Apply now to the Indigenous Arts Leadership Program

Supported by Wesfarmers Arts, this bespoke Program for First Nations arts workers is now open to applications from prospective participants nationwide.

The National Gallery of Australia’s Indigenous Arts Leadership Program, supported by Wesfarmers Arts, is designed to enhance First Nations leaders’ cultural and institutional skills and capabilities.

‘My aim for this program is to encourage participants to consider their individual cultural leadership style and their unique institutional leadership style; supporting First Nations arts leaders to strengthen their leadership capacity and to prepare them for work in the wider arts sector,’ explained Wesfarmers Indigenous Arts Leadership Program Coordinator Ian RT Colless, from the Dharabuladh (Therabluat) clan of the Gundungurra people.

The program, recently redesigned in response to a National Consultation process, explores leadership models within First Nations communities and the wider arts sector. The consultation canvassed the views of Program alumni and the wider Indigenous arts sector to reflect the evolving needs and priorities of First Nations people. The program’s redesign aims to expand on its foundational core to equip participants with the diverse skill sets and capabilities required as their careers develop and grow, and the adaptation of creative industries.

Aunty Mary Atkinson-Charles, a Wiradjuri/Ngunnawal woman and the Program’s inaugural Elder-in-Residence reminded participants: ‘Leaders stand up and be proud – talk the talk, walk the walk and don’t look back.’

Established in 2010, the program underpins the National Gallery’s significant commitment to supporting First Nations arts practitioners.

The program assists First Nations arts workers by deepening their understanding of the cultural and creative sector, while building their support networks. Participants can be at any stage of their career – the program is not specifically for emerging arts workers – and should be open to sharing new ideas and concepts in group situations.

About the Program

Successful applicants will learn about themselves, their communities, and gain the skills to become confident leaders, learning different approaches and models of leadership.

Learning on Country is a key element of the re-designed program and in 2022 participants will have the opportunity to attend two separate residentials, each consisting of six to seven days intensive learning, and each guided by an Elder-in-Residence.

The First Residential for 2022 is on Wiradjuri Country at Wagga Wagga from 31 March to 6 April and the Second Residential is on Ngunnawal/Ngambri in Canberra from 26 May to 2 June.

Juanita Kelly-Mundine, a 2019 program alumni and a 2021 Mentor, described learning on Wiradjuri Country (Wagga Wagga) last year as ‘deeply valuable and nourishing’.

‘I think as Indigenous people, there’s few things more valuable than hearing stories from our old people and there’s something very grounding about starting the program in a way that allows us all to become comfortable … the Wiradjuri Elders on Country have done such an exceptional job at holding that space for us,’ Kelly-Mundine said.

Another 2021 participant, Charlie Nelson, added: ‘When you’re on Country, you get a sense of having a personal, cultural and spiritual empowerment and learn about how to be a leader in that sense of life. Being at the Gallery, you get to have a sense of what it takes of leadership in the workplace and these institutions where most of us work.

‘I think there’s a good balance of personal, cultural and spiritual compared to professional development in how you lead,’ he said.

Aunty Mary Atkinson-Charles believes the future of First Nations arts practice is in safe hands, helped by opportunities such as the Indigenous Arts Leadership Program. ‘Our culture and our future way of life is in a good place at the moment, and the more programs like this, to be able to bring that out in our young ones, is fantastic.’

Are you a First Nations Arts worker who would like to build your leadership skills and experience a unique training opportunity that helps you grow personally and professionally? Applications for the Indigenous Arts Leadership Program 2022 intake are now open and close at 23:59 AEST on Monday 28 February 2022.

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