John Harding (Kuku Yulangi/Meriam from Erub; TSI) is the founder of Ilbijerri Aboriginal /TSI Theatre Company.

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Since Ilbijerri’s inception, John has worked tirelessly in the pursuit of Indigenous artistic expression in the arts and particularly theatre. In recognition of this, John was awarded an Indigenous Fellowship by the Australia Council for the Arts in 1997. An experienced playwright, director and actor, John created Ilbijerri’s first play Up the Road in 1991, later directed by Neil Armfield/Belvoir Theatre in 1996/7 (two national tours). For this production of Up the Road John was awarded the Australian Human Right Medal for Arts in 1997.

He researched, wrote and reported for the first Aboriginal current affairs program on ABC TV, Blackout in 1989, and in 1996 John wrote the first Aboriginal vignette sit-com series, The Masters, for SBS TV, as well as producing and reporting Indigenous stories for ICAM. In 2002 John was the first Indigenous recipient of The ANU Nugget Coombes Fellowship. John directed his last three plays, Second Helping in 2005, Enuff in 2002 for the Blak Inside season at the Playbox, and No Parking in 2001 for the Bless Your Big Blak Arts Festival. John also took Enuff to New York: United Nations in 2005, presented as a part of the world Indigenous Peoples Forum, and three works (Up the Road, Enuff, and No Parking) to Hungary in 2005 as the artistic highlight of the EASA International Biennial Conference. John also wrote the Dirty Mile, a play about the history of Indigenous Fitzroy for Ilbijerri Theatre, which was performed in Melbourne in March/April 2008, winning the 2009 Deadly Award for Literature (John as playwright).

In 2016 John wrote, and starred in Sisterly Love, which was workshopped at La Mama

What activities will the Creators Fund support you to undertake? 

I am undertaking the writing of a 30 -year sequel to my hit play Up The Road, which was the inaugural play for Ilbijerri Theatre which I co-founded in 1991

This will require the research of all the Indigenous issues that have happened during that time that are relevant on a national level, Mabo, The Bringing them home Report, Deaths in Custody etc

Can you talk us through what your work routine will look like with the help of a creator's fund grant?   

I will be spending several hours a day devising the script, and utilize the media over the four month period of writing to keep the script as current as possible.

I will also be writing several songs for the script.

I hope to work with some music students from The VCA on the development of the songs

Where would you like to see yourself and your career at the end of this process?

I hope to be working in conjunction with The VCA of the University of Melbourne, workshopping the play and songs with the Schools of Music and Drama respectively.

I hope that ultimately, I raise the necessary funds to enable a tour of the play, firstly to regional Victoria, then nationally



Find out more about the Creators Fund program.