ACCELERATE is a tailored leadership skills development programme for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working within the creative industries. It began in 2009 as a partnership between the British Council with the Australia Council for the Arts and state arts agencies.
The programme was aimed at Indigenous arts professionals from across Australia who had at least five years’ experience in the creative industries and were able to demonstrate a bold vision for where they wanted to take their career and their community. It aimed to empower its alumni with the recognition, skills and networks to drive their own careers, both internationally and at home.
ACCELERATE drew on the UK’s experience in cultural leadership programmes and the British Council’s connections into the UK’s strong cultural and creative sectors to create a bespoke provision for continuous professional development.
Participants underwent intensive leadership development residentials, tailored leadership programs, mentoring with respected UK cultural leaders, and professional placements in targeted UK organisations.
The programme has been instrumental in discovering a pool of talent deep and wide in Indigenous culture, with 35 leaders undertaking the programme between 2009 and 2016. Alumni have gone on to excel in their fields and are represented in many leading institutions including the National Gallery Australia, National Museum of Australia, Regional Arts NSW, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia to and the Blak & Bright Festival, as well as in the creative industries, animation, fashion and music. They have worked with UK companies and organisations in theatre, dance, museums, animation and design.
Past participants have called ACCELERATE ‘transformational’ and ‘life-changing’. Award-winning Australian choreographer, dancer and writer Jacob Boehme was one of five indigenous arts leaders to take part in the 2012 round of the programme. Jacob says the programme gave him a clearer sense of direction.
“The ACCELERATE experience offered me time to really listen to myself and determine exactly what my truth is,” he says. “It provided me with an opportunity to review and identify my goals, accessing steps and strategies to achieve them. I was guided to honestly examine limiting behaviours that were sometimes preventing me from standing in my truth."
Read additional comments from some of the most recent cohort about their ACCELERATE experience at the bottom of this page.
British Council Director Helen O’Neil says, “ACCELERATE has been instrumental in shaping the careers of 35 incredibly talented Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander creative leaders. It has been successful in developing long-lasting links and opportunities between arts practitioners in Australia and the UK and in creating career pathways for future generations."
The Australia Council for Arts was a founding partner of the initiative and provided financial support, advice and guidance throughout. Lydia Miller, Executive Director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts at the Australia Council, says, “Indigenous cultural leadership deserves recognition and support because keeping culture strong is one of the most challenging, rewarding and universally important human endeavours. The Australia Council has been pleased to collaborate with the British Council on ACCELERATE as an important platform for First Nations arts leaders to develop their skills and engage in global dialogue.”
Over the years, ACCELERATE was supported by Create NSW, Arts Queensland, Creative Victoria, Arts NT, and the Department of Culture and the Arts WA with additional support from private partners including British Airways, BT Global Services, SBS NITV and Virgin Atlantic.