of Non Parlo di Salo by Christos Tsialkos and Spiro Economopolous for the Melbourne Workers Theatre. 


by Jane Harrison

 Five Aboriginal people; all stolen from their families, communities, land. Within their stories many other stories unfold – of discrimination, sexual abuse, self-hatred, suicide, mental illness – and of family, belonging and hope. The stories weave backwards and forwards in time, from the children's home where each child 'does time', to a point in each life where they reach a kind of resolution. 

In 1992, when the play was first commissioned, few outside the Aboriginal community were aware of this chapter in Australian history, or knew the extent of the issue.  The play is not about blame, politics or policies – rather it maps the emotional effect of that pivotal act of violence – that of being taken away. For our community to heal we need to acknowledge the deeds of the past, and how they resonate in every single Aboriginal life.


Jane Harrison began writing for the theatre with the commission by Ilbijerri Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre Co-operative of Stolen, a play about those generations of Australian Aborigines forcibly removed from their families and land over the last century. Writing Stolen over a six-year period also coincided with a personal journey to connect more with her Aboriginal heritage. She is a descendant of the Muruwari people of NSW. Stolen premiered at Playbox Theatre, Melbourne, in 1998, and has productions annually – eight seasons in Melbourne, plus tours to regional Victoria, Sydney, Adelaide, and Tasmania, the UK (twice), Hong Kong and Tokyo, as well as readings in Canada and New York (in 2004). Jane was the co-winner, (with Dallas Winmar), of the Kate Challis RAKA Award 2002, for Stolen. 

Her most recent play, Rainbow’s End, produced by Ilbijerri, premiered in Melbourne in February, 2005. She contributed one chapter to Many Voices, Reflections on experiences of Indigenous child separation, a book that evolved out of the Bringing Them Home report into the Stolen Generations, and published by the National Library, Canberra in 2002. As well as writing, she teaches Indigenous Performing Arts students at Swinburne University, Melbourne.



The Starry Messenger

by Justin Fleming


The play is set in modern day Florence, where Rachel, a festival playwright, is writing about the year 1600 in Italy when Vincenzo Galilei is working with a team towards the world's first opera, while his son, Galileo Galilei, disovers that the earth moves round the sun. Together, they cause mayhem. But in unexpected and gradually chilling ways, the past invades Rachel's life, placing her and her ardent lover, James, at the centre of a dangerous web of intrigue.


Justin Fleming has been a Vice-President of The Australian Writers' Guild and a
board member of The Australian National Playwrights' Centre. His plays include Hammer (Ensemble), The Cobra (starring Sir Robert Helpmann), Harold In Italy (STC), Burnt Piano (Belvoir/MTC/Herbert Berghof Theater New York, Mainstage Hobart/Dallas Theater Centre/France Australia Theatre, Paris/Centaur Theatre, Montréal), Coup d’Etat (MTC/Western Canada Theatre), Kangaroo (Square Brackets Theatre) and Junction (NIDA).  Burnt Piano won the New York New Dramatists’ Exchange Award in 2000. Coup D’Etat won the Banff PlayRites Residency, Canada 2002, made the final short-list for the Patrick White Award 2003 and was nominated for an AWGIE award for Best Play 2004. Burnt Piano was selected as the inaugural play for the Australia/Canada exchange between Melbourne Theatre Company and the Centaur Theatre, Montréal.  The Department Store was first presented by Parnassus Den, and won the inaugural Mitch Matews Award. The Myth of the Passive Citizen premiered in the Short & Sweet Festival in Sydney, 2005.


As librettist, Justin collaborated with Thos Hodgson on Ripper for Ensemble Productions,  and with 
Stephen Edwards on Accidental Miracles (WAAPA/Sydney Theatre Company), The Ninth
Wonder (Sydney Theatre Company) the English Tour and London season of Crystal Balls
(Compact Opera/Sadler's Wells) and TESS of the D'Urbervilles, which toured Britain before
its run at The Savoy Theatre in London's West End.  Justin was recently librettist on the Griffin
Theatre/Riverside Theatres hit, Satango with Stewart D'Arrietta. Current work includes the
musical, J.C. Williamson with Gale Edwards, John Senczuk and Craig Christie, and Babel in New York withThos Hodgson and Martin Charnin.

Justin has degrees in law from Sydney and Dublin, and a Master of Laws from University College London. 

The Governor's Family

by Beatrix Christian

Set in New South Wales’ Government House at the turn of the 20th Century, the Governor’s family functions as a metaphor for, or microcosm of, the incipient nation. The emerging federation of Australia is in danger of sabotage by the secrets buried within its political system, as well as the pressure of political contradiction tearing at it from the outside. The play revolves around the enigmatic members of the Governor’s family: the Governor, his Aboriginal maid and his repressed Hapsburg wife. The Governor's Family tackles large political issues through individual conflicts in works which are on the edge of theatrical conventions, exploring worlds whose structures are becoming fractured and chaotic. The play is based on a case from 1887 when six men were hanged for the rape of an Aboriginal girl, on the word of the Governor of NSW who refused to exercise the Queen’s prerogative of mercy. 


