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First Nations

Celebrating the richness of the world's oldest living cultures

Our First Nations program presents local, national and international artists from across the globe. Their works span contemporary issues, re-tell forgotten stories and revitalise ancient cultural practices across music, dance, film and theatre. The program embeds First Nations' dance, music and theatre works across all Sydney Opera House program areas and showcases artists and performers from all art forms and disciplines. Hallmark events include Homeground and NAIDOC celebrations.


"One of the nation's most joyful and competitive Indigenous cultural events."
ABC Lateline on Homeground
Electric Fields at Homeground 2017 Image: Daniel Boud


For thousands of years, the land that Sydney Opera House is built on was a gathering place for the Gadigal and Eora people who danced and sang here.  Homeground continues the rich history of this site, formerly known as Tubowgule, by bringing the best First Nations artists from Australia and the world to the Opera House for two big days of music, dance, workshops and markets. Celebrate the power of contemporary artists and ancient customs under the sun and stars, framed by the sails of the Opera House. 

In 2017, more than 25,000 people attended Homeground which was held on the Forecourt for the first time. The highlights included Yothu Yindi and the Treaty Project, Mau Power, Electric Fields, Airileke Ingram and Sorong Samarai, Irish Mythen, Tenzin Choegyal and dance artists Muggera, Rako Pasefika and Malu Kiai Mura Buai Dance troupe and for the first time the Winda Indigenous Short Film Festival. 

Dance Rites winners Kulgoodah performing in 2017 Image: Daniel Boud

Dance Rites

Dance Rites provides a contemporary and competitive forum for performance by communities from a diverse range of traditions. An annual event since 2015 and a highlight of the Homeground program, Dance Rites aims to safeguard and revitalise vanishing cultural practices – language, dance, skin markings and instruments – to ensure they are shared from one generation to the next. More than 300 dancers competed in 2017 before a capacity crowd.

The Kulgoodah Dancers from the community of Woorabinda in Central Queensland, won Dance Rites 2017 after a hard-fought competition, receiving a $20,000 prize. Prizes were also awarded to the runners up Q Town Mura Kibile from the Torres Strait and the wild-card prize was awarded to the Allkumo Dancers from Coen in Cape York.

Deadly Voices

Deadly Voices from the House presents revealing conversations with prominent First Nations thinkers from music, arts and culture. Hosted by Head of First Nations Programming, Rhoda Roberts AO, the discussions explore the intersection of art and social change bringing insightful chat, laughs and general deadliness to a world-wide audience. Previous guests include AFL footy legend Adam Goodes and the Hon. Linda Burney MP.

Listen to Deadly Voices from the House on iTunes and Stitcher.

Rhoda Roberts AO, Head of First Nations Programming

A Widjabul woman, Rhoda Roberts is an experienced, motivated and versatile arts executive, with a diverse range of international and national industry practice within commercial, community and non-profit organisations. In 2016, she directed Songlines, the first Indigenous Lighting the Sails as part of VIVID Live and VIVID Sydney. The work of six Indigenous artists illuminated the Sails of the Opera House reaching a global audience of more than 8 million through a Facebook Livestream and on-going playback.

During NAIDOC week, 2017, Badu Gili, a daily Indigenous Lighting of the Sails at Sydney Opera House was finally realised by Roberts. The work provides a unique platform for First Nations artists from across Australia and the Torres Strait Islands to showcase diverse and ancient stories on the sails of the Opera House. The year-round nightly animation is a celebration of the world’s oldest living culture. 

Rhoda was the founder and Festival Director of the Dreaming Festival (1995-2009) and the Creative Director for the Awakening Segment Sydney Olympic Games 2000 Opening Ceremony and for Sydney New Year’s Eve 2009-2011 and is also currently Festival Director of the Boomerang Festival.

Rhoda has written, directed and produced several documentaries, and was the first Aboriginal to host a national prime time current affairs program. She was a co-founding member of Australia's first national Aboriginal theatre company, the Aboriginal National Theatre Trust (ANTT).

In June 2016, for her incomparable contribution in Australian cultural life, Rhoda was awarded the title of Officer (AO) in The General Division Of The Order Of Australia as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours, for her distinguished service to the performing arts through a range of leadership and advocacy roles in the development, promotion and presentation of contemporary Indigenous culture.

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