DR RACHAEL MAZA
WINNER OF THE ECU COMMUNITY ALUMNI AWARD
GRADUATE DIPLOMA OF PERFORMING ARTS (THEATRE), 1992 AND DOCTOR OF PERFORMING ARTS, 2019
At Edith Cowan University’s 2019 graduation ceremonies, award-winning actor and director Rachael Maza was the recipient an honorary doctorate in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the arts in Australia.
Hard on the heels of this achievement, Dr Maza has been named as the winner of the inaugural ECU Community Alumni Award. This award recognises a distinguished individual who is having an extraordinary impact in the field of equality, diversity and social responsibility.
Since graduating from ECU’s Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), Dr Maza has carved a distinguished career in Australian theatre, film and television.
Highlights of her many acting credits include her long association with Company B at Sydney’s Belvoir Theatre, her roles in The Sapphires for the Melbourne Theatre Company, Holy Day for the State Theatre Company of South Australia, and in the award-winning feature film, Radiance.
Her outstanding performances have been acknowledged with a Melbourne Green Room Award and a Sydney Theatre Critics’ Circle Award.
She is also an accomplished theatre director, most recently returning to WAAPA to direct the 2018 graduating Aboriginal Performance students in Fever. She has hosted the critically acclaimed Message Stick for ABC television and is also a narrator, singer, Indigenous liaison advisor and acting coach.
Dr Maza currently sits on the board of the Australia Centre for Moving Image (ACMI), the Circus Oz Indigenous Advisory Panel, Australian Opera Indigenous Advisory Panel, Balnaves Indigenous Playwrights Award Panel and the Green Room Awards Theatre Company Panel.
Most importantly, 2019 marks a decade since Dr Maza became Artistic Director of Ilbijerri Theatre Company, Australia’s leading and longest-running Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander theatre company. Based in Victoria, Ilbijerri creates, presents and tours theatre that is creatively controlled by Indigenous artists.
“In a nutshell,” says Dr Maza, “Ilbijerri was set up because there was a dire absence of opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories, and a lack of opportunities to see our faces onstage. We wanted to shed the cloak of invisibility.”
Since Dr Maza took over the helm of the company, Ilbijerri has presented 17 new works and performed in 256 different venues to over 85,000 people.
Yet Dr Maza acknowledges that running an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander theatre company is about more than just performance.
“A good 40 percent of my job has nothing to do with making work, and is all about advocacy.”
Ilbijerri has recently expanded its education and outreach work.
“We tour into Aboriginal communities,” explains Maza. “We’retaking theatre out of theatre. That is really powerful, and we need to be doing it. Artist development work addresses that dire absence of working, professional, experienced, Indigenous creatives.”
Rick Brayford, Coordinator of WAAPA’s Aboriginal Performance program, describes Dr Maza as having an “infectious positivity and unwavering determination to empower Aboriginal voice through the arts”.
“The industry looks up to Rachael for mentorship, knowledge and leadership,” he says.
“Rachael fosters a relationship with First Nations community and artists that is central to her creative process, empowering Indigenous voice at all levels and feeding Australian audiences with stories that might otherwise never be aired.”
“Every piece of work I make or story that I tell, I am responsible for it, I speak for my mob,” says Dr Maza.
“I do feel weight on my shoulders, but it’s not a burden. It’s a responsibility that I’ve always understood and I take seriously.”