What I Do
After thirty five years writing in the mediums of theatre, television series, documentary and drama, film and poetry. John has produced thirteen staged theatrical productions, won several State and National awards (including the Human Rights Award) and has twice been published as a playwright by Currency Press. He specialises in creative writing, and has sat on Indigenous Advisory committees for Melbourne Arts Festival, Australian Arts Law Centre and the First Nations of Australia Writers Network.
Writer/Director of Indigenous Stories
John Harding (Kuku Yulangi/Erub; TSI) is the founder of Ilbijerri Aboriginal /TSI Theatre Company. Since Ilbijerri’s inception, John has worked tirelessly in the pursuit of Indigenous artistic expression in the arts and particularly theatre. In recognition of this, John was awarded an Indigenous Fellowship by the Australia Council for the Arts in 1997. An experienced playwright, director and actor, John created Ilbijerri’s first play Up the Road in 1991, which was subsequently directed by Neil Armfield/Belvoir Theatre in 1996/7 (two national tours). For this production of Up the Road John was awarded the Australian Human Right Medal for Arts in 1997. He researched, wrote and reported for the first Aboriginal current affairs program on ABC TV, Blackout in 1989, and in 1996 John wrote the first Aboriginal vignette sit-com series, The Masters, for SBS TV, as well as producing and reporting Indigenous stories for ICAM. In 2002 John was the first Indigenous recipient of The ANU Nugget Coombes Fellowship. John directed his last three plays, Second Helping in 2005, Enuff in 2002 for the Blak Inside season at the Playbox, and No Parking in 2001 for the Bless Your Big Blak Arts Festival. John also took Enuff to New York: United Nations in 2005, presented as a part of the world Indigenous Peoples Forum, and three works (Up the Road, Enuff, and No Parking) to Hungary in 2005 as the artistic highlight of the EASA International Biennial Conference. John also wrote the Dirty Mile, a play about the history of Indigenous Fitzroy for Ilbijerri Theatre, which was performed in Melbourne in March/April 2006 & again in 2008, winning the 2009 Deadly Award for Literature (John as playwright).
In 2014 and 2016 John workshopped and presented Sisterly Love. at the University of Melb. and La Mama's Theatre respectively. Both had sell-out audiences.
John is currently completing his Doctorate of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne (Creative Arts)
A selection of projects and editorials I've been involved with:
"Sisterly Love" 2015
The Sisterly Love Play Reading written by celebrated Indigenous playwright John Harding examines the true story of the first two Aboriginal resistance fighters hung in Victoria. Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner were among 16 Tasmanian Aborigines brought over from Hobart by The Chief Protector Aborigines George Augusts Robinson in 1839, and in 1841 left Melbourne and through a series of raids held Victoria in terror for 6 weeks. Truganinni was also among the group that conducted the raids.
The two freedom fighters capture and subsequent hanging at Old Melbourne gaol, convicted as criminals and murderers, raises the question of what status Aboriginal warriors should have in the history of the Frontier Wars
"The Makings of a Man", Cue the Chorus 2015
Cue the Chorus is a series from Currency Press in association with the Copyright Agency Limited. It f eatures seventeen new critical responses to seventeen classic Australian plays.
The series is written by respected Australian playwrights offering insights and personal responses to the work of their peers.
‘Gran Munday is like a conglomerate of women I grew up around, from a generation that was fast being forgotten. They were the last generation to live a totally traditional lifestyle and culture. As they were the natural and cultural matriarchs, they felt a strong sense of helplessness as they witnessed the power they held within their families being whittled away by a succession of government policies.’ - John Harding
"Enuff" featured in Blak Inside, 2002
A violent uprising is planned for Reconciliation Day in a future Australia. Will retribution or forgiveness prevail?
Enuff is published in Blak Inside, a collection of six plays from Victoria by Aboriginal writers, including:
"Up the Road" 1997
The play is set in the remote Aboriginal community of Flat Creek, where life is pretty uncomplicated - that is until Ian Sampson, Canberra bureaucrat, returns home. High spirited and irreverent, Up the Road is a celebration of life, love and family. Australian Human Rights Award in 1997.
No Parking 2001
The play is set in St. Kilda, set against the backdrop of when Premier Jeff Kennett abolished St. Kilda Council, created Port Phillip Council, then set about "cleaning the streets" in preparation for the first Melbourne Grand Prix. The homeless Koories and non-koories of Catani Gardens were in the firing Line, as were many homeless people of the wider St. Kilda area. John did 3 months research conducting interviews with the homeless to develop the script. The story follows a young adopted Koorie lad who travels from Glenhuntlys white neighborhood to St. Kilda to ask about his Aboriginal mother.
This play was part of the Bless Your Blak Arts Festival, staged at Theatreworks and produced by Port Phillip. Most of the Koorie actors strutted the stage for the first time, and was one of the brilliant David Ngoombujarras (picture on poster) early theatre lead roles.
The Dirty Mile 2006
The 2022 Seniors Festival brings you a wonderful radio adaptation of the ground-breaking promenade play The Dirty Mile
With an all-First Nations cast, re-live the experience of strolling down the streets of Fitzroy, and hearing the stories of those that created the Koori community that initiated the first Blak Services in Australia
Walk through Fitzroy’s Blak history and experience Indigenous peoples’ strong and continuing historical, cultural and emotional connection to this place – from its Woiwurrung beginnings right up to the here and now.
