ACCELERATE is a tailored leadership skills development programme designed to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working within the creative industries with the skills and networks to generate, take up and excel in leadership positions. The programme is aimed at Indigenous arts professionals from across Australia who have at least five years’ experience in the creative industries and can demonstrate a bold vision for where they want to take their career and their community. 

The 2016 ACCELERATE programme participants are: 

  • Jilda Andrews – a curator and singer from Australian Capital Territory
  • Kamarra Bell-Wykes – an arts manager and playwright from Victoria
  • Travis De Vries – an arts manager and writer from New South Wales
  • Glenn Iseger-Pilkington – a museums and galleries curator from Western Australia
  • Francoise Lane – a designer from Queensland
  • Jonathon Saunders – an illustrator and arts worker from Northern Territory 

Read some of the group's reflections on their ACCELERATE experience below.

Now in its seventh year, ACCELERATE has been instrumental in discovering a pool of talent deep and wide in Indigenous culture as a new generation of leaders comes to the fore in Australia. 

British Council Director Helen O’Neil says, “By the end of this year, ACCELERATE will have 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 is a founding partner of the initiative and continues its support in 2016. Lydia Miller, Executive Director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts at the Australia Council, says, “Keeping culture strong is one of the most universally important human endeavours. It requires recognition and support for the Indigenous cultural leadership and investment in the development of vibrant communities. The Australia Council is 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.”

ACCELERATE 2016 is presented by the British Council and the Australia Council for the Arts in partnership with Arts NSW, Arts NT, Arts Queensland, Creative Victoria and Department of Culture and the Arts WA with additional support from SBS NITV. 

Reflections from Francoise

Francoise Lane

Francoise Lane is a Torres Strait Islander woman whose maternal family are from Hammond Island. In 2011, after several years working as a freelance commercial and residential designer and consultant in Alice Springs and Cairns, she co-founded Indij Design, a 100% indigenous owned architectural and interior design practice. Francoise also specialises in textile design and surface patterns and, in 2013, she developed Indij Prints, a range of bespoke prints that are inspired by her connection to the Torres Strait Islands and are adaptable for interior and architectural application. Her UK professional development programme included meetings with Clothworkers Centre for the Conservation of Textiles and Dovecote Studios in Edinburgh and a visit to Cockpit Arts' open studios. 

Q: What has been your ACCELERATE highlight?

The highlight of the ACCELERATE experience has been the opportunity to explore the creative work being produced by textile artists and designer makers where they are pushing the boundaries of their industry’s traditional work. I am particularly inspired by those who invest themselves in their work through self expression or commentary on their world around them. This has got me thinking about how I can translate this into my future surface pattern and textile designs. Meeting with Emily Millichip, a fashion designer from Edinburgh, was wonderful. Her interest in anthropology and research into indigenous beliefs had synergies with my surface pattern work integrating connection to my island home. It was mutually inspirational meeting of kindred spirits!

Q: Has the UK programme been what you’d expected it to be?

I came with the expectation of being out of my comfort zone - a new city, new people, new creative scene and navigating a unknown public transport system. I came with an open mind to experience whatever opportunities the ACCELERATE programme provided to the full. A digital textile manufacturer suggested I view particular works of printmakers in Glasgow as a follow on from our meeting – so I did this. The work that he spoke of has influenced a direction of prints that I will explore in the next year. Did I expect this inspiration? No, but I am so glad it’s happened.

Q: Tell us what you’ve learned from your ACCELERATE experience?

What I’ve learned…so much about the industry and myself. The designer maker industry faces many of the same challenges as Australia but in my opinion is more sophisticated in it’s application of surface print to product. Manufacturers and department stores such as Heals sell the products of artist/designer makers which is great for market exposure.

There has also been affirmation about the direction of my design practice responding to cultural factors influencing a ‘safe’or inclusive experience of the built environment. This was affirmed when I visited the Design Museum’s Love or Fear Exhibition.

So much information has been taken in on this experience. In the quiet reflective time I notice that there are patterns to the information which have most impacted me over the last few weeks. I am learning that this pattern is going to take further shape over the next few weeks and months to sharpen my future creative direction. The creative and personal journey continues after ACCELERATE…

Reflections from Kamarra

Kamarra Bell-Wykes

Kamarra Bell-Wykes is a Yagera and Butchulla woman from South-East Queensland as well as descending from South Sea Islander, English, Welsh and Polish blood lines. During her career as a performer and playwright, Kamarra has received numerous awards for her work. She has written award-winning health education shows around issues as such as intravenous drug use, body modification and Hepatitis C, writing for prison, school and Aboriginal community audiences to empower the de-marginalized and inform the mainstream. Kamarra has also worked as a teacher and youth worker in a number of communities in the Northern Territory. As Education and Learning Manager at ILBIJERRI Theatre Company, Kamarra has been building and managing its education program, MARGUK. During her ACCELERATE UK programme, she with the Artistic Director of Pilot Theatre in York; participated in a drama workshop with a group of women at a community house for women with mental health conditions with Javaad Alipoor from Northern Lines in Bradford; attended a series of meetings with National Theatre of Wales to investigate their community engagement models and processes; atteded a writers' group, scratch rehearsal and event with Tamasha Theatre Company; and attended a range of community and main stage theatre shows.

