MR ENTSCH: It gives me great pleasure to rise this evening to talk about one of Cairns’s best kept secrets: the Tropical Arts Association.
Tropical Arts is a not-for-profit community theatre group based in Cairns.
It prides itself on community engagement.
Tropical Arts tirelessly finds ways to include people, and the benefits to individuals and the community are substantial.
They invite and value each person’s strengths and ambitions.
Tropical Arts has been presenting an annual Shakespeare production at their Tanks Arts Centre since 2008. Co-founder and president and director, Avril Duck, is certainly the driving force behind Tropical Arts.
Avril was awarded the Australia Day Cultural Award in 2016 for her work in inclusion, bringing down the barriers and participation in theatre.
The actors on the Tropical Arts stage and the crew behind the scenes are diverse in every way.
I would like to take this opportunity to highlight here in our nation’s parliament a few of the great people.
Warren Clements is known to thousands for his 25 years experience as a cultural dancer and presenter at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park.
In the Tropical Arts production The Tempest, Warren was introduced to the theatre and stage.
I have a personal interest in Warren in that I went to school with his mum, Adeline Chong, right through my primary years.
I’m very, very proud of the achievements of this wonderful young Indigenous man.
Since then, Warren has featured in most productions, worked with other professional companies, made films and trained with the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble for further opportunities.
Velvet Eldred, Cairns Woman of the Year for 2015, is a director, performer and drumming dance and drama trainer.
Velvet has brought in a partnership with ARC Disability Services, which has seen more than 50 individuals with a wide range of abilities—and I say ‘abilities’, not ‘disabilities’—take their place on stage and develop ways of working and accessing this inclusive community theatre opportunity.
Douglas Robins first joined in 2011 and has become an audience favourite.
He is a committee member and an inclusion specialist in the group with his unique perspective as an actor in a wheelchair.
The equipment and support required for Doug’s condition of Duchenne muscular dystrophy is part of the social and visual dynamic—a strength for Tropical Arts.
Young Indigenous live theatre technician, Eben Love, is the lighting designer for the second time this year, getting his start with Tropical Arts in 2011 during its Romeo and Juliet production.
The Tropical Arts partnership with ARC has seen actors transition into mainstream cast rehearsals of Shakespeare productions.
Actors like Joy Nomani, Troy Johnstone and Darren Smith now attend rehearsals outside of ARC and participate in fundraising workshops and social events.
In 2014, Auslan interpreters Sandra Remedio and Angela Santoro from the Deadly Hands Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation joined forces with Tropical Arts to guide, advise and keep culturally safe the various ways of incorporating the deaf community and Auslan into this style of theatre.
All actors learn sign language and present the whole show in two languages simultaneously, Auslan and English.
The Tropical Arts Association’s youngest deaf person is 14 years old.
She’s performed in her second Shakespeare play at the Tanks Arts Centre.
Altogether this year, there are 13 deaf actors in the 60-strong cast.
The deaf cast has grown from two to four to seven to 13 in four short years.
For Tropical Arts, diversity is the aesthetic and inclusion is the way to get there.
Tropical Arts has been making theatre with colourful, not colourblind, casts for 10 years.
They proudly talk about recent National Institute of Dramatic Art graduate Wendy Mocke, who successfully auditioned for Australia’s most prestigious acting school directly after coming off stage as the lead in Tropical Arts’ version of Much Ado About Nothing. Wendy is the first Papua New Guinean actor to enrol in and graduate from NIDA.
This year Velvet Eldred and Avril Duck are evaluating the processes of the production and hope to once again form part of the discussion at the National Rural Health Conference in 2019.
How do we make inclusion move from policy to practice?
Ask Tropical Arts.