Aboriginal Diggers Project

The Aboriginal Diggers Project is a significant 3-year project capturing the stories and experiences of First Nations servicemen and women who have served in Australia’s Military from the Boer War to the present day through film, theatre and visual arts.  Country Arts SA has worked closely with the Aboriginal Veterans of SA on this project and established the Anzac Brains Trust to help advise on the various aspects, alongside the employment of Creative Producer Lee-Ann Buckskin for the duration of the project. Importantly, the outcome of the overall project is to uncover and give voices to those who have remained silent throughout history for the broader Australian community.

The Aboriginal Diggers project has three components, one per year, each with a residency in the SA community of Raukkan.

YEAR 1 – 2017 First Nations film Coming Home

A film residency in Raukkan with First Nations filmmaker Allan Collins and film mentees, resulting in the short film Coming Home launched in Raukkan on 23 April and the Mercury Cinema on Anzac Day 2017 and screened at Black Screen events at 11 venues throughout South Australia.

YEAR 2 – 2018 First Nations play Mi:Wi 3027

First Nations playwright Glenn Shea undertook a writing residency in Raukkan to write the original play MeWei 3027. The first play reading was in Raukkan community on 22nd April, followed by a reading at the Dunstan Playhouse (Adelaide Festival Centre) on Anzac Day 2018.

YEAR 3 – 2019 Visual Arts exhibition VIETNAM – ONE IN, ALL IN

A visual arts residency with an First Nations curator and visual artists, resulted in a new exhibition showcasing the history of involvement by First Nations servicemen and women in the Vietnam War.

About the Aboriginal Diggers Project

The projects outlined here to honour First Nations diggers in all combat occurrences after WWI grows from four strong focuses for Country Arts SA:

  • To make a significant contribution to commemoration activities honouring all those who have fought and served for Australia and remembering those who have lost their lives in service during the period of the Centenary of Anzacs
  • Artist residencies –  a model for engagement, skills development and the creation of new work
  • First Nations program – to build greater employment for First Nations artists and arts workers, and
  • Our Reconciliation Action Plan – with the resultant artworks as a catalyst for conversations building Reconciliation with the wider community.

Not only will these works help to educate the wider community about the important First Nations contribution to Australian military history, but it will also provide employment and professional development opportunities for First Nations artists, performers and writers.

In 2018, Country Arts SA did work with the State Theatre Company of SA, Anzac Brains Trust and Melbourne University and is grateful for the support from the Australian Government’s Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund, Gandel Philanthropy, Arts South Australia and Australia Council for the Arts, all of which was vital to the development of the project.