Q: Tell us what you’ve found most interesting about your trip?

All of the experiences have been stimulating and informative for their own various reasons, whether it be insight into the challenges and successes of the companies I've visited or learning about the range of different operating models - particularly the community consultation of National Theatre of Wales and the artistic development and school engagement programs utilised by Tamasha - and thinking about how variations of these maybe incorporated into the working structures of ILBIJERRI. 

I have also found that the informal dinner and drinks conversations between the formal schedule have provided amazing insight into the post-colonial context and diversity inclusion in the UK and realising that, although the details of the situations are different and happening on a larger scale, many of the issues remain the same - specifically, the challenges around authentic representation of diversity on the stage in both performers and narratives and the tension around audience engagement, who we are making work for and who is actually coming to see it. 

Q: What has been your ACCELERATE highlight?

I think that I would identify the highlight of my experience as the conversations had during my mentor sessions with Diane Morgan, the Artistic Director of nitroBEAT

Diane is an amazing woman (of colour) who is only 44, a single mother and, after “accidentally” forging a career for herself as an arts producer and facilitator in a range of UK theatre companies, she has been a driving force behind the successful rejuvenation and transformation of nitroBEAT. 

Diane’s journey, personality, and mentoring styles were all perfectly matched to me. There are so many parallels in our personal and professional experiences as well our shifting perspectives around who we are and how we fit into the arts sector.

I expressed to her my concerns about the concept of being called a “leader” and told her that, personally, this isn’t something I have ever really associated myself with and perhaps I would think of myself as a leader for the unleadable. Diane also articulated her struggle with this concept but told me that, whether she liked it or not, her innate qualities (qualities that she also saw in me) meant that is something that was unavoidable. “You may not want to run a company," she said. "But one day you will. I see that in you.”

Q: Tell us something you’ve learned about yourself through your ACCELERATE UK experience?

My mentor, Diane, really pushed me to interrogate my personal vision for my career outside of my work with ILBIJERRI and encouraged me to think about the ACCELERATE experience as a way of helping me to develop/achieve this vision. This conversation really helped me to shape the rest of my experience to think about what type of company or work would I create if I was given the option to do that. This really positioned me to look at the conversations and experiences of ACCELERATE through a very different filter. 

This was a really unexpected and a positive development. Who am I outside of the parameters of ILBIJERRI? Where do I see myself in five years? Who do I want to be working with and what type of work do I hope to create? 

Further information about the 2016 programme

The 2016 participants were selected from a nation-wide call for applications and were announced as part of a special celebration held at Melbourne's Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre on 16 August 2016.  The 2016 ACCELERATE programme, which comprises two stages: an Australian Leadership Intensive and the UK Programme.

Australian Leadership Intensive: 17 – 19 August 2016

Immediately after the announcement event, the participants attended three days of intensive training workshops in Australia to develop their understanding of leadership and to expand ideas for their individual UK programmes. 

Over three days, the group undertook facilitated sessions that explored what leadership means in UK and Australian contexts, and discussed what it means to be a leader within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. These sessions were designed to provide the participants with practical leadership skills to help them analyse the strengths and weaknesses of their own personal leadership styles, outline sustainable and ambitious career pathways and identify the personal and professional obstacles to achieving them.

Sessions were led by UK-based expert Mark Wright from People Create, with support from British Council staff and ACCELERATE alumni, who shared their own experiences and offered advice to the new cohort. 

UK Programme: November 11 – December 5 2016

The UK Programme provides an opportunity for participants to make international connections, to observe different leadership styles and structures, and to gain broader insight into their own fields and professional practices.

In 2016, the ACCELERATE UK Programme will include:

• Two further days of leadership development training with Mark Wright of People Create 

• Professional placements with leading UK organisations and institutions

• Group and individual meetings, including one-on-one mentorship

Individual programmes were tailored to realise the vision outlined in the participants’ applications. On completion of the programme, participants form part of the national ACCELERATE alumni network, with access to continued support, training and international opportunities.

“ACCELERATE is definitely a life changing experience for someone wanting to take the opportunity it offers. I’d highly recommend it.  You have to put in the effort – it’s a working program, so you have to want it, and be looking for change.”

- 2013 participant

“It was an incredibly intense programme but in the best possible way.  I was able to confront issues that had been troubling me about my career, in a positive proactive manner, with excellent resolutions or at least with progress. But I also realised that I don't need to have all the answers now as long as I remain focussed on my purpose.”

- Angela Flynn, 2015 participant

Yirama Yangga-na ("Spirit Singing")

In July 2016, First Nations arts leaders from around the world came together at a cultural leadership forum produced and presented by alumni of the ACCELERATE leadership and development programme. Yirama Yangga-na (a local Dharawal phrase meaning “spirit singing”) was a three-day creative laboratory and cultural event held at the University of Wollongong, connecting Australian Indigenous creatives with First Nations delegates from Taiwan, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Canada and New Zealand. 

The forum provided a platform for leaders to share, interrogate and develop their knowledge about Indigenous creative leadership and cultural practices. Issues discussed included the de-colonisation First Nations art; artistic freedom versus cultural taboos; and participation, understanding and acceptance of First Nations arts practicies in the international arena. Find out more here.