Follow Doug Nicholls to footy training, listen to his sermon, meet our Returned Soldiers, our women who worked in WW2 munitions factory, Atherton Estate locals before the highrise, our sporting heroes – the Indigenous Fitzroy residents – in the pubs, organisations, churches and back lanes. The sum of all these parts connects every blakfella historically, culturally and emotionally to “Dirty Gerty”, Fitzroy…. The Dirty Mile
Film and Media
A selection of film and media I've been involved with:
"Blak and Tran: The Two Marketeers" 2004
Blak and Tran is a comedy featuring Australian comedian Hung Le and John Harding. The Two Marketeers explored exploitation of Indigenous Art through the eyes of two exploiters fronting market stalls in Melbourne. (Adelaide Fringe Festival and Melbourne International Comedy Festival)
Bobby Nicholls has long recognized the urgency to record his Elders stories. He approached John Harding, playwright and community leader, and asked him who he should take his idea to.
At around this time filmmaker Rebecca McLean who was working at Open Channel asked John about possible uses for a fully equipped Mobile Training Unit (bus) set up by Open Channel, partially funded by an Indigenous grant. The timing was right so John married the two ideas, and Bobby, John and Rebecca took the idea to Open Channel's CEO at the time Jennie Hughes, who jumped at the idea.
After much brain storming and fund raising Yarnin' was born - a co-production between Open Channel and Yarnin' Pictures - Bobby, John and Rebecca.
"Lane way Commissions: Let's Talk Treaty" 2011
Let’s Talk Treaty by John Harding. is a video installation documenting interviews with the general public. Interviewees were asked questions about the possibility of a treaty with Indigenous peoples, the Northern Territory intervention and issues of identity.
"Fitzroy Stars: More Than a Game' 2008
The Fitzroy Stars was one of the first all-Indigenous football clubs in the early 70’s and folding in the early 90’s.
After 14 years, a Resurrection committee is on a mission to resurrect the Fitzroy Stars football club, and we follow their journey to recruit players and supporters. We meet some of the ex-players and discover and what being a ‘star’ meant to them then, and now.
Many players went on to become leaders of the community, A.T.S.I.C. Commissioners and developed welfare and cultural organisations in Melbourne and across the State. Football was more than football when you were a Fitzroy Star. It was more than a game. John was writer/director
"Community Broadcaster of the Year"
National Deadly Awards
John won the 'Community Broadcaster of the Year' at the 2013 Deadly Awards for his Radio show Indearts (3CR). John commenced his radio career in 1987, producing a variety of shows including The Survival Show, culminating in Indearts in 2011.
"Jack Charles Award"
The Victorian Indigenous Performing Artist (VIPA) Award
The VIPA Awards celebrate the outstanding achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and arts workers in the Indigenous performing arts across Victoria.No Parking' (2002, Theatre Works). John won the inaugural Jack Charles Award presented by the man himself.
Australian Human Rights Award
John received a Human Rights Award for his play Up the Road. The play addresses the contemporary issues facing Indigenous Australians. The play was praised by the judging panel as a "powerful, personal call for understanding and reconciliation". Presented by the Playbox Theatre (Mallthouse's first Indigenous play) and Company B (Belvoir), the seminal play encouraged many other Indigenous writers,directors and actors to enter the Australian theatre to share their stories.
Kate Challis RAKA Award: Faculty of Arts (National)
This award for Indigenous creative artists has been made available through the generosity of Professor Emeritus Bernard Smith, eminent art and cultural historian. The prize was established to honour the memory of his late wife, Kate Challis.
John received the Inaugural theatre RAKA Award for his play Up the Road (1997, Currency Press).
'National Aboriginal Artist of the Year"
The annual NAIDOC Awards recognise the outstanding contributions that Indigenous Australians make to improve the lives of Indigenous people in their communities and beyond, or to promote Indigenous issues in the wider community, or the excellence they’ve shown in their chosen field. John received this Award for singlehandedly (voluntarily) establishing Ilbijerrii Theatre Cooperative; the first national Indigenous theatre.
Victorian Aboriginal Artist of the Year"
The annual NAIDOC Awards recognise the outstanding contributions that Indigenous Australians make to improve the lives of Indigenous people in their communities and beyond, or to promote Indigenous issues in the wider community, or the excellence they’ve shown in their chosen field. John won this for his tireless work establishing , working for two years voluntarily as its inaugural administrator.
Australia Council Fellowship
John won the two Year fellowship of 80,000 for his body of work, winning jointly with Leah Purcell.
Nugget Coombs Creative Fellowship
John won the one Year fellowship in the form of a six month residency at Australia national University, writng a play, lecturing and workshopping with the Drama Students on campus
The word around town
The Dirty Mile-Review
Reviewed by The Australian
The Black Mile-ABC Hindsight Program
Audio download Produced by
ABC Hindsight. Presented by Lorena Allam
No Parking Theatreworks
St. Kilda. 2001
ABC Arts Today. Radio interview by Michael Cathcart. 2001
John Harding's new play "No Parking" takes us into the world of "the Parkies", people who live in the parks around St Kilda in Melbourne. They include a group of Aborigines who used to gather on a small area of grass beside a public toilet. But in 1994, the toilet block was demolished as the Victorian state government prepared to "clean up" the area for the Grand Prix.
The play is a tough and comic look at these people and their hard lives on the streets.
Blak and Tran; The Two Marketeers. Age 2004
The Age Review. Entertainmment Section. 2004
Indigenous Advisory Committee- Grundy Productions. Melbourne Office
February 1993-July 1993
John was asked to be on the Grundy's Indigenous Advisory Committee by Trades Hall. His role was primarily script consultant to the Boney Series.
Film and television
Assisted in the development of over 30 scripts for film and television
Arts Law Centre
Chair, Indigenous Advisory Committee
Ilbijerri ATSI Theatre
Melbourne International Writers Festival
Bachelor of Arts (1979-82)
Politics, History, Literature
Diploma of Education 1986
John Harding © 2017