A story judged worthy of telling on stage - Indigenous academic in the limelight

Published:09 July 2015

Assoc Prof Henrietta Marrie (top right) with Artistic Director of JUTE Theatre Company Suellen Maunder, Theatre Director Rhoda Roberts and Dramaturg Peter Matheson and (below) in a candid moment.

Until recently, CQUniversity academic Henrietta Marrie would never have imagined having her life story told in a theatrical format.

However, the first stirrings of what could one day become a touring stage show have started, with JUTE Theatre company in Cairns conducting a 'new works department' Behind the Scenes evening as a public showcase, to map out a future production.

Henrietta, an Associate Professor with CQUni's Office of Indigenous Engagement, has described the theatrical process as 'emotional and nerve-wracking' but there is no shortage of material to work with.

As the first Australian Aboriginal woman appointed to a professional position at the United Nations, Henrietta was instrumental in preparing the Convention on Biological Diversity which affects over a billion people across the globe.

The Cairns-based Elder was recently a member of the Indigenous Reference Group (IRG) from the National Museum of Australia and part of the official delegation who travelled to the United Kingdom for the official opening of the landmark Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation exhibition at the British Museum in London.

Theatre Director Rhoda Roberts, who was commissioned by JUTE for the project, says Henrietta has been an advocate for the cultural rights of Indigenous people across the world.

"She has been on an incredible journey which makes us think about what changes we want to see in society," Rhoda says.

"Henrietta is a dogmatic and passionate woman who would not let go of her fight for change. We think the whole country is ready to hear Henrietta's story!"

Henrietta said she was keen to break down doors for young Indigenous people and to tell them "not to go down the well-trodden track ... take a new path".

"If my story empowers people to make a difference for their communities I'll be happy," she said.

"We need to change the way society thinks about who we are as a people."

EMBEDDED SLIDESHOW includes Assoc Prof Henrietta Marrie and pictured with Director Rhoda Roberts, Dramaturg Peter Matheson and Artistic Director of JUTE Theatre Company Suellen Maunder.