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Dalara Williams announced as Balnaves Fellow

Belvoir has announced Gumbaynggirr and Wiradjuri actor and creative Dalara Williams as the 2022 Balnaves Foundation Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fellow.

The Balnaves Fellowship provides the opportunity to work at Belvoir as a resident artist to create a work for the stage and this year has increased to a $45,000 paid residency over an 18-month period. It seeks to be deeply collaborative, offering a voice in Belvoir’s artistic decision-making processes and the opportunity to support other Indigenous artists through Belvoir’s creative development and programming.

Previous recipients, including Leah Purcell, Nakkiah Lui, Jodie Bedford and Nathan Maynard, have submitted exceptional works that affirm the depth of talent among First Nations theatre-makers.

Dalara Williams was born and raised in Sydney on Gadigal country. She graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in 2017 and made her feature film debut in Wayne Blair’s romantic comedy Top End Wedding.

Williams’ stage credits include Winyanboga Yurringa (Belvoir Street Theatre), Exit the King (Redline Productions), Blackie Blackie Brown (Malthouse Theatre), Black Ties (Ilbijerri Theatre Company) and Rainbows End (Darlinghurst Theatre).

Prior to NIDA, she studied at Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.

Her first written play, The Lookout, was selected by Moogahlin Theatre Company as part of its Yellamundie Festival, and she has since been selected as part of Melbourne-based Ilbijerri Theatre Company’s Black Wrights program.

“I’ve always loved theatre – acting and writing,” Ms Williams said. “Storytelling is vital. I’m excited about bringing stories back to community – Black stories based on family … challenging the stereotypes. I’m drawn to complex and quirky characters – how they manage, how they carry themselves.”

Williams’ latest work, Walking Down Eveleigh Street, follows single mother Lorraine Mathews and her three eccentric children as they navigate the ups and downs of being blackfullas in the city – trauma but also the laughter that helps them survive it.

“My new work focuses on Redfern stories,” Ms Williams said. “There are so many I’ve heard from the 1960s, from the 1970s and ’80s. In my final year at NIDA, I created work based on interviews with my grandmother Norma Ingram, my great-aunt Millie Ingram and Aunty Margaret Campbell. I learned that living in the city is also living on Country.”

Hamish Balnaves, CEO of the Balnaves Foundation, said: “The Foundation believes in supporting the next generation of artists and the creative development of new Australian work … These stories play a pivotal role in truth-telling, treaty and reconciliation.”

Belvoir is also excited to announce Nazarene Dickerson and Brendon Boney as Balnaves Associate Artists. They will each receive $5,000, which will cover a detailed story outline or first draft of a work, in addition to creative development.

Eamon Flack, Belvoir Artistic Director, said: “I hope it’s a sign of real change that this year’s Balnaves Fellowship has been chosen by a panel of Black artists already on staff at Belvoir, and that alongside the Fellowship we’re also offering two Balnaves Associates.

“It’s great that Dalara grew up just down the road from Belvoir in Redfern, which has long been a place of protest and celebration for Aboriginal people, and she’ll spend her time at Belvoir writing a local story.

“We’ve also changed the structure of the Fellowship so that Dalara and the previous Fellow, Thomas Weatherall, will overlap for six months, and work inside the company alongside a growing group of strong Black artists including Kodie [Bedford], Kalkadoon actor/director Abbie-Lee Lewis and board director Jake Nash.”

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