Dancehouse stands on what always was and always will be Aboriginal land. We pay our respects to the traditional owners of this land, the Wurundjeri peoples of the Kulin Nation, to their Elders past and present, and acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded.

First House Forum

‘Yinarr’ (Dancehouse, 2022), Amelia O’Leary. Photo by Alliah Nival.

About First House Forum

On 7 October 2022, in partnership with BlakDance, Dancehouse hosted the inaugural First House Forum of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Island dance artists.  The Forum invited artists to agree collectively and to direct Dancehouse on how to allocate funds across collective projects and practices: new works, commissions, residencies specifically for First Nations dance artists. 

The Forum identified a need for artists to learn, work and return to country with existing and developing projects. 

The Forum agreed to support each artist, under the guidance of a Project Elder, to develop new work on Country or present existing works to communities on their homelands for the first time. Dancehouse was directed to assist in the producing of these projects and to reconvene artists at the end of the year, at Dancehouse, to reflect on their experience.

2023 Supported Projects


by Wakka Wakka, Ngugi, Birrpai woman Ngioka Bunda-Heath

Project Elder: Uncle John Heath (Birrpai)

Project Goal/s:  To bring Birrpai home. Birrpai will be performed on Birrpai country for the first time in 2023.

Imagine seeing images frozen in time of your ancestors in museums, taken by people documenting an ‘exotic’ sighting. Who has the power over their image? Ngioka Bunda-Heath’s dance piece and photographic exhibition explores the idea of shifting the gaze and refocusing the colonial lens that has publicly framed her ancestors.

Extending on her 2019 YIRRAMBOI Festival work, Blood Quantum, about her mother’s story, Birrpai turns to Ngioka’s father’s heritage; to her great-grandmother captured by the camera of a ‘culturalist’. She puts a First Nations perspective on colonial photography alongside contemporary dance that has taken her to stages around the world.

Staunch ASF 

by Gamilaroi woman Amelia Jean O’Leary 

Project Elder Aunty Bonnie O’Leary (Gamilaroi)

Project Goal/s  To research and develop a new work on country for film or live performance

This new contemporary dance work is an exploration of Amelia’s experiences in a suburban and modern context, with stories and memories from her family that enrich the complexity and truth of being and experiencing.

To fight, to rest, to make decisions, to be glorified, to be ignored or crucified. What to tell, what not to tell, I am sacred yet constantly demystified. Sculpted by the coloniser, wired by the ancestors, constantly being formed and deformed. Dipped in nutrients, soaked in essence, this is my body right, my life, my dance, our dance.  

Spaces in between 

by Djabugay, Kuku Yalanji, Munujali, Butchella and Samsep Meriam man Luke Currie-Richardson

Project Consultants: Alicia Currie (Munujali, Butchella), Geoff Richardson & Lori Richardson (Kuku Yalanji, Djabugay, Samsep Meriam)

Project Goal/s:  To visit and sit on country and with community to gather stories that line up with the “Space in between” concept with the view to premiere a new work in 2024.

As an indigenous man looking at the stars, Luke looks at the spaces in-between. This correlates with the ways he navigates spaces in contemporary Australia as a blak man who has never grown up on his traditional country. 

The stages of DE-conditioning (working title) 

by (Th)Dunghutti, Gomeroi and Wiradjuri woman Zoë Brown-Holten

Project Elder: Pop Wayne Holten ((Th)Dunghutti, Gomeroi)

Project Goal/s: Residency on Thunghutti country followed by studio development of a durational work that invokes curiosity and interaction.

Zoë investigates the unconscious changes her mind, body and spirit undertakes as she returns to country.  

Country is where minute details are seen and heard, it is the reflection of a deconditioned self. You are granted time to discover the disparities to reflect upon the desired self. It is slow, curious and most importantly alive. Will you take the time to reflect and to allow curiosity to immerse you?


On country residencies are an initiative of Dancehouse & BlakDance via the First House Forum with support from the Sidney Myer Fund.

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