Tales of Kabbarli follows legendary figure Daisy Bates, a journalist and anthropologist who lived with Aboriginal tribes for over 30 years on the Nullabor.
As an anthropologist and social activist, Bates shed light on the mistreatment and discrimination faced by Indigenous Australians. She played an important role in raising awareness of the need for Aboriginal representation and self-determination in shaping government policies that affect their communities, and her work helped pave the way for future generations to continue fighting for Indigenous rights and recognition in Australia. With the current discussions around an Indigenous Voice To Parliament, it seems there is no more fitting time to share her inspirational story. This will be brought to life on stage by Robina Beard.
Robina has been working all her life in television, dance, drama, comedy, children’s theatre, and theatre restaurants, both as a performer and director. Her most ‘famous’ persona was that of Madge the Palmolive Dishwashing Lady. In 2011, she was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for Services to the Theatre.
She has been playing the role for many years, in Adelaide, Melbourne and Riverside Parramatta. Apart from a presentation to the National Aboriginal and Islander Dance Academy, this season will be the show’s first full production in central Sydney. Robina has been closely associated with Indigenous communities, especially in theatre and dance, for decades. She was associate producer of the first Aboriginal theatre group tour to Europe, and a lead teacher at NAISDA.
Why do you think Daisy’s story is so special?
Robina: She was an extraordinary human being and she actually totally believed in what she was doing. I know a lot about it, and from all the things that I’ve read and understood myself, she is one of the only white people who actually understood what the Aboriginal people were about because she lived with them. This play has been written for a long time. And at the time [of its creation], it was very relevant and amazingly so. Now, it is relevant once again. She has things she was saying maybe nearly a century ago, and they are still relevant. She just wanted to help so much. She really spoke for them and lobbied for them. But there’s still a lot more work to do.
What would you say is the biggest challenge about working on a one woman show?
Robina: Well, when I first did it, it was this huge mountain of words. Just words [laughs]. Nobody to give you a cue or anything like that. But I’ve been doing it on and off now for some time and we have made adjustments. So actually, at the beginning [of the show], I am reading my notes that I’ve written, so that starts me off on the right track. But once I start, it’s just amazing.
How have you found playing a real person?
Robina: I can imagine what she was like, because there’s a lot of of history and pictures of her. She was a feisty little thing and she didn’t take rubbish from anybody [laughs]. She loved her family, and she worked tirelessly for them. She got upset when things got destroyed. She’s in this tent in the desert in 100 degree heat, but she still got her high collar and a little waist dress and long dress, she kept those clothes on the whole time she was there. The play takes place towards the end of her life and she’s on the edge of the Murray River in Victoria.
Why should people come and see Tales of Kabbarli?
Robina: I don’t think enough people actually understand how important it is to for us to try and get on some sort of wavelength with Aboriginal people. The Government is doing a lot of things for them, but the past still resonates very loudly. What Daisy is showing is it has gotten better, but there’s still a way to go. I hope she will tell them things that they have never even thought of. And they may not actually go out and do anything, but I hope they will be thinking about the next time they have anything to do with the Aboriginal people in their lives.
Tales of Kabbarli plays at Actor’s Pulse, Redfern, from April 20th.