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First Nations Speaker Series

3 August 2023

Celebrate 50 years of First Nations performance at the Sydney Opera House and hear how the performing arts influences critical conversations and connects audiences and creatives with culture.

Join us for the First Nations Speaker Series

Presented in collaboration with Museums of History NSW, GML Heritage and the Research Centre for Deep History at the Australian National University, this special First Nations Speaker Series hosted by the Sydney Opera House, will celebrate performing arts practice through a First Nations lens.


Performers and industry leaders will share the power of performance in creating space for challenging conversations, celebration and sharing of culture. Broadcaster Rudi Bremer will lead a conversation with Frances Rings, Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance Theatre, Dr Liza-Mare Syron, founding member of Moogahlin Performing Arts, Dobby, a leading rapper, drummer, composer and producer and newly announced panellist Steven Oliver, comedian, performer and creator as they explore the influence of First Nations performance and the experience of performing at the iconic Sydney Opera House. 

Meet the speakers

Rudi Bremer

Rudi has been a radio broadcaster since 2012. Having honed her skills at community radio, Rudi initially joined the ABC as a master control technician before returning to her producer roots in 2017. As the producer of RN Awaye! Rudi relishes the opportunity to share her love of performing arts, literature and Indigenous languages — like her own, Gamilaraay, from Kamilaroi country.

A woman wearing a dress with orange pattern.
Dr Liza-Mare Syron

Liza-Mare has family ties to the Birrbay people from the Mid-North Coast of NSW. A theatremaker and academic, she is a founding member of Moogahlin Performing Arts, and as a key member of the company’s Co-Artistic Directorate for over ten years has recently been appointed Senior Artistic Associate. Liza-Mare is currently a Co-Associate Dean of Indigenous in the Faculty of Arts Design and Architecture and an Indigenous Scientia Senior Lecturer in the School of Arts and Media at UNSW. She is widely published in the field of Indigenous performing arts. She has sat on many boards and committees and her creative outputs include directorial roles and as a dramaturge on various independent projects across the country.

Frances Rings

Frances is a descendant of the Wirangu and Mirning Tribes from the West Coast of South Australia. Frances Rings became Artistic Director in 2023 after Stephen Page stepped down from the role after 33 years. Rings has been the Associate Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance Theatre since 2019. Frances made her main stage choreographic debut with Bangarra with the work Rations (Walkabout, 2002) and received outstanding critical acclaim. In 2016, Terrain toured regionally to Western Australia and South Australia, continuing in 2017 to regional Victoria and Tasmania. Unaipon was remounted as part of Bangarra’s 30th anniversary program, 30 years of sixty five thousand, in 2019. Frances has choreographed works for many of Australia’s leading dance companies including West Australian Ballet and Tasdance, as well as continuing a successful independent career. Frances has also danced in works by many of Australia’s leading choreographers and companies including Meryl Tankard, Leigh Warren and Legs on the Wall.

A Wirangu and Mirning woman with long black hair smiling at the camera
Dobby (Ryan Clapham)

DOBBY is a rapper, drummer and music composer. He proudly identifies as a Filipino and Aboriginal musician, whose family is from Brewarrina on Ngemba land, and is a member of the Murrawarri Republic in Weilmoringle, NSW. He has performed extensively locally including BIGSOUND and Sydney Opera House, and internationally in Germany, UK, USA and the Netherlands. DOBBY recently took out the best video for 'I CAN'T BREATHE' in the 2020 FBi SMAC Awards. I Can't Breathe has become the unofficial anthem of Australia’s Bla(c)k Lives Matter protests and is being used throughout schools in Australia as material alongside curriculum to assist in educating students. DOBBY is a multi-instrumentalist who's increasingly known for bouncing between piano, drums, & drum pads, with his unique signature ‘drapping’ (rapping & drumming at the same time).

Steven Oliver

Steven Oliver is a descendant of the Kuku-Yalanji, Waanyi, Gangalidda, Woppaburra, Bundjalung and Biripi peoples. He became notorious with ABC’s Black Comedy as a writer/actor/associate producer where his creations ‘The Tiddas’ helped earn him a FAVOURITE COMEDY PERFORMER OF THE DECADE nomination in the 2020 AACTA’s.

Other TV roles include Indigenous Arts Quiz Show Faboriginal for which he was creator/writer/presenter, writer/presenter on award winning documentary Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky and features in acclaimed documentaries Occupation Native and History Bites Back. He recently appeared in the comedy series Aunty Donna’s Coffee Café and the music drama mini-series In Our Blood.

His web series A Chance Affair was nominated for best web series at the 2018 LGBTIQ Australian Awards and Screen Producers Australia Awards.

His poetry is published in national and international poetry journals such as Ora Nui, Australian Poetry Journal, Solid Air, Admissions, Firefront, Nangamay Mana Djurali and the Institute For Modern Art’s publication of Making Art Work. His plays Proppa Solid and From Darkness are published by Playlab.

His cabaret show Bigger & Blacker premiered at the 2019 Adelaide Cabaret Festival and in 2021/2022 toured regional Queensland also playing at La Boite Theatre BrisbaneSydney Opera House, Malthouse Theatre MelbourneAdelaide Fringe FestivalPerth International Cabaret FestivalDarwin Festival, Horizon Festival and Belco Arts Canberra.

He co-hosted the 2022 Sydney Mardi Gras for the ABC, the 2022 National NAIDOC Awards and the National Indigenous Music Awards for NITV/SBS Viceland. In 2023 he has performed a selection of his original songs for Melbourne’s Midsumma Extravaganza
at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl and also the Sydney Opera House backed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra while hosting the Blak & Deadly Gala as part of Sydney World Pride. Festivals in 2023 include performances, poetry readings and panel discussions at Adelaide Writers Festival, Alice Springs Impaarja Light Festival
and the Brisbane Writers Festival.

Steven Oliver

Other information

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