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.
Students had the opportunity to spend time with Elders who had been 1967 Referendum warriors in the campaign, including Uncle Bob Anderson who shared stories of his involvement, working alongside Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Aunty Kath Walker). After hearing these stories from community members and other Aboriginal political activists, such as Uncle Sam Watson and Aunty Vanessa Fisher, the students became truly inspired.
This momentum encouraged further research into the 1967 Referendum and other important political and social events. Character development sessions had students exploring activists and campaigners such as Uncle William Cooper (Yorta Yorta community leader), Faith Bandler (South Sea Islander human rights fighter) and Jessie Street/ Red Jessie (non-Indigenous political campaigner).
As the complexity of our history became apparent, more themes were explored. Reflections commented also on the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families known as the Stolen Generations, the events of the Freedom Rides led by Charles Perkins and The Wave Hill Walk-Off with Vincent Lingiari, among overarching issues of race discrimination, civil rights and freedoms.
Working across each of the performative areas, these stories and experiences were expressed through the production of songs, music, poems, monologues and dances. The individual and collective contributions were pieced together to create a musical theatre based script resulting in Reflections.
While students were gifted the experience of working with the remarkable Leah Purcell, many talented trainers contributed to a variety of pieces. Special mention must go to Penelope Mullen, Jools Purchase, Nik Hills and Jeanette Fabila; all well respected dancers and choreographers. Support also came from Bangarra Dance Theatre, Cultural Edge Design, Queensland Theatre Company, Reconciliation Australia and kuril dhagun at the State Library of Queensland.
Reflections attracted audiences that offered laughter, tears, applause and standing ovations in a packed out theatre. Its success resulted in a second season the following year. Both the 2007 and 2008 productions were sold out shows and remain a significant moment for Indigenous theatre in Brisbane.