NIDA receives $300,000 for Indigenous Fellowship, Mel George is the first recipient

The National Institute of Dramatic Art, or NIDA, has announced they will receive $300,000 over 6 years as a grant from the Luminis Foundation. The grant is earmarked to assist Indigenous students undertaking a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Cultural Leadership. It will fund 50 percent of the MFA course to “financially support Indigenous leaders already playing a pivotal role in shaping Australia’s creative and cultural future.”

The Cultural Leadership MFA is designed from professionals across the arts and cultural scenes, helping to develop entrepreneurial and advocacy skills to drive innovation, inclusion, growth and sustainability in the arts.

Mel George

In a country whose arts and culture industries are dominated by white professionals, leaders and influencers, this fellowship takes a vital step forward in addressing this critical imbalance.

“The Luminis Foundation Indigenous Fellowship for Cultural Leadership is a unique opportunity for an Indigenous professional to become a collaborative leader in the arts and cultural sectors and significantly expand and transform their practice,’ said Assoc. Prof. Cheryl Stock.

“Building a community of creative practice through networks and partnerships, both locally and worldwide, and in Indigenous and non-Indigenous contexts, is central to the Cultural Leadership program. NIDA is proud to be able to provide this initiative, in association with the Luminis Foundation.”

Glass artist Mel George is the inaugural recipient of the Fellowship and was selected by Robyn Archer AO (Chair of MFA Cultural Leadership) and Assoc. Prof. Cheryl Stock AM (Director Graduate Studies and Head of Cultural Leadership).

Mel George is of Aboriginal and Greek heritage and has taught at the Corning Museum in New York, and has worked in the glass industry in Australia and the United States.

She is currently the Curator at Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre, Canberra, part of the network of Australian Craft and Design Centres, a group of peak organisations from all Australian states and territories that represent the professional craft and design sector. She curates innovative exhibitions that integrate, not separate, traditional and contemporary indigenous artists with the aim of giving Australian craft and design a holistic voice.

“Although always rumoured amongst some family members, research has unveiled that my paternal grandmother was forced to renounce her Aboriginality and thus, was unable to ever speak about her past and her culture,” said George.

“I see myself as a connector.  I want to amplify the visibility of artistic excellence that exists in the most remote and inaccessible areas of our country.  I believe that a key part of the long and difficult reconciliation process is through arts and culture.

“Participating in this course will help develop my knowledge and enable me to better contribute to one of Australia’s most important challenges.  I feel privileged to have been chosen as the inaugural recipient of the Luminis Foundation Indigenous Fellowship for Cultural Leadership and sincerely thank the Luminis Foundation for their support and generosity.”

Learn more about this story:

The Luminis Foundation:

NIDA MFA in Cultural Leadership:


Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and was the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

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