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Introducing the Diversity Theatre Project – an innovative project developed by Diversitat in collaboration with Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-Operative and Geelong Rainbow Inc.

This Federal Health Department funded initiative is aimed at senior members of Geelong’s Indigenous, LGBTI+ and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities and is centred around the health and well-being advantages of participation in the Performing Arts.

The fabulous theatre troupe were to produce a spectacular show to be performed at Geelong’s Costa Hall.

A documentary to be featured on SBS on Friday 1 October at 2pm will explore the journey from pre-COVID production to COVID reality.

Creative Connections – In conversation with participants of the Diversity Theatre Project

Presented by Immigration Museum and proudly supported by the City of Melbourne, this panel discussion will explore the importance of creative arts on health and well-being through the lens of the Diversity Theatre Project.

Join us for a first-hand, in-depth exploration into the impact of creative arts on mental and physical wellbeing during lockdown.

Listen as the directors and participants of a regional theatre project in Geelong take you on a journey from pre-COVID production to COVID reality.

The project, funded by the Department of Health, centers on the health and wellbeing advantages by participating in the performing arts.

The webinar will explore the experiences of those involved and how the project has changed their views on diversity, inclusion and acceptance.

Senior members of Geelong’s First Peoples, LGBTI+ and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities have been involved in the Diversity Theatre Project for over 12 months.

A documentary about the project will premier on SBS on Friday 1 October at 2.00pm.


12PM–1.30PM | Free

Get tickets >

About the Speakers

Dixie Dean (Panellist)

Dixie Dean (Panellist)

Diversity Theatre Project Participant from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community

Dixie was born in 1959 in Gordonvale, Far North Queensland, Yidinji land.

Her father was a ‘Barnado Boy’, a child taken from his parents in England, along with two of his brothers and given into care of the Church, and from there transported to Australia at the age of 15. When her father served in the Australian Army, he met Dixie’s mother, an Australian Maternal Nurse. In exploring her family history, Dixie discovered that she had Aboriginal Ancestry on her maternal side. The exploration of who Dixie’s Mob are and her Land of belonging is ongoing. Dixie is a Jill-of-All-Trades. She has had a wide ranging and diverse set of occupations in her life, including such jobs as Traffic Controller, Farm Hand, Labourer, Chauffer, Music DJ, Cleaner, Animal and Wildlife Carer, Foster Mother, Horticulturist and Nursery Gardener, Shop Manager and many more. Dixie has also been a Wife and a Mother. Dixie’s family moved around Queensland a lot in her childhood, as her father was a Sugarcane Cutter. Dixie is the eldest of six children and describes herself as having been a very shy, reserved and quiet child. Overtime, Dixie learnt how to ‘put on a face, a mask’, and become social, outgoing and gregarious. Dixie now lives in the Geelong region, on Wathaurong land.

“I love coming to Diversity Theatre Project and listening to the diverse group tell their stories, of both their past and present. I am learning so much about the history, immigration, racism and discrimination that have been experienced by many. I love that the group is supportive of each other and like a family. In telling stories, by acting out those stories and representing them in other ways that invoke our senses, including music and art, we make our stories really ‘seen’ and ‘sensed’. In taking part in the dramatisation and watching the dramatisation, it is easy to imagine what it would have been like to empathise, understand and care about the stories and their narrator.

Nicholas Penny (Panellist)

Nicholas Penny (Panellist)

Diversity Theatre Project Participant from LGBTI community

Born in YEA, Victoria, 1954. Mother immigrated to Australia from England after the WW II, she was travelling the world with her friend and decided to settle in Australia. Nicholas was a builder and a clinical hypnotherapist.

First 5.5 years of his life he travelled around Australia in the mobile home. Nicholas grew up in Bright, moved to NSW at the age of 19 while being married to a woman to who he has 4 children. Came back to Albury. Then moved to Yarrawonga, got divorced and started to come to terms that he was a gay person. Nicholas moved to Melbourne, had a partner with whom he lived and travelled for 10 years. After Nicholas finally found out that his back was broken since he was bashed at the age of 14, he had a surgery that failed and caused a series of strokes and some brain damage and affected cognitive functions and caused mobility issues. Now Nicholas resides in Lara with his dog companion Harvey and keeps contact with his children and grandchildren who live nearby.

