2010 – 2015 Last updated: 23 Jul, 2015

Arts About Us opens up conversations about cultural diversity and the harms of race-based discrimination.

The arts have a long history of supporting diversity by providing an avenue for people to preserve their cultural heritage and identity and to share aspects of their culture with others. VicHealth continues to support arts organisations to play these roles through its program to increase opportunities for social connection.

Arts About Us, however, is different. Working with arts organisations, it gives voice to those who have experienced discrimination. Arts About Us promotes discussion about cultural diversity and the harms of race-based discrimination.

Its focus is on attitudes and beliefs that may lead to unfair treatment on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion, or which undermine diversity. These activities are designed to communicate with the wider community.

Pecan Summer

Pecan Summer

The Short Black Company

Pecan Summer is a moving Australian opera that tells the story of one girl who lived through an important chapter in Australian history.

In 1939, 200 Aboriginal men, women and children left their mission homes and crossed the Dhungala (Murray River) into New South Wales in protest against their treatment. This little-known event has become known as the Cummeragunja walk-off. 

Pecan Summer is the story of Alice, a young girl who is taken from her family and grows up to have her own daughter taken away. It reveals a painful chapter in Australian history and the devastation experienced by many Indigenous families. 

Written and composed by Indigenous soprano singer, composer and academic Deborah Cheetham, Pecan Summer offers audiences a chance to experience the power of storytelling through opera. 

Short Black Opera Company aims to discover talented Indigenous singers who wish to pursue a career in classical vocal music, to help them develop the skills and knowledge they need to begin a career, and provide professional performance opportunities.

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Talking Difference

Talking Difference

Museum Victoria

Talking Difference is a project that introduces a portable studio into schools. The studio is a touring installation in which students watch multimedia and reveal and record what’s important to them in video, drawing, audio and text. 

It aims to help teachers to lead discussions about identity, diversity, race discrimination and the impact it may have on the school and broader community. 

Following the success of its first stage, the project welcomes the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development as its partner and plans to tour the studio to selected schools in Brimbank, Casey, Hume and Melton. 

The project includes an annual fellowship for an emerging multimedia practitioner to create new work that provokes dialogue about cultural difference for exhibition online. 

Blak Caberet

Blak Caberet

Malthouse Theatre

Blak Cabaret is an annual season of performances that showcases Indigenous Australian cabaret.

Each year Blak Cabaret launches at Melbourne's Malthouse Theatre then takes to the road, stopping to entertain patrons at regional and outer suburban venues. 

Audiences enjoy personal anecdotes, and comedy, poetry, music and dance performances by a changing cast of ‘deadly’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performers. The tone is light-hearted and positive and the topic is our shared experiences as Victorians. 

Blak Cabaret was a hit at the inaugural Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival in 2012, and continues to be performed all over the state to packed houses. The show is a popular annual highlight of Malthouse Theatre’s Limited Editions season.

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Meet + Eat



The Meet+Eat project documented intercultural stories told by residents of the City of Hume in a series of short documentary films.

In each film two locals from different walks of life sat down to share a meal and exchange their stories – a conversation that would otherwise never take place. 

The films celebrate the extraordinary and culturally rich lives of Hume residents, and reveal what culture means to every day people. 

Issues addressed include immigration, displacement, identity, inter-cultural exchange, personal history, undiscovered talent, dance, traditional singing, cooking, eating, cultural diversity, neighbourhood stories and new friendship. 

The project also trained local people who are keen to continue giving voice to their community as filmmakers, composers and musicians.

The project documented intercultural stories to encourage conversations about diversity in our communities.

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Marruk Project

The Marruk Project

This project uses theatre, dance, music and puppetry to tell the stories of Swan Hill and surrounds. It engages local Aboriginal and emerging refugee communities in the area. 

A team of professional theatre artists work with local musicians, dancers and elder storytellers to workshop, write and rehearse performances that will be presented to audiences in the towns of Swan Hill, Robinvale and Kerang.

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Postcards From Nanna

Postcards from Nanna

Kids Thrive (Cha Cha Sam)

Postcards from Nanna is a musical, theatrical story-concert that features funky folk-pop songs for children aged three to 10 years, as well as grown-ups.

It asks audiences to value difference, respect cultural diversity and promote reconciliation. 

