Working in ATSI communities - advice for artists

The exploration and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) arts and culture is one of three cross-curricular priorities of the Australian Curriculum and Western Australian Curriculum and Assessment Outline.
For non-Indigenous artists or arts and cultural organisations seeking to collaborate with Indigenous artists in country on content for new work for schools, or present existing work product in ATSI communities, research into community protocols and sensitivities must be conducted prior
to visits.

Points to consider when travelling to, and working in, regional and remote communities:

  • There may be times when it is inappropriate to travel to communities or you may need a permit to visit. Check before you plan visits and tours.
    See Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage (Aboriginal Affairs) entry permits for access to Aboriginal Land.
  • Using the name or photographs of the deceased may cause offence. Performing artists, for example, may want to check ahead to make sure that none of the characters in their performance have similar names to recently deceased. If so, these may need to be changed.
  • ATSI communities prefer a man and a woman to facilitate for cultural reasons, unless the audience is specifically male or female. This may be difficult to accommodate if you are an independent artist, but companies sending more than one representative may want to keep this in mind.
  • Make contact with the Aboriginal and Islander Education Officer (AIEO) or Aboriginal Liaison Officer at the school you are visiting before you arrive. They will be able to tell you about the community and introduce you if necessary. They may also be able to act as an Indigenous facilitator or translator in workshops, make sure that students understand you and you are getting your message across. NB. You may be working in a multilingual environment, so it is important to remember, in this context, English may be the second or third language spoken by students and not the first!
  • Contact local Council of Elders or Aboriginal authority prior to your visit. Let them know you are visiting their lands, and make sure that your planned project is not culturally inappropriate. See information about Aboriginal Land and Sea Councils.
  • Teachers at the school you are visiting will be able to give you more information about whom to approach and what to do when you get there.
  • Negotiate an agreement for the project with the school before arriving. See information on copyright, intellectual property in the context of working and creating work in schools.
  • Conduct your own online research into the region you are visiting. For example, what the climate is like, the type of facilities the community has, what community partnerships are already established, accommodation options and on-ground transport.
  • Talk to colleagues who have already travelled to regional and remote communities and learn from their experiences.
  • Complete a cultural awareness or competency program before your visit.
  • Plan for budget blow-outs. Always have a contingency plan when travelling and delivering projects in regional and remote locations – disrupted travel plans, transport delays (for people and/or materials), weather conditions, high cost of materials purchased locally or community events can all put you behind schedule and cost extra.
  • Art project funding.

Further reading:

. Information in this section of the ArtsEdge website may contain the names, images or recordings of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now deceased. The ArtsEdge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture in education portal may also contain links to sites that may use images and/or recordings of Aboriginal and Islander people now deceased. Artists or educators researching Indigenous content for educational purposes should use their discretion when viewing online content.

Details about artists and organisations outside the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries do not constitute an endorsement of those artists or organisations or their programs, products or services. School communities are responsible for making their own assessment of these artists or organisations in accordance with relevant Department of Education policies, procedures and guidelines. Users should seek professional and specialised advice for their individual situations.