Who owns Indigenous stories?

Theatre risks offending and cultural appropriation when it tells Indigenous stories, as a recent STC production illustrates.
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Ilbijerri’s Rachael Maza. The photo is by Michael Corridore from the promo campaign for Beautiful One Day.

In a provocative keynote address at the Australian Theatre Forum this week Ilbijerri Theatre Company’s Artistic Director, Rachael Maza, spoke powerfully and passionately about the differences between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange. 

Controversially, she singled out Sydney Theatre Company’s critically-acclaimed recent production of The Secret River  as an example of a work that, despite having the best of intentions, reinforced a number of negative stereotypes about Aboriginal Australians. 

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Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts

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