Beatrix Christian graduated from the NIDA playwright’s studio in 1991.  Her first play Spumante Romantica had its premier production at Griffin Theatre Company in 1992. From there she became an Affiliate Writer and then Writer-in-Residence with the Sydney Theatre Company’s New Stages. Her second play Blue Murder was produced at Belvoir Street Theatre in 1994 and Eureka Theatre Company in 1996, and was winner of Best New Play (Sydney Theatre Critics Circle) and shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. The Governor’s Family premiered at Belvoir Street Theatre in 1997, and was selected as the one Australian play to be read at Teesri Duniya (Montreal) and  nominated for an AWGIE and the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. In 1998 Beatrix was awarded The ANPC/New Dramatists Award to travel to New York. Her comedy, Fred .was produced by STC, MTC, QTC and shortlisted for both the NSW and Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.  Her  play Old Masters  was produced by STC and won the 2002 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for drama.  Other playwriting credits include Faust’s Housethen the mountain comesThe Promised Land (Australian Museum); Mad, Bad & Spooky (Theatre of Image) and Ten Things Not To Do On A First Date (QTC).  For the STC, Beatrix has adapted  A Doll’s House (Ibsenand Life Is A Dream (Calderon), and co-adapted (with Benedict Andrews) Chekhov’s Three Sisters. 

World Indigenous Theatre Reading 2007



World Indigenous Theatre

Reading Series 2007

November 29 – December 1


Martin E. Segal Theatre Center/CUNY,
Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and AATI present Indigenous theatre artists from Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Canada, and the United States.

All performances and screenings take place at

The Martin E. Segal 

Theatre Center
CUNY Graduate Center365 5th Avenue, NYC


For more information on readings, go to


Admission to all events is free.


United States~
Thursday, November 29

6:00 PM Opening Panel

7:15 PM Reading of excerpts from SongCatcher

by Marcie Rendon (White Earth Anishinaabe)  

Australia & Samoa~
Friday, November 30

6:00 PM Reading of excerpts from Lessons in Flight
by Maryanne Sam (Erub/Australia)

7:30 PM Reading of excerpts from Le Tauvaga (The Competition)

by Louise Tu'u (Saleaula-Upolu/Asau-Sava'ii/Samoa)

Canada & New Zealand~

Saturday, December 1

6:00 PM Reading of excerpts from Fancy Dancer
by Dawn Dumont (Cree/Canada)

7:30 PM Reading of excerpts from Awhi Tapu

by Albert Belz (Ngati Porou, Nga Puhi, Ngati Pokai/New Zealand)



Indigenous World Theatre Screenings

Saturday, December 1
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM

These performances are made possible in part by LMCC's Fund for Creative Communities/NYSCA and Manhattan Community Arts Fund/DCA.  Additional funding provided by the Australian Consul General, Australia Council, American Australian Association and Creative New Zealand. 
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Australian Aboriginal Theatre Initiative | | New York | NY | 10003

THE AUSTRALIA PROJECT: Australia Strikes Back


THE AUSTRALIA PROJECT: Australia Strikes Back
Perceptions of the United States by 11 acclaimed Australian playwrights.
Written by
Directed by
SEPT. 13 – SEPT. 30, 2007
Thursdays at 8pm; Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 8pm;
Sunday at 3pm & 7pm
chashama 217
217 East 42nd Street (near 3rd Avenue)


Pinter's Explanation by Ross Mueller, Directed by Mark Armstrong
The Melancholy Keeper of the Deep, Deep Green by Anthony Crowley, Directed by Bridgette Dunlap
Goodbye New York, Goodbye Heart by Lally Katz, Directed by Kara-Lynn Vaeni
The Port by Wesley Enoch, Directed by Ari Edelson


967 Tuna by Brendan Cowell, Directed by Mark Armstrong
The Beekeeper by Emma Vuletic, Directed by Patrick McNulty
Syphon by Tommy Murphy, Directed by Shana Gold


The Will of the Cockroach by Alexandra Collier, Directed by May Adrales
Beneath Us by Ben Ellis, Directed by Mark Armstrong
All This Beautiful Life by Alexis Poledouris
Continuing Occupation by Van Badham, Directed by Jordana Williams


New Indigenous Voices 2007

The Australian Aboriginal Theatre Initiative in collaboration with

The American Indian Community House

presentsNEW INDIGENOUS VOICES 2007 Staged Reading Series of new plays by Aboriginal and Native American writers as part of Indian Summer    Tuesday June 19 at 8pm  BRAIDED LIVES by Cochise Anderson (Chickasaw/Choctaw), a Jerome Fellowship recipient for playwriting.Directed by Jennifer Rice (Tuscarora). A story of contemporary Native American experience as seen through the eyes of two defiant women, one White one Native. Post -Show discussion with the playwright and reception to follow: 

FREE with suggested $10 contribution


Saturday June 16 at 8pm

Cochise headlines Indian Summer bringing his powerful spoken word poetry over Native American flute, blending hip hop flava and traditional beats. 

 Location for both events:

American Indian Community House11 Broadway, 2nd FloorSubway: Take 4, 5 line to Bowling Green or R, W to Whitehall Street For reservations call AATI: 212 533 0889, email: or go to or AICH: 212 598 0100 or go to These performances are made possible in part by LMCC’s Fund for Creative Communities/NYSCA and Manhattan Community Arts Fund/DCA. Additional funding and support provided by the Australian Consul General, Australia Council, American Australian Association, ADVANCE and Hotel Chandler.

Karen Oughtred
Artistic Director
Australian Aboriginal Theatre Initiative
P: 212.533.0889