Belvoir announces Jorjia Gillis as the 2020 Balnaves Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fellow

Belvoir-Balnaves-Jorjia-GillisBelvoir has announced Yuin woman Jorjia Gillis as the 2020 Balnaves Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fellow.

Gillis is a proud Saltwater woman of the Budawang Tribe of the Yuin nation from the South Coast of NSW. As an actor, theatremaker, emerging writer and arts facilitator, she has trained in Sydney and the UK and worked across a number of theatre and TV productions.

Gillis performed with Cope St Collective in BAD, a performance salon at PACT, co-wrote and performed in the comedy show The Office at the End of the World, and took part in the Muru Salon playwriting program with Playwriting Australia and Moogahlin Performing Arts. Gillis is a Graduate of the University of New England and the Academy of Film Theatre & Television.

A $25,000 paid residency, the Balnaves Foundation Fellowship gives the Fellow the opportunity to work at Belvoir as a resident artist to create a work for the stage. It seeks to be deeply collaborative, offering an invitation to have a voice in Belvoir’s artistic decision-making processes and the opportunity to support other Indigenous artists through Belvoir’s creative development and programming.

“We believe that philanthropy can make a significant contribution by supporting the next generation of artists and funding new Australian work at the creative development stage,” said Hamish Balnaves, CEO, The Balnaves Foundation.

“New Indigenous works, that educate and challenge, play an important part in truth telling, treaty and reconciliation. We would like to congratulate Jorjia on the award and are excited to see how she will use the fellowship to further her exceptional work to date.”

In Gillis’ new play, an excited Cassandra is about to make history as the first Aboriginal female Artistic Director of a major theatre company. On the eve before her first season launch, with a lucrative season of programming in the barrel, Cassandra is suddenly called back to her hometown on the coast with some pressing family news. But returning home doesn’t always look like what you thought it would be. The work is a sentimental comedy about family, community and moving forward by stepping back into the past.

“I’m excited and honoured to be the 2020 Balnaves Fellowship recipient. 15-year-old Jorjia would be very proud right now,” said Gillis. “I look to all the storytellers who have come before me and who have paved the way, previous recipients like Leah Purcell who have mentored and inspired me as an artist.”

“2020 has been a tough year, and to have the opportunity to develop my play through the Balnaves Fellowship is life changing. I look forward to working with Belvoir over the next 10 months and to be back with community making theatre.

The Fellowship (previously the Balnaves Award) has long been recognised as one of the most prestigious playwriting awards in Australia, attracting entrants of the highest calibre. Previous recipients (including Leah Purcell, Nakkiah Lui, Ursula Yovich and Nathan Maynard) have submitted exceptional works that consistently affirm the depth of talent amongst our nation’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander theatre-makers.

“As soon as we started the Balnaves Fellowship it had an impact,” said Eamon Flack, Belvoir Artistic Director. “The work of Kodie Bedford and Nathan Maynard over the last couple of seasons has been outstanding and they’ve been fantastic contributors to the Belvoir stage.”

“I know Jorjia will be too, and we’re looking forward to having her in the building – and introducing another new voice to our audiences,” he said.

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Image: Jorjia Gillis – courtesy of Belvoir