Alethea Beetson (Kabi Kabi + Wiradjuri) is an artist and producer who has worked extensively with Indigenous communities across multiple art forms to inspire new works responding to societal issues, cultural heritage and colonisation. She is currently the First Nations Producer of BIGSOUND and Artistic Director of Digi Youth Arts. More recently she worked as the Indigenous Engagement Coordinator at the Queensland Museum and was the Curator of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program for Festival 2018 Brisbane. She is currently undertaking a doctorate in Creative Industries (QUT) exploring the function of ritual, resistance and resurgence in the creative development and production of Indigenous performance.
A job description in your own words
I am BIGSOUND’s First Nations Producer, Digi Youth Arts’ Artistic Director and currently undertaking a Doctorate of Creative Industries at the Queensland University of Technology. All of my work is guided by community engagement practices – listening, learning and responding to the communities I live, work and am ancestrally connected to.
Weekly Journal (week of BIGSOUND)
I started my workday through my role as Artistic Director of Digi Youth Arts (DYA). The Ancient Bloods are an interchanging band that delivers DYA’s music mentoring programs and the current iteration of this act played the 4ZZZ Rooftop Oasis | Valley Fiesta Closing Party. I then headed to the BIGSOUND volunteer induction to acknowledge country and brief the First Nations Producer Assistant volunteers.
As part of my studies at QUT I tutor a subject called Gaps and Silences in Theatre. My research is focused on how ritual, resistance and resurgence functions in the creative development of Indigenous performance – I enjoy teaching some of this to current performing arts students. I started my Monday marking papers so I did not have to worry about this task for the rest of the week. That evening I went to the Valley Chamber of Commerce, QMusic and Seadeck presents the Launch of BIGSOUND 2018 event.
Today was the start of BIGSOUND so the rest of the week was focused on that role. My workday began by doing a contextualised acknowledgment of country for the Women in Music presented by QMusic event. Indigenous women are the backbones of our communities and their work is often largely ignored – so I was able to acknowledge their important role within the wider music community. Straight after this, I was MCing the Home -Official Welcome Party Presented by Virgin Australia and QMusic which featured Robbie Miller, Alice Skye, Nooky and The Merindas. The rest of my time I focused on being on-the-ground support for First Nations artists and delegates.
This morning started with two of my favourite things: coffee and the Indigenous arts community! Black Coffee – BIGSOUND was held to connect delegates in with the Indigenous arts community of Brisbane. This casual get together then paved the way for the closed discussion for First Nations delegates at BIGSOUND. Providing space for these kinds of conversations is really important and it was so great to see the First Nations artists come together across their many genres. I then had a quick interview with Happy Magazine before catching Emily Wurramara’s set at the Queensland Music Awards Showcase presented by McCormicks Law. The rest of my day and night was filled with meetings and supporting the showcases of the following First Nations acts: Wildheart, Pirra, Gravemind and Kaiit. Before heading to bed, I visited my storage shed to collect some ochre for one of the First Nations artists playing the next day.
I spent time at X-CARGO each morning of BIGSOUND so First Nations artists and delegates could check in with me as needed. Once I finished up there I was a panelist on the Intersectional Feminism in Music discussion. This has been an area I have presented on in a wider arts context before so it was timely to think about this framework within music. The other panelists were incredibly insightful and I learned so much from them.
That afternoon was a really important forum linked to my role: What would the current music industry look like if it was invented by First Nations people? Rhianna Patrick (Presenter/Producer, ABC Radio and QMusic Board Member) facilitated a discussion that unpacked the industry from a First Nations’ perspective. BIGSOUND had also invited members of the wider-Brisbane First Nations arts community to be part of that discussion and attend the festival that evening. With a larger First Nations support group in toe, I spent my evening supporting the showcases of the following First Nations artists: Alice Skye, Nooky, Kaiit, Robbie Miller and The Merindas.
I somehow managed to squeeze in marking some university papers on Friday morning before checking out Sue Ray in BIGROUND! Presented by AMIN in partnership APRA AMCOS. I then jumped festival-ship briefly and headed to the Brisbane Writers Festival panel: First Things First featuring legends Melissa Lucashenko, Prof Marcia Langton and Dr Sandra Phillips.(I did a performance for Brisbane Writers Festival last year so wanted to support at least one of their events). My day ended surprisingly late so I could catch BIGSOUND First Nations artist Dobby do an external set to the festival. His energy was a great way to cap off my BIGSOUND week.
Challenges and accomplishments in your week
I try to balance my time across my various roles and also engage with my community regularly in structured and unstructured ways. I have always thrived when working so finding time for myself (that cannot be labeled as work) is always my biggest challenge and accomplishment – every single week!
Highlights of the week
Every week there is at least one beautiful unplanned moment of learning from my community. It could be learning about local songlines from a songman whilst eating pizza after an event or listening to an Aunty share an anecdote in a lecture that explains a political part of your history or seeing a new piece of art that affirms your own practice in this space.
Lowlights of the week
Although I am lucky to do my work in very supportive and understanding workplaces, the wider arts industry is still difficult to navigate as an Indigenous person. There can be some very difficult moments that come with work so closely linked to advocacy.
Words of wisdom for people considering a job in your field
This industry, although changing, can feed into the glorification of being busy. I am conscious that the way I approach my work might feed into this too. But I know being busy works for me and helps me thrive. In my twenties, I invested time into figuring this out so I encourage others to invest in this kind of time and figure out what is best for them.