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Don’t Just Count Us, Let Us Count! tells the story of this historic milestone through the eyes of ACPA alumni as they reflect on the creative process, research and the performance which shaped who they are today and their understanding of the campaign to be counted.
Ten years ago, the Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts (ACPA) developed a show called Reflections: Referendum 40 years and to the future. The performance was a creative response to the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum when Australians voted overwhelmingly for constitutional change to count Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the national census.
Presented in partnership with Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts
Promotional video for Don't Just Count Us, Let Us Count, 2017
In going over my director’s notes for Reflections: 40 Years and to the Future, a decade on as part of the process for writing this foreword for the SLQ exhibition, I was reminded of why this play was so urgent and important at the time.
Two major things were happening with this production by way of ACPA; I was on board as the new Artistic Director and for the first time the whole school was coming together to perform on the main stage at QPAC. Three important dates were also being recognised within this production. The first was the 10th anniversary of ACPA, the second and most important and the focus of the Reflections play was the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, and last but not least was the 50th anniversary of NAIDOC.
As far as the Brisbane was concerned these were all seismic shifts in the cultural and political landscape. Both NAIDOC and the 1967 Referendum created the cultural space and opportunity for an Aboriginal Centre for Performing Art to be realised. It was with this sense of purpose which drove us to create what I believe is a special and deadly local production. This play was meant to be a graduation piece for the graduating class of 2007 but it became much more than that. After establishing we’d be basing this play on the 1967 Referendum, we started getting local Referendum and Social Justice warriors such as Vanessa Fisher and Sam Watson, and Elders such as Uncle Bob Anderson to come in and talk to the students and light a fire under these young people who knew next to nothing about the Referendum, NAIDOC and how ACPA came to be.
I am very proud of this production. As proud as any I’ve been involved in or created. Reflections: 40 Years and to the Future sits right alongside Box the Pony, Black Chicks Talking, The Story of the Miracles at Cookies Table, Radiance and The Drovers Wife. I believe it has a place within the canon of important local Indigenous work and hails as ACPA’s signature foundation performance piece.
The Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts (ACPA) is proud to partner with kuril dhagun at the State Library of Queensland to commemorate the most pivotal referendum in Australia’s history.
In 2007, when ACPA created Reflections: Referendum 40 years and to the future under the artistic direction of Leah Purcell, we were celebrating our own anniversary: ten years as Australia’s first centre of training excellence for emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performing artists.
It was indeed an occasion to celebrate and reflect on the evolving acknowledgement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their contribution to the nation’s growth, identity, culture, and future.
Three decades after the constitutional change that counted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as members of the national population for the first time, the Queensland Government, through Arts Queensland, established ACPA for talented young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to be counted again, to express and be recognised for their artistic interpretations of both their heritage and their contribution to the contemporary arts landscape.
Reflections, therefore, was not just a seminal work for ACPA as a creative performance; it was a commentary on the power of united forces to have a reverberating impact on future generations and their dreaming.
That Reflections has been included in kuril dhagun’s commemoration activities for the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum bears testament to its artistic significance and enduring appeal. We are honoured to be featured in the exhibition and complementary events.
Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts
At the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts we celebrate the way Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures have endured over centuries - by a strong tradition of story-telling through words, singing, music and dance.
ACPA’s programs respect and build on that tradition, preparing the next generation of performing artists and arts workers to become the initiators and leaders of future cultural dynamism.
That’s why ACPA provides industry relevant vocational education; that develops skillsets with artistic quality to engender confidence; and that provides performance and showcase opportunities for talented young people.
Reflections: Referendum 40 years and to the future, and its subsequent feature role in kuril dhagun’s commemoration activities for the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, exemplifies this commitment to giving students unique opportunities for performing publicly and for co-creating enduring works of art and cultural significance.
It was a holistic experience for the students of 2007, from the primary research to the encore performances. It allowed them to collaborate with professional artists on the script, the music, and the choreography. It became not only a milestone on the Centre’s historical landscape, but also a benchmark for all performances since.
We are thrilled that ACPA’s students today (and the wider community) have this opportunity to learn from our alumni about their experience of bringing to life the stories that inspired Reflections; and how that experience shaped their understanding of such a significant contribution towards ‘closing the gap’.
Dr Dimitri Kopanakis
Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts
Behind the scenes of 'Reflections : Referendum 40 years and to the future'. Video by Teone Reinthal for the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts, 2007.
In 2007, the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts (ACPA) presented Reflections: 40 Years and to the Future, a musical theatre performance for graduating Advanced Diploma students. It also showcased the abundance of talent within the rest of the cohort, with students enrolled in all courses participating. In an ACPA first, the production was staged in the Cremorne Theatre at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) under the direction of award winning actor, director and writer, Leah Purcell.
Don't Just Count Us, Let Us Count! Resource List