Fresh Fulbright scholar queries First Nations performance practices

Blayne Welsh has been named recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship. Photo La Trobe University

Indigenous university graduate Blayne Welsh has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to undertake postgraduate studies in the United States.

The Australian-American Fulbright Commission is a not-for-profit sponsored by both the Australian and US governments and other institutions. They aim to facilitate cultural and educational exchange between the two countries to strengthen mutual understanding.

Welsh is a descendant of the Wailwan people of western New South Wales and said it is an honour to be named a Fulbright scholar.

He completed his undergraduate degree at La Trobe University in Melbourne, achieving a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Theatre and Drama.

Welsh’s research examines the nature of contemporary Indigenous theatre production and the way it is connected to historical pre-colonial practices.

The Scholarship will allow Welsh to expand his PhD research into performance studies, drama therapy, and educational theatre.

He intends to research performance practices of Canada’s First Nations People, Native Americans, and African Americans.

“I would like to build a larger, broader toolkit in understanding how other First Nations people use their performance practices to maintain their culture in a present-day setting,” Mr Welsh said.

He sees the Scholarship as an opportunity to give back to the broader Indigenous community.

“The Fulbright Scholarship gives me a chance to have a much stronger voice to advocate for Indigenous rights, and the preservation and continuation of Indigenous performance and practices,” Mr Welsh said.

Welsh said his father was a member of the Stolen Generation which has resulted in a great disconnection within his family’s lineage and cultural heritage.

“It’s important for me to try and bridge that gap and one way I’m able to do this is through my academic journey,” Mr Welsh said.

La Trobe University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar extended his congratulations to Mr Welsh, saying his studies have helped emphasise the true purpose and impact of Indigenous performance.

“We are proud to have Blayne as part of our La Trobe alumni community and wish him all the best in his future studies,” Professor Dewar said.

Welsh also credits La Trobe’s Ngarn-gi Bagora Indigenous Centre staff in creating a culturally safe community that allows students to productively study while feeling supported.

“It’s one of the best and finest Indigenous Centres I’ve been part of,” Mr Welsh said.

Welsh will be based in New York and travelling throughout the United States at the end of 2019 and into early 2020.

By Hannah Cross

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