Arts leader Rhoda Roberts has joined SBS as the broadcaster’s inaugural Elder in Residence.
A proud Widjabul Wia-bal woman from the Bundjalung nation, Roberts will provide guidance to staff, advise on key projects, and help to elevate aspects of First Nations cultures as part of the non-editorial role.
It comes after she was recently appointed as the First Nations consultant at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA).
Her career has also included being head of First Nations programming for the Sydney Opera House, as well as industry experience within a range of commercial, community, and non-profit organisations.
In a message sent to SBS staff last week, Roberts described her newest position as a homecoming of sorts.
“I’ve spent time working with SBS and NITV throughout my career, both in local productions and in news and current affairs,” she said.
“It’s an honour to be joining once again in this unique and special capacity.”
SBS’s Elders in Residence program forms part of the organisation’s Cultural Diversity Action Plan, which was announced in July last year as a way of improving cultural diversity, representation and inclusion in the workplace.
The broadcaster had previously faced criticism from former staffers, who claimed they were subject to bullying and racism during their employment.
An Indigenous-led process was used to select an Elder in Residence, with Roberts consulted during her appointment.
The initial term of the Elder will be a one-year period, with the option to extend for a further two years.
SBS managing director James Taylor said the program reflected the broadcaster’s commitment to ensure it had the cultural capabilities to deliver an “inclusive and enriching environment”.
“Australia has the incredible privilege of being home to the world’s oldest continuing cultures, and at SBS, we are proud to bring First Nations stories to all Australians, including through National Indigenous Television at the heart of our network,” he said.
SBS director of Indigenous content Tanya Denning-Orman said the announcement came at a time when the power and the promise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives were increasingly becoming the focus of Australian audiences.
“Having Rhoda as a guide and counsel will help to enrich SBS with a deeper understanding of the more than 60,000 years of history and traditions this country holds, supporting us in further elevating the stories, cultures, and achievements of our people through the work we do across the network,” she said.