Artwork by Lucy Simpson, Gaawaa Miyay; © British Council

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. It also included creative laboratory sessions involving leaders from different art forms and countries, which saw cultural and issues actively demonstrated through creativity and collaboration.

Yirama Yangga-na was in many ways a breakthrough event, exploring how arts practice can contribute to and shape leadership roles, and connect cultures. Watch this short video to hear about some of the conversations that took place at the event.

“I feel positive about the parallels I’ve found with others here," said one international delegate who attended the forum. "I feel hope that so many of us are trying to connect and there’s a desire to stand together.”

A second creative leadership forum is planned in 2017 to deepen the artistic outcomes and relationships forged between the ACCELERATE alumni and International First Nations leaders. 

What happened at Yirama Yangga-na?

Find out more about the schedule and outcomes of each day below.


Day 1 included an official welcome to country from the traditional owners and descendants of the land, followed by responses from international visitors and Maori, Pasifika, Taiwan and Canada delegates. The keynote address was given by Peter White, a Gamilaroi Murri man from north-west NSW who participated in ACCELERATE during its inaugural year in 2009. Peter spoke about the importance of remembering where you've come from, the power of First Nations people coming together and sharing their unique perspectives, and the need for insurgency within the arts. The day also included presentations from international delegates, where they introduced themselves and discussed the importance of their creative practices and cultures.


Day 2 began with a provocation from choreographer Rita Pryce (ACCELERATE alumni 2012). The topics explored by delegates 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.

Creative laboratary sessions involving Leaders from different art forms and countries saw cultural and creative leadership issues challenged and actively demonstrated through creativity and collaboration.


The final day began with a speech from architect Kevin O’Brien (ACCELERATE alumni 2011). Following this, international delegates presented provocations in groups. They were asked to reflect on the three days and to speak about what they hope will happen going forward as a result of the connections that have been made and knowledge that was shared at Yirama Yangga-na.

A word from the event's creative poducers

Yirama Yangga-na was produced by ACCELERATE alumni Marilyn Miller and Kyle Morrison.

“The forum seeks to create an International First Nations Cultural Leadership cohort, who will work together to further the development of a body of knowledge around cultural leadership and instigate professional development activities for First Nations arts leaders," they said.

“Arts and creative work in the languages and traditions of First Nations people are about cultural survival and revival. Australia’s experience in fostering and presenting this work within contemporary creative industries is deep, and willingly shared with other First Nations countries to foster further international collaboration and growth.

“Yirama Yangga-na provides a forum where Australian Indigenous Arts leaders can share and interrogate this knowledge with other cultural leaders facing similar issues of working across cultural barriers, dealing with cultural protocols and taboos at the same time as entering and succeeding in high profile international art markets.”


The British Council would like to thank all partners involved in Yirama Yangga-na.

The forum was presented by the British Council in conjunction with the Australia Council for the Arts, which has been a founding partner of ACCELERATE since its inception in 2009.

Thanks also to the invaluable support provided by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the University of Wollongong.

See also

External links