In the last 15 years, a change has come the Australian film & TV industry. We are finally seeing a stronger representation of Indigenous characters on our screens. While it is far from perfect, and many characters are still stereotyped, the profiles of our amazing Indigenous performers are growing and it is only fair that we take some time to recognise some of these supreme talents. Here are just five of our favourites – to include everyone it would take a book!
1. Deborah Mailman
Deborah Mailman (of Bidjara descent) was far and away the best thing about The Secret Life of Us (which was my introduction to her). Beautiful, funny, and talented, I have always wanted to be friends with her (if you’re reading this Deborah, feel free to find me on Facebook or Twitter!). Deborah graduated from QUT Academy of the Arts with a Bachelor of Arts (Acting) and has since become one of the most recognisable Indigenous performers in Australia. She has won multiple awards and has the honour of being the first Indigenous actress to win the AFI award for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Radiance). She also was a host on Play School – we all know that that is the coolest job a performer can have in Australia.
2. Aaron Pedersen
Aaron Pedersen (of Arrernte and Arabana descent) is the stuff my 90s dreams were made of. Talented and good looking, he was one of the main reasons I watched Wildside religiously even though I was probably a bit young for it. A journalist in a previous life, Pedersen has been working for over 10 years in Australia and first came to notice when he co-hosted Gladiators Australia – what a hit of nostalgia right there! With appearances on such shows as The Secret Life of Us, Jack Irish, Water Rats, MDA and City Homicide, Pedersen is an accomplished performer who is sure to continue his great work for the next ten years and beyond. Oh, and he was also totally a Cleo Bachelor of the Year nominee in 1994 *swoon*.
3. Jessica Mauboy
She may have lost to Damien Leith in the fourth season of Australian Idol – I’m still waiting for them to do a duet! – but Jessica Mauboy (of Kuku Yalanji descent) is the pocket rocket dynamo of the Australian pop scene and has used this to take on the film world as well (notably in the smash hit The Sapphires). Mauboy has become one of Australia’s sweethearts and has a strong track record of supporting various charities in Australia. She has also won a super amount of awards for both singing and acting and she supported Beyonce on tour – what else needs to be said!
4. Wayne Blair
Best known for directing feature film The Sapphires, Wayne Blair (of Batjala descent) is also a talented writer and actor. He has starred in the original stage production of The Sapphires, played Othello for Bell Shakespeare and, like Mailman, graduated from QUT with a Bachelor of Arts (Acting). Another notable achievement was his involvement inRedfern Now, where he wrote, directed and acted in the series over its run. And finally, he was directed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman in an STC production of True West in 2010 – awesome, right?!
5. Miranda Tapsell
What more needs to be said about Miranda Tapsell (of Larrakia descent) except the fact that she is a goddess? Maybe the fact that she is also super talented and said what we were all thinking when she won the 2015 Logies for ‘Most Popular New Talent’ and ‘Most Outstanding Newcomer’: “Put more beautiful people of colour on TV and connect viewers in ways which transcend race and unite us. That’s the real team Australia”. Starting her career in 2008, Tapsell got her breakthrough role in The Sapphires. She has also appeared in great shows like Mabo, Lovechild and Redfern Now and is a talented stage actor who studied at NIDA and has regularly appeared on the Belvoir stage.
Honourable mention – Dan Sultan
I know he has only appeared in one movie but who didn’t want to snuggle up to Dan after seeing him in Bran Nue Dae. I got to snuggle up to him in real life at Meredith Music Festival one year for a photo so this is really just a chance for me to reminisce over that beautiful moment – *sigh* Plus that man can sing!