Skip Links
Close Search

First Nations 

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.

Head of First Nations Programming, Rhoda Roberts AO 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)

Coming Up

Dance Rites winners Nunukul Yuggera performing in 2018

Dance Rites 2020

Since its inception in 2015, more than 1500 people have participated in the hallmark First Nations event, Dance Rites, that helps to revitalise Indigenous leadership, safeguard vanishing cultural practices, and showcase the richness and diversity of First Nations culture. The national event is open to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance groups.

In its sixth year, as a result of nationwide measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, the 2020 festival will be presented as a digital event, broadcast on the Opera House’s social media channels in November. 

Celebrating First Nations: Dance Rites 2018

Press play to watch video

Natives Go Wild 

Sydney Opera House is proud to host the world premiere of Natives Go Wild, a provocative new First Nations cabaret that flips the lid on historical fiction and celebrates the global voice of First Nations people. This unmissable production, conceived and written by Head of First Nations Programming, Rhoda Roberts AO, will shake up the Studio from 19 - 27 October 2019. 

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.

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

Past programming

Electric Fields at Homeground 2017 Image: Daniel Boud


From 2015 - 2017,  Homeground continued the rich history of the land on which we stand, 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. Celebrating 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. 

Gudirr Gudirr

27 Jun 2018 - 30 Jun 2018

Fusing performance art, Indigenous dance, gymnastics and Malaysian martial arts, Gudirr Gudirr is a powerful and profoundly personal solo work by celebrated Australian dancer-choreographer, Dalisa Pigram. Get tickets for Gudirr Gudirr now.
This unique Central Australian ensemble sings sacred music in ancient and living indigenous languages together with new music through recent collaborations with other Central and international Choirs.
First Nations

DOBBY & Tasman Keith

19 Sep 2018

Breakthrough Aussie rappers DOBBY & Tasman Keith bring their unique voices to the intimate Utzon room for a night of the message, the word and the fun. Joined by MC Hau Latukefu.
First Nations

Radical Son

12 Dec 2018

Effortlessly crossing genres from soul to hip-hop and beyond, Radical Son is a standout vocalist and songwriter like no other.
First Nations

Tia Gostelow

5 Jan 2019

Emerging indie artist Tia Gostelow performs in the intimate Utzon Room for a night of unforgettable music.
A one-night musical and cultural celebration of the pioneering Aboriginal surf lifesaver, brought to life by a diverse cast of extraordinary First Nations, Australian and international performers.


Ghenoa Gela's powerful, political dance

The Torres Strait Mainlander breaks the stereotypes of dance.

A guide to Dance Rites

Your handbook for the song and dance of Australia's ancient cultures

Badu Gili's Frances Belle Parker

We talk to Frances Belle Parker, one of the five Badu Gili artists, about her work, her motivation and how she's used the Opera House’s sails as a blank canvas.

"There is no Aboriginal disadvantage"

Aboriginal culture can be part of Australia's shared strength, says SOH's head of First Nations Programming Rhoda Roberts.

Zaachariaha Fielding - It's A Long Story podcast

Crossing genres like soul, pop and electronica, Electric Fields has led Zaachariaha to massive stages all around Australia and the world, and in 2017 they scored Best New Talent at the NIMA Awards.

Listen to Deadly Voices from the House - Podcast

A podcast that takes intimate interviews with First Nations artists and leaders to the world. Hosted by Rhoda Roberts AO.

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.

You may also like...

Natives Go Wild
22 Oct 2019 - 27 Oct 2019
Step right up into a wild world of mystery. A mistold tale of circus and wonder. A twisted history unleashed, and a famous freak show unmasked. Be enraptured by the dark truth of P.T. Barnum, the greatest showman, and his mob of circus ‘delights’...
Enter Dance Rites 2019
Dance Rites is Australia’s national Indigenous dance competition in which a gathering of dance groups from across the nation will share their traditional culture and compete for the $20,000 Dance Rites prize.
Australian Genocide
Nayuka Gorrie, Larissa Behrendt & Julie Gough
The mapping of our turbulent history is happening in many forms across the country, through painstaking research by historians, archaeologists, artists and descendants . How will it change the way we think about Australia?