“Diversity Theatre Project provides people with the opportunity to share their life stories. It creates an ambience where everyone feels safe to share personal things and it allows everyone to grow personally. Exploring other people’s stories through Drama can be joyous and cathartic at the same time, validating, supportive. It is the stories that are often hidden away by people that are shared and it gives an opportunity to validate people’s experiences.”

Shall Dah Ta Thu (Panellist)

Shall Dah Ta Thu (Panellist)

Diversity Theatre Project Participant from Refugee community

Shall Dah was born on 01/01/1949 in Myanmar, in Maw Koe village.

Because of war in Myanmar Shall Dah and her family couldn’t live there anymore. After finding shelter at Thailand refugee camp for over a decade, she was able to move to Australia on the 25 Feb 2009.

Shall Dah Ta Thu used to live in Myanmar. She had a passion for studying but had no opportunities to attend school. She had a dream to become a teacher but had to become a farmer instead. Shall Dah got married when she was 30 years old and has one son. When her son was 4 months old, Shall Dah’s husband passed away and she raised her son alone.

“Diversity Theatre Project is a place where everyone feels safe to share personal story. It has provided opportunity for everyone to create memories with friends and share personal things and enjoy myself. I really enjoy getting to know people from different countries, support each other and reveal stories that have been hidden away for ages.”

Liljana (Lily) Mirovski (Panellist)

Liljana (Lily) Mirovski (Panellist)

Diversity Theatre Project Participant from CALD community

Lily was born in July 1958 in Lazec, a small Macedonian Village.

She Migrated to Australia in 1973 for a better life. After arriving in Australia, Lily began work two days later in a factory sewing pockets on Jeans. Later, she and her husband had children and Lily became a fulltime mother and housekeeper. Now Lily is mother to three wonderful adult children and grandmother to six beautiful grandchildren.

“I have experienced a long term illness and continue to manage ongoing health challenges. Diversity Theatre Project helps to take me out of myself and enjoy myself despite difficulties I may be having. I love the Diversity Theatre Project and the laughter, fun and acting. Diversity Theatre Project gives everybody a chance to share and tell their stories. Diversity Theatre is comfortable and everyone is equal, from all different groups. The Theatre group is like family. I love hearing other people’s stories and acting them out. The stories are extraordinary and you learn about people as you go. Acting is personal, and you can picture the story as it is enacted. It is beautiful!”

Jane Rafe (Moderator)

Jane Rafe (Moderator)

Diversity Theatre Project Director

Born in North Wales, 59 years ago. Jane first came to Australia in 1994 but came for good in 1995. Jane was over city life and wanted a cleaner natural environment. Jane is a Theatre Director / Educator.

When Jane first migrated, she decided to throw everything up in the air and become a travelling player. Dave and Jane toured theatre shows to schools and communities from Noosa to Adelaide, and Tasmania. It was a great way to get to know one’s new home and meet so many people from such diverse and interesting backgrounds.

“The participants, their amazing life stories and their willingness to share them are the most interesting part of the project for me. The project is built on the engagement of people from different backgrounds – Indigenous, LGBTI, and migrant and refugee communities. The way in which the group has become such a supportive and inclusive space for everyone speaks volumes for diversity being such a strength in art-making, and in the broader society.

When it comes to exploring people’s stories through drama, I really enjoy the way the personal recollections – which are moving, funny and so rich and varied – also connect strongly to a time and a place in history. People of our age have seen so many changes, and have been witness to momentous events. Watching the stories emerge as they are re-enacted, is beautiful and enriching.”

Dave Kelman (Moderator)

Dave Kelman (Moderator)

Diversity Theatre Project Director

Born in Leicester UK, 1961. Moved to Australia in 1995 because of the relatively unspoilt natural environment. Dave is a theatre director/educator.

Dave grew up in rural Scotland and historically his family comes from a very particular part of Scotland. He always loved the natural world. Dave visited Australia as an eighteen year old and fell in love with the country. Eventually he returned and made his living working in theatre particularly with our wonderful CALD communities. Dave has an adult daughter who is at university.

“I have always enjoyed engaging with people from different cultures. Diversity Theatre Project celebrates diversity through honouring the beautiful complexity of people’s life stories. Exploring people’s stories through drama is a way of bringing the past to life and visiting times and places when the world was a different place. It’s actually quite magical at times.”


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