The multiple award-winning show will be staged between now and 2015 at over 50 regional and metropolitan libraries across Victoria, as well as art centres and at festivals. 

The project also includes post-show activities, resources and professional development opportunities for librarians.

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Brothers and Sisters

Sisters and Brothers

Western Region Health Centre (Barkley Arts Centre)

Sisters and Brothers workshops bring together a team of experienced and young artists from MASSIVE Hip Hop Choir with children aged 8-12 years in primary schools in Melbourne’s west. 

Participants explore the topics of diversity and what we all have in common, through storytelling, song writing, musical rhythms from diverse cultural traditions, and role-play. 

This collaborative process produces an annual large-scale musical performance that features original songs, performed stories and a mass chorus. 

The project aims to build empathy towards those who experience discrimination and promote dialogue about diversity, race-based discrimination and its harmful effects.

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Square of Light

Square of Light

Federation Square

Square of Light brings together Australians from culturally diverse backgrounds to address questions of inclusion, race and power. Through music, performance and film, participants share what it means to be a part of contemporary Australia. 

This 3-year project aims to explore the common voice of Melbourne's culturally diverse communities. Over 20 communities collaborate with each other to create new and meaningful artistic works. 

This project has resulted in a series of live and on-screen interactions, improvised physical performances, interviews and choreographed events in public spaces at Federation Square. 

Square of Light is a project that emerged from The Light in Winter. Fed Square's free winter program brings together local and international artists to Melbourne for free events, exhibitions, public art and the popular celebration of winter solstice.

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Coranderrk: Minutes of Evidence

Coranderrk: Minutes of Evidence is a collaboration that investigates and provokes public conversations about Australian historical stories of injustice.

It involves leading Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, researchers, education experts and community members. 

The project includes the development of an important theatre performance, which re-enacts the drama of an 1881 challenge to the Board for the Protection of Aborigines. Coranderrk: We Will Show the Country tells the story of the men and women of the Coranderrk Aboriginal Station, and their fight for justice, dignity and self-determination.

The performance consists entirely of extracts from the Minutes of Evidence of the 1881 Inquiry and brings to life the voices of key figures, such as William Barak and several of the men and women of Coranderrk. 

Coranderrk: Minutes of Evidence also includes an education program, with the development of curriculum modules and performances of Coranderrk: We Will Show the Country in secondary schools. Research is also being conducted to shed further light on the enduring legacies of past injustices.

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Ilbijerri Theatre Company

Ilbijerri Theatre community programs

Ilbijerri Theatre Company

Ilbijerri develops and stages performances that explore a range of complex and controversial issues – stories that remind audiences of every person's need for family, history and heritage. 

VicHealth's funding supports several Ilbijerri initiatives, including:

  • the Black Writer’s Lab, which supports and develops new Indigenous writers and their work, bringing contemporary Indigenous plays to theatre audiences
  • the annual Victorian Indigenous Performing Arts (VIPA) Awards, which recognise the achievements of Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performing artists
  • community access nights, an initiative that aims to get the Indigenous community involved in Ilbijerri's main stage performances

Since 1990 Ilbijerri has been initiating and developing performances in collaboration with the community and artists.

Ilbijerri is the longest running Indigenous theatre company in Australia and the only company of its kind operating in Victoria. 

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Heartlands Prize

Heartlands Art Prize

AMES and Multicultural Arts Victoria

The Heartlands Refugee Art Prize was established to celebrate the creativity and contribution of refugee artists who have arrived in Australia since 1970. 

The prize was designed to showcase the talents, artistic skills and creativity of refugee artists and open up pathways for artists to develop their careers. 

AMES and Multicultural Arts Victoria developed the idea for the Heartlands Refugee Art Prize in 2009, and VicHealth was a significant project partner for three years until 2013.

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Koorie Youth Arts Program

Blaktraks is a project designed to re-engage young urban Indigenous people with community, and to allow them to express, record and share their own stories in short videos and soundtracks. 

Participants tell their story and reflect their view of self, family, community, culture and society in this four-week program of workshops. 

After a successful 2011 program, Blaktraks 2 broadened the concept of traditional storytelling to include media such as music soundtracks, hip-hop songs, photography and stencil art. These activities resulted in some amazing and diverse short films. 

Blaktraks aims to help young people gain skills, build self-esteem and self-expression and to give them access to story telling technologies that are meaningful to them.