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7 unmissable Parrtjima speakers we love

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We’ve been searching through our archives to find our favourite Parrtjima speakers.

It was a near impossible job as there’s been so many inspirational, captivating, thought provoking and entertaining discussions over the years.

Hosted by Parrtjima Curator and Bundjalung woman Rhoda Roberts, the talks program has become an annual collective of contemporary Indigenous voices from around the nation.

“The Talks program offers an opportunity to hear from First Nations’ leaders, innovators, thinkers, artists, writers and performers as they speak about topics that inspire and challenge,” she said.

“The true essence of Parrtjima has always been about sharing knowledge and the telling of Australian cultural stories, and now it’s time to listen to these voices.” 

Below are seven unmissable Parrtjima speakers we simply love.

Bruce Pascoe, Author and Educator (Parrtjima 2019 and 2021)

Bruce Pasco, Parrtjima – A Festival in Light, Alice Springs, Australia. 7/4/2019. Images courtesy Parrtjima / NTMEC

An incredibly rich and varied life has led esteemed author and Bunurong man Bruce Pascoe to research and write several books.

He has worked as a teacher, farmer, fisherman, barman, fencing contractor, lecturer, Aboriginal language researcher, archaeological site worker and editor.

When he first came to Parrtjima, he shared his remarkable story and how he came to write Dark Emu, which has encouraged people across Australia to question or rethink the agricultural practices of our First Nations peoples.

In 2021, Bruce returned to talk about his new book, Loving Country. Co-authored with Vicky Shukuroglou, Bruce spoke about how the guidebook offers us all a new way to travel and rediscover Australia through an Aboriginal narrative.

“The idea [of the book] was to introduce Australia to Aboriginal country through the voices of Aboriginal people in their communities,” he explained.

“Our aim was that people would be able to invite Australians into their country, show them a story about their country which is positive for the heart and positive for Mother Earth.”

Josh Addo-Carr, NRL Legend (Parrtjima 2021 and 2022)

We loved having NRL star and Wiradjuri and Gunggandji man Josh Addo-Carr at Parrtjima.

Josh wowed festival crowds in 20121 and 2022 with his winning smile as he discussed his life, family, footy and the importance of connecting with the local community through sport.

The former Melbourne Storm player also took part in schools and community clinics where he put some young local rugby league players through their paces.

“I felt incredibly lucky to be involved with Parrtjima and honoured to be on Arrernte country,” said Josh, who helped connect a whole new demographic to the festival,” he said.

“It was such an opportunity to not only experience the spiritual Red Centre, but also connect with the local community through sport.

“For me, I like helping people and putting smiles on people’s faces.”

What a legend!

Narelda Roberts, Journalist, TV Host and Commentator (Parrtjima 2022)

A Whadjuk Noongar journalist, presenter and commentator, Narelda’s career in Australian Television has spanned more than two decades at Network 10.

She started in the Perth newsroom in 2000 before heading to Sydney in January 2020 to co-host Studio 10 and present 10 News First Perth.

Narelda is currently a co-host of Studio 10 and presenter of one-hour national news bulletin 10 News First: Midday. She is also a regular at NITV and SBS.

Passionate about promoting equality and inclusion, Narelda spoke about her career and the importance of visibility and diversity in mainstream TV.

“To include talking and conversation in a festival like [Parrtjima] is genius,” she said.

“The world needs more conversations. It’s so important for us to hear First Nations conversations. It is a reckoning we are going through at the moment, and it begins with a conversation.”

BARKAA, Aussie Rapper (Parrtjima 2022)

Fierce and bold, BARKAA has a story to tell and the world is paying attention.

Since bursting onto Australia’s music scene in 2020 with her debut single, For My Tittas, she has swiftly climbed to the top as one of the most respected voices in Australian hip hop.

A Malyangapa, Barkindji woman from western New South Wales, now living in southwest Sydney on Gandangara land, BARKAA discussed life, music, her family, women, the importance of community and the issues impacting Australian Indigenous people.

“Women are the backbone of this country,” she said. “It’s where I draw my strength – from my mother and my aunties and my daughter and my sisters – and [my music] is just paying homage to them.”

BARKAA, who also performed at Parrtjima, was excited to be a part of the festival. “When I [saw] it I was just like, this is so deadly. Just seeing all the light installations and seeing mob and being able to bring something here to remote community was just amazing.”

Charlie Maher Jr, Marathon Runner (Parrtjima 2023)

How incredible was marathon man Charlie Maher Jnr?

A Western Arrernte man, Charlie spoke about how running had changed his life for the better as part of the Talks program at Parrtjima.

Charlie discovered running was a way of dealing with his demons and by the time he crossed the finish line in London in 2022, he had been running marathons for 12 years.

In 2022, Charlie made history as the first Indigenous Australian runner to finish the six ‘majors’ – New York, Boston, Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago and London. He is also one of the four members of the inaugural Indigenous Marathon Project team which launched in 2010.

Charlie, who was born in Alice Springs, spoke about the importance of his mother and how she encouraged him to take up an opportunity from world champion runner Robert de Castella to train with three other local boys to run a marathon in New York.

“I didn’t want to bother with this guy at first because I didn’t believe it was a reality for a boy from Alice Springs,” he told the crowd. “But he came back again to Alice two weeks later and talked to me at school. This time I told my mum and she sat me down, told me how she watched Robert run, looked up to him, and so the rest was history.”

Charlie also spoke of how important it was to share his story and journey at Parrtjima. “I do talks around the nation, even around the world when I do the marathons, but this one at Parrtjima] is special for me because I’m on Country. I feel the presence of the ancestors. It’s very strong and I feel privileged to be here.”

Steven Oliver, Comedian, Writer, TV Star, Cabaret Performer (Parrtjima 2023)

We couldn’t get enough of Steven Oliver and his unique brand of storytelling.

His well-crafted stories and clever use of spoken word and poetry made us all think and reflect during his heartfelt talk, A Self-Proclaimed Faboriginal.

A descendant of the Kuku-Yalanji, Waanyi, Gangalidda, Woppaburra, Bundjalung and Biripi peoples, words simply poured out of Steven’s soul and heart.

He held the crowd spellbound, making them laugh, cry and laugh some more, as he spoke about his mother, coming out, family, racism and position as a leading comic in the industry.

“My mother grew us all up and she was the first one I told I was gay,” he told the crowd. She just said, ‘You’re my son. I love you.’

“It’s often unseen that strength of black women. It’s often unseen that they often hold a home and community together.”

Brilliant and engaging, the star of ABC’s hit sketch show Black Comedy even busted some moves and recited his powerful poem, I’m a Blackfella, to the delight of onlookers as he delivered a segment from his critically acclaimed one-man cabaret show, Bigger & Blacker.

Corey Tutt OAM, Scientist and Founder of DeadlyScience (Parrtjima 2023)

Have you ever wondered what the stars can tell us?

In Corey Tutt’s talk Two Way Science we learned how astronomy is intertwined with Aboriginal spirituality.

“For non-Indigenous people it’s important they learn the true history of this country and our people and be proud of our first scientists,” he said.

A proud Kamilaroi man, STEM champion and the 2020 NSW Young Australian of the Year, Corey is the founder of DeadlyScience, a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing science resources and early reading material to remote schools in Australia.

He has delivered more than 25,000 books and other STEM resources including telescopes to over 110 communities around the country.

“For me if Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander kids can see that our people do science and have done for thousands of years then hopefully it opens the doors in their minds of what’s possible,” he said.