Indigenous Cultural Leadership at Footscray Community Arts
March 28, 2024

Indigenous Cultural Leadership at Footscray Community Arts

Interview with Dan Mitchell,
Senior Producer
Indigenous Cultural Program

Footscray Community Arts (FCA) has a rich history intertwined with the local First Nations community, reflecting a legacy of shared challenges and mutual support. We sat down with Dan Mitchell, our Senior Producer of Indigenous Cultural Program, to learn about the significance of this relationship and how it has shaped our approach towards Indigenous representation in our programming, and community support.

Dan Mitchell, Indigenous Cultural Program Manager

What makes the relationship between Footscray Community Arts and the local First Nations community so special and/or unique?

The West has a special history of Aboriginal Rights and activism, from William Cooper and Marge Tucker to the contemporary activists across the community and union movement. This history has generated a culture of allyship and comradery within the community and centre.

How has this relationship evolved and translated over time?

The evolution of this relationship has been expressed through some powerful steps over the last 20 years. Some were taken by the organisation the others an act of self-determination by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Elders and artists.

Creating space for First Nations leadership to express itself within a non–Aboriginal organisation, Footscray Community Arts, through the establishment of an Indigenous Advisory Group (IAG) and Elders in Residence framework — a self-determined leadership/advisory model — has evolved into a pillar of FCA’S constitution and decision-making processes. This space [the centre] is where the dynamic relationship between First Nations knowledge systems, activism and leadership can be expressed.

Elder in Resident: N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM, image credit: Gianna Rizzo

Tell us about Tarnuk-ut baany and how it supports Indigenous artists?

The Tarnuk-ut baany program is designed to provide a culturally safe framework for emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives and cultural workers to develop their practice, with support and leadership provided by FCA Aboriginal Producers, The FCA Team and the IAG and Elders in Residence. 

Why is representation and support through FCA’s programming important?

Footscray Community Arts has a First Nations First approach to its programming, policies and people – this is an effort by the organisation to action its reconciliation responsibilities into actual outcomes for mob.

FCA is also located on a special site that talks to a deeper time-relationship with the urban and industrial surroundings. It’s where Fresh meets Salt Water on the Maribyrnong River.

Elder in Resident: Uncle Larry Walsh, image credit: Gianna Rizzo

FCA welcomes applications from Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people – what makes FCA a great place to work?

The variety of opportunities to learn, grow, and explore are always present in a dynamic place like FCA. Critical conversations across communities are always bubbling away and challenging the organisation, and individuals working within; it to learn, evolve and connect.

How has working at FCA empowered you during your time here?

The privilege of working with the Elders In Residence and the Indigenous Advisory Group (IAG) has given me a stronger connection to place and greater insight into the culture of the Kulin Nations. Working with them and following protocol and advice has allowed me to confidently represent community here, in other organisations, and the industry.


Ready to drive Indigenous cultural leadership? Apply now for the Indigenous Cultural Program Manager position at Footscray Community Arts!

Lead our Indigenous Advisory Group and Elders in Residence, shaping a new outdoor performance space grounded in a First Nations First approach.

Support Indigenous artists through Tarnuk-ut baany, our development program fostering cultural exchange and mentorship.

Learn more about this role and apply via a three-question application here.

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