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A crowd enjoying a music concert at the Forecourt.

First Nations presented by Sydney Opera House

Celebrating the richness of the world’s oldest living cultures

The Opera House’s First Nations program continues the traditions of Bennelong Point, formerly known as Tubowgule, which has a long history as a place of gathering, feasting, singing, dancing and storytelling for the local Gadigal people.

The Opera House’s First Nations Program was launched in 2012 by trailblazing arts curator and cultural knowledge-keeper Rhoda Roberts AO. Head of First Nations Programming, Beau James curates a program that celebrates the richness of national and international First Nations culture by presenting works that span contemporary issues, retell forgotten stories and revitalise ancient cultural practices. The program collaborates with all the Sydney Opera House Presents programs to embed First Nations' dance, music and theatre works in all areas that showcase the relevancy, vibrancy and vitality of these living cultures.

In addition to the annual national First Nations dance competition, Dance Rites, past First Nations performances have included the world premiere of First Nations cabaret Natives Go Wild, written and conceived by Rhoda Roberts AO; Marrugeku’s one-woman powerhouse performance Gudirr Gudirr; landmark dance theatre work Djuki Mala and Native Owned an evening of culture with Native American and Canadian collective Indigenous Enterprise. 

We reconnected kids back to their mobs and families... the transformation is just amazing — it’s given these young fellas and young women their identity back.

Leanne Ruska, Nunukul Yuggera (Winners Dance Rites 2018)

Recent Programming

Stream, read & listen

Stream Contemporary Music

Bow and Arrow | From Our House To Yours

Meet eccentric Blue Mountains-based electro soul duo Bow and Arrow, aka husband and wife team Mindy Jane (Bow) and Mitchell Kwanten (Arrow).  

Deadly Voices from the House

Acclaimed presenter, journalist, actor, producer and arts guru Rhoda Roberts AO presents Deadly Voices from the House, recorded live from Sydney Opera House.

Listen Contemporary Music

Music for... Pride, Power & Protest by DOBBY

Indigenous rapper and drummer DOBBY compiles a playlist that represents a sample of "abundant blak excellence". Click for essential listening representing intergenerational tradition and resistance.

Stream Schools

Ziggy Ramo “Little Things” feat. Paul Kelly

In a cinematic journey tracking forward and backwards in time, Ziggy Ramo makes his directorial debut with the music video for his new single “Little Things” feat Paul Kelly. 

Read First Nations

Deborah Mailman on Rhoda Roberts’ “remarkable” 16 years at the Sydney Opera House

Few people have had as much influence on what takes place in these hallowed halls as Rhoda Roberts. This month, she finishes her incredible stint at the Opera House. We spoke to actress and Trustee Deborah Mailman about Robert's everlasting impact.

Stream Contemporary Art

Lighting of the Sails 2022: Yarrkalpa - Hunting Ground

Two years in the making, this digital artwork projected onto the sails was created by Martumili Artists and Sydney-based creative technologists Curiious, bringing to life the Parnngurr community and its surrounding landscape, with a soundtrack by Electric Fields featuring the vocals of the Martu Artists.

Stream, Read and Listen to more First Nations at the Opera House



Beau James

Head of First Nations Programming

Leading First Nations curator, producer and performer Beau James, from the Mununjali clan of the Yugambeh Nation from South East Queensland with links to Stradbroke Island, is Sydney Opera House’s Head of First Nations Programming. Beau will lead a national and international cultural agenda, advancing and championing First Nations peoples, cultures, places, knowledge and narratives.

The Opera House’s First Nations Program was launched in 2012 by trailblazing arts curator and cultural knowledge-keeper Rhoda Roberts AO. Under Beau’s leadership, the Opera House’s year-round First Nations program will continue to celebrate the richness, diversity and vibrancy of First Nations culture.

Beau has worked as a company director, circus artist, physical theatre and cabaret performer and was the co-founder and director of their own circus company, Circus Minimus, in Brisbane for 10 years. Circus Minimus worked with Queensland based community organisations such as Mununjali Jymbi housing, Access ArtsFlipside Circus and developed shows Outside the Square and Behind Closed Bars with the youth at risk through Sisters Inside

They have written and produced for Adelaide Fringe FestivalBrisbane FestivalInternational Magdalena Festival and Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. In 2019 they performed in the sell-out season of Natives Go Wild at the Opera House, which was conceived and written by Rhoda Roberts.

For the last seven years Beau has worked as the Manager and Head of Indigenous Programs at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Working collaboratively with communities, artists and art centres throughout Australia and internationally, they have curated innovative exhibitions and programs and sourced exciting new works intertwining the traditional with the contemporary to explore First Nations culture. Their exhibition Gapu-Monuk Saltwater; Journey to Sea Country, has been a major award-winner including; International Museums and Heritage Award for International Project of the Year in 2019, Museums and Galleries National Award for Indigenous project or Keeping Place in 2018, and the International Design and Communications Award for Best Scenography for a Temporary Exhibition in 2018.

Beau James commenced in the position on Monday 7 June.





Beau James wearing an embroidered black shirt outside Sydney opera house.
Beau James, Head of First Nations programming