Brisbane Festival connects to culture and country with an incredible program of First Nations led work

3 minutes read

FRIDAY 21 JULY, 2023

Brisbane Festival is proud to present a self-determined program of First Nations work that honours the stories of two of the world’s longest-surviving cultures: the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

More than 170 First Nations cultural knowledge holders, trailblazers, nurturers, advocates, teachers, survivors and leaders will share their stories through music, dance, theatre, cabaret and art installations from 1 – 23 September 2023.

The Festival will launch with the moving Jarrah (Mother Earth), a cleansing and smoking ceremony that pays respect to Brisbane’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as it leads the city peacefully into September.

In a thrilling Festival-first, the skies above the Brisbane River will come to life with Nieergoo – Spirit of the Whale, a visually spectacular, 400-strong choreographed drone show that illuminates a captivating creation story across the opening weekend.

Program highlights also include the world premieres of Tracker, an intensely powerful and personal dance work by Australian Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director, Daniel Riley, in association with Ilbijerri Theatre Company and Queensland Theatre’s don’t ask what the bird look like.

Tracker, Brisbane Festival

Making its Australian premiere is Kuramanunya, a solo dance theatre work by Thomas E.S. Kelly and Karul Projects that pays homage to the thousands of First Nation lives lost during colonisation.

Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Yuldea, an exploration of a pivotal moment in Australia’s history when tradition collided with industrial ambition, and Hide the Dog, a trans-Tasman tale about true friendship, big adventure and the power of First Nations cultures both make their Queensland debuts.

Kuramanunya, Brisbane Festival

Brisbane Festival’s commitment to First Nations storytelling is guided in 2023 by two new Co-Chairs for its Indigenous Advisory Group (IAG) and the creation of two new Indigenous programming positions.

Shannon Ruska and Aunty Bridget Garay Co-Chair the IAG, succeeding Michelle Tuahine who stepped down as Chair to join the Brisbane Festival Board as a Director and working in partnership with Artistic Director Louise Bezzina to contribute to the 2023 First Nations program.

Ms Bezzina said she looks forward to delivering a Festival that connects deeply with Country and opens the community’s hearts to a brighter and more compassionate future.

Our Festival aims to reflect the many diverse audiences that give Brisbane its unique voice.
Louise Bezzina | Brisbane Festival, Artistic Director

“This is particularly expressed through the stories of our First Nations people and it is important to ensure that we deliver works and experiences under the leadership and guidance of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts workers.

“We pay our respects to the Elders and Traditional Owners of this Country on which we are honoured to work and provide a platform to tell stories and share experiences with our community.”

Artistic Associate Fred Leone joins Brisbane Festival in August to oversee and shape First Nations programming for 2024.

Creative Producer – Engagement Mayella Dewis-Koroi leads key projects to advance the Festival’s growing focus on creating diverse, inclusive and accessible programs for a broad audience.

For information, to subscribe for updates and to purchase tickets, visit

Brisbane Festival is an initiative of the Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council.