Robina Beard on embracing the journey in her role in TALES OF KABBARLI

Robina Beard, a luminary in the world of performing arts, has continually evolved throughout her extensive career. From her beginnings as a dancer at the tender age of 16 to her celebrated roles in television and theatre, Beard’s journey has been marked by a relentless pursuit of artistic expression. In her latest endeavor, Beard takes on the role of Daisy Bates in ‘Tales of Kabbarli,’ a character as rich and layered as her own career.

When Geoffrey Sykes approached Beard to play the iconic Daisy Bates, she embraced the opportunity wholeheartedly. ‘Geoffrey noticed that I was now old enough to play his famous icon Daisy Bates, so I was delighted and accepted this amazing role gratefully,’ Beard shares. ‘My career as a dancer was winding down due to age, and I welcomed this new challenge as an actress – which skill is always included in any performance in the arts.’ This transition from dancing to acting is a testament to Beard’s versatility and willingness to embrace new challenges as she continues to contribute to the arts in meaningful ways.

Daisy Bates, a figure who lived among Aboriginal communities and chronicled their lives with empathy and respect, resonated deeply with Beard. ‘As much of the script are her actual words, her understanding and her joy in the lives of her “family” at Ooldea, I entered into her world,’ Beard explains. Her long-standing association with first nation peoples through her work at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dance Academy (NAISDA) added depth to her portrayal. ‘The words work wonderfully for me,’ she says. This intimate connection with the material has allowed Beard to bring a genuine and heartfelt performance to the stage, capturing the essence of Daisy Bates’ experiences and emotions.

‘Tales of Kabbarli’ has been staged in various venues over the years, but this season brings a unique significance. ‘Firstly, I have wanted to play in Redfern, in the historically Aboriginal area of Sydney. I like small venues with the audience close to me,’ Beard notes. The intimate setting allows for a more personal connection with the audience, enhancing the impact of the performance. The play itself has evolved as well. ‘Geoff and I discovered better ways to impart the message, using projection, music, and sound, and I think it is exactly right now.’ This continuous evolution and refinement of the production demonstrate the dedication and commitment of both Beard and Sykes to presenting a compelling and authentic narrative.

Beard’s performance of Daisy Bates has deepened with each iteration. ‘My performance of Daisy has grown; its incredible prose and beauty amaze me each time I revisit it to prepare for another season. Every time I find new meaning, more depth, and possibilities in the script. I love it,’ she enthuses. This ongoing discovery and appreciation of the material highlight Beard’s passion for her craft and her ability to find new dimensions in her roles, keeping her performances fresh and engaging for audiences.

Despite the passage of time, Beard’s artistic endeavors continue to flourish. ‘These new “artistic endeavors” just come to my door, and I always accept them. My life is constantly growing, even at my age, and it is so interesting,’ she remarks. This openness to new challenges and adventures has been a hallmark of her career. Beard’s willingness to embrace change and explore new artistic frontiers is a source of inspiration for both her peers and aspiring performers.


Reflecting on the broader societal context, Beard has observed a positive shift in the recognition and appreciation of Indigenous cultures. ‘I have seen a strong and slow growth in society’s acceptance of our first nations people. Their world is so special, and wise people are coming to understand and value this. Perhaps this performance will speak to them and help to appreciate it,’ she hopes. Beard’s insight into the evolving societal attitudes towards Indigenous cultures underscores the importance of storytelling and performance in fostering understanding and reconciliation.

Beard’s outlook on life and art is infectious. ‘I want my attitude to life to infect everyone I have contact with, in the arts… indeed in life. Don’t limit yourself – if you have to do it, if you REALLY need to be in the arts – then do it, be brave, and enjoy every adventure,’ she advises. This philosophy has guided Beard throughout her career, enabling her to achieve remarkable success and recognition in various facets of the performing arts.

Robina Beard’s portrayal of Daisy Bates in ‘Tales of Kabbarli’ is not just a performance; it is a testament to a lifetime of dedication to the arts and an embodiment of the rich, historical narrative of Australia’s first peoples. Her journey, much like that of Daisy Bates, continues to inspire and resonate, offering a beacon of hope and reconciliation for future generations. Through her unwavering commitment to her craft and her passion for storytelling, Beard has left an indelible mark on the performing arts landscape, enriching the cultural fabric of Australia and beyond.

