Aunty Rhonda Dixon.

Academic, cultural activist and spokesperson for environmental social justice and human rights issues, Aunty Rhonda Dixon, will be the new Elder in Residence at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS).

The Darug/Yuin Elder is set to give the keynote address, The Protocols for Working on Gadigal Country, at Saturday’s AFTRS Virtual Open Day, during which she will talk about the cultural, historical and political journey of the Gadigal/Bidgigal traditional descendants and protocols for studying and working respectfully on Gadigal/Bidgigal Land.

She is the third Elder in Residence at AFTRS, following Uncle Bruce Pascoe, who served from 2017 to 2019, and the outgoing Sonia Smallacombe.

An Elder and Traditional descendant of the Sydney ‘Warrane’ Saltwater basin – home of the Gadigal/Bidgigal people – Dixon is the daughter of Aboriginal activist, leader and Freedom Fighter Dr Charles ‘Chicka’ Dixon.

Through the example set by her father, she was inspired to educate herself and continues her family legacy with her leadership in the Black Lives Matter – Stop Black Deaths in Custody movement and in fighting climate change.

For more than 50 years, Dixon has been a professional performer and cultural arts educator within the education system and for corporate bodies, cultural festivals and other organisations such as remand centres and correctional centres.

Having always had an interest in theatre and having had acting training under Brian Syron, Australia’s first Indigenous feature film director and a human rights advocate, teacher, actor, writer, stage director, Aunty Rhonda then went on to study at the Eora Centre for the Arts under Lisa-Marie Syron.

For the past seven years, she has been active as a researcher, writer, director and actor in plays such as Posts in the Paddock, which was broadcast on the television series Message Sticks. She has a Diploma in Music from the Centre for Studies in Aboriginal Music and undertook a one-year scholarship program at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), studying ethno-musicology. She also holds a Master of Aboriginal Studies (Social and Emotional Well Being).

Aunty Rhonda said she wanted to share her knowledge and skills to educate and empower others.

“It’s important to bring arts, dance and storytelling into healing for our people and to get the youth involved in their culture,” she said.

AFTRS director of First Nations and outreach Romaine Moreton said AFTRS was honoured to have Dixon in the role of Elder in Residence for the next two years, and looked forward to her handing down her “knowledge, experience and passion for social justice, the arts and education”.

Moreton will also speak at the AFTRS Open Day, with her address, First Nations Sovereign Storytelling, to explore the unique role of each First Nations storyteller in First Nations families, communities, and the nation more broadly.

AFTRS Open Day will be held August 14 from 9am-4pm.

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