ILBIJERRI Theatre Company

Since 1990

ILBIJERRI Theatre Company is the longest running Indigenous theatre company in Australia, created in 1990 by a group of artists, writers, community members and activists.

In 1989, Yorta Yorta, Wiradjuri and South Sea Islander actor Kylie Belling and Kuku Yulangi and Peidu clan of Erub writer John Harding attended the Second National Black Playwrights Conference in Sydney. This ignited their drive to form a theatre company that could build upon the legacy of storytelling and theatre that existed in Victoria.

Together with Lisa Bellear, Destiny Deacon, Eleanor Harding, Janina Harding, Kim Kruger, Bev Murray, Clinton Naina, Maryanne Sam and Stan Yarramunua, the group established ILBIJERRI—a word meaning ‘coming together for ceremony’ in Woiwurrung.

ILBIJERRI Theatre Company put on their first independent production in 1991, Up the Road. Their second major work, Stolen, was then developed collaboratively with community over seven years and was presented in multiple national and international tours.

In 2001, they hosted the inaugural Victorian Indigenous Playwrights Conference, and later developed a series of social impact productions that continue to tour through health services and community spaces.

Exhibited in Collective Movements:

Collective Movements documents some of the many stories that ILBIJERRI Theatre Company has told over thirty years through a series of exhibited ephemera—posters, programs and postcards spanning 1990 to 2019—and the voices of some of the writers, directors and actors involved in the cooperative’s early productions.

See excerpts from ILBIJERRI’s forthcoming thirtieth anniversary book in this publication (pages 148–57).

‘ILBIJERRI has never wavered from its central purpose: “telling our stories as the First Peoples of this land—told by us, for us.” What has changed is our capacity to meet the broad range of needs; we produce work for big stages, festivals and national tours, as well as work that is nimble and able to go to the people…

…None of this would be possible if not for the hard work, the blood, sweat and tears of those founding and passionate members who kept the company going over its establishing years. Many companies have come and gone in this time—the fact we are still here is testament to them.’

—Rachael Maza AM, Artistic Director