A Noongar performer says he will keep touring his award-winning show about the Stolen Generation as long as Aboriginal children are still being taken from their homes.
Ian Michael, who grew up in Bunbury in WA’s south but now lives in Melbourne, said it was important the stories of members of the Stolen Generation continued to be heard.
His show HART has been booked for performances around Australia until 2019.
In May, Michael will perform at the DreamBIG children’s festival in Adelaide, where two of his three shows have already sold out.
“I’ll keep touring the show and telling these stories until these kids stop being taken away,” Michael said.
“If that’s the job I need to do then I’m more than happy to do it.”
Michael’s one-man show is based on testimonials from survivors of the Stolen Generations who were taken from their families and put into missions or made wards of the state.
HART has several won awards including Best Emerging Indigenous Artist at the Melbourne Fringe Festival in 2015 – where it sold out every night of a three-week run – and Best Emerging Artist at the Adelaide Fringe last year.
Michael, a graduate of the WA Academy of Performing Arts, said the idea for the show came partly from his father’s experience and also from statistics that showed children were still being removed from their homes in large numbers.
“I’ve always wanted to know what happened with my dad,” Michael said. “My dad when I was growing up as a kid would always kind of hint at what he went through as a kid, but he could never really tell us because it was too hard for him to explain.
“At the start of 2015, the statistics came out that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids were being taken away at higher rates than ever before and then I kind of was thinking a lot about my dad and those statistics and it kind of blew my mind that kids were still being taken away and even more so now.
“From there I started researching the policies and … came across a website that had about 70 testimonials on it and I read it and read it and read it over about six months.
“The show came from being really curious about what happened to my dad and his family and also shocked and really saddened that kids are still being taken away in high numbers.”
Michael said putting the show together had helped him get closer to his father and better understand the issues faced by communities.
“I’m no longer now questioning what happened to him and why black fellas … why this trauma is affecting our communities so much to this present day,” he said.
Michael said he was surprised at how well the show had been received by audiences and critics.
“When we were writing the play I had this really horrible sense that nobody would ever want to come and see a show about something so dark, especially in our country that we live in now,” he said.
“Sometimes we don’t want to listen to the truth and we want to push away the history and the dark parts.
“But every single night, we sold out every single night of our three-week season at Melbourne Fringe a few years ago and then from all of last year we did a 10-month tour and it’s been selling out and really well received.
“The most amazing thing is people from the Stolen Generation have been able to come and I’ve been able to meet them and talk about their experiences afterwards.
“If I think about how successful the show is, the most successful thing is that people get to come and listen to an experience that maybe they went through – that to me is the most successful part of HART.”
Michael said he hoped doing his performance for children could help change the future.
“These young kids are the next generation,” he says. “They are the ones who will be in the government and they will be the ones teaching.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to be able to do the show for younger people. Getting the message out to them is maybe the start of change.”
By Wendy Caccetta
* The DreamBIG Children’s Festival runs from May 18-27. HART will run from May 22 to 23 at the Space Theatre and is recommended for ages 12-17. More information from dreambigfestival.com.au.