In ‘Tales of Kabbarli,’ Beard brings to life the story of Daisy Bates, an iconic woman who immersed herself in the lives of Aboriginal people in the outback during the early twentieth century. Bates, who was affectionately known as ‘Kabbarli’ or ‘grandmother’ by her Aboriginal friends, spent decades living with traditional Aboriginal communities and documenting their lives and customs. Her work provided a valuable historical record and highlighted the challenges faced by Aboriginal people during a time of significant cultural and societal change.

The play is set in the twilight of Bates’ life, as she reflects on her experiences and the profound connections she formed with the Aboriginal communities she lived among. ‘At night, while retired, and camping beside the Murray River, the aging Bates tells the stories of her life,’ Beard explains. This narrative framework allows the audience to journey through Bates’ memories, experiencing the beauty and complexity of her interactions with Aboriginal people and their culture.

Beard’s performance captures the essence of Bates’ character, blending a lyrical, whimsical Irish sense with a fervent sense of justice and empathy. ‘The play is a journey through language, image, place, and ancient history with a lyrical, whimsical Irish sense contrasting with a fervent sense of injustice,’ she describes. This dynamic portrayal highlights the contrasts and conflicts that Bates witnessed, providing a nuanced and multifaceted depiction of her life and legacy.

‘Ooldea was an ancient meeting place for Aboriginal peoples and also the junction for the transcontinental railway — truly a place for a clash of civilizations that would prove devastating for so many Aboriginals. Bates was the eyewitness to these events,’ Beard recounts. This historical context adds layers of depth to the play, illustrating the profound impact of colonialism on Aboriginal communities and the pivotal role Bates played in documenting these changes. Beard’s performance brings these historical events to life, offering audiences a visceral understanding of the challenges and resilience of Australia’s first peoples.

‘Tales of Kabbarli’ is not merely a historical recount; it is a powerful commentary on contemporary issues of reconciliation and identity. ‘Daisy Bates is perhaps less well known today, yet her character can still offer a distinct voice for reconciliation and identity,’ Beard asserts. Through her portrayal, Beard hopes to foster a greater appreciation and understanding of Indigenous cultures, encouraging audiences to reflect on the importance of reconciliation and the ongoing journey towards social justice.

Beard’s extensive career in the arts has uniquely prepared her for this role. Having worked in television, musical theatre, contemporary dance, and children’s theatre, Beard brings a wealth of experience and versatility to her performance. Her most famous role as Madge the Palmolive Dishwashing Lady showcased her ability to connect with audiences, a skill that continues to serve her well in ‘Tales of Kabbarli.’

Beyond her on-screen and on-stage achievements, Beard has also made significant contributions to the dance community. As a teacher with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dance Academy, she has played a crucial role in nurturing and promoting Indigenous dance and culture. This connection with Indigenous communities has deepened her understanding and respect for their traditions, enriching her portrayal of Daisy Bates.

Beard’s dedication to the arts has been recognized with numerous accolades, including the Order of Australia Medal for Services to the Theatre and the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Australian Dance Awards. These honors are a testament to her enduring impact on the performing arts and her commitment to artistic excellence.

In her reflections on her career, Beard emphasizes the importance of embracing new challenges and opportunities. ‘These new “artistic endeavors” just come to my door, and I always accept them. My life is constantly growing, even at my age, and it is so interesting,’ she remarks. This attitude of openness and curiosity has allowed her to continuously evolve as an artist, finding new ways to express her creativity and connect with audiences.

As she looks to the future, Beard remains optimistic about the role of the arts in fostering understanding and unity. ‘I have seen a strong and slow growth in society’s acceptance of our first nations people. Their world is so special, and wise people are coming to understand and value this. Perhaps this performance will speak to them and help to appreciate it,’ she hopes. Through her work in ‘Tales of Kabbarli,’ Beard aims to contribute to this ongoing dialogue, using her platform to amplify the voices of Indigenous communities and celebrate their rich cultural heritage.

Robina Beard’s journey in the performing arts is a testament to her passion, resilience, and unwavering commitment to her craft. Her portrayal of Daisy Bates in ‘Tales of Kabbarli’ is a powerful reminder of the transformative power of storytelling and the enduring importance of cultural understanding and reconciliation. As she continues to inspire and captivate audiences, Beard’s legacy in the arts will undoubtedly endure, offering a beacon of hope and inspiration for future generations.


Season Details

Tales Of Kabbarli

Venue: Actors’ Pulse
Date: July 5,6,18,19,20,21

Book now HERE

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