Arts for All Appeal

Arts Centre Melbourne partners with the Barpirdhila Foundation to support delivery of Reconnect, a professional development program for First Nations emerging artists.

About the project

About Barpirdhila Foundation

Barpirdhila Foundation’s vision is to develop, nurture, and support First Nations excellence within the creative industries, by creating spaces and programs for emerging and established First Nations artists. Their programs provide structure around offering guidance for people to enter and excel within the arts, and to provide better outcomes for the most at-risk – including young people.

Why Reconnect?

During the COVID pandemic, career isolation and disconnection has been on the rise, leaving many young artists and arts workers without the developmental rhythm their early careers need. This is obstructive for all who experience it, but for emerging First Nations artists and arts workers, the starting point of marginalisation may pose greater risks of failure or a dramatically hindered early career.

Reconnect prioritises the empowerment of First Nations women, through mentoring and knowledge-sharing, a central cultural pillar that most First Nations peoples share.

What is Reconnect?

In 2020, Barpirdhila identified and selected four exceptional emerging First Nations artists and teamed them with outstanding established artist practitioners.

Over ten weekly one-on-one sessions, these emerging artists talked and walked through their current experiences as they relate to their career and ambitions. These weekly sessions supported the artists to develop their career plans and address personal, professional and cultural goals.


(My mentor) has given me such great advice, insight, feedback and generosity in the mentoring sessions towards the development of (my) project, but also more generally we chat about life, wellbeing, the arts and things that we care about/have in common. It’s been great to have someone to guide me through this process, who I know will hold my ideas and questions with care and consideration. I have such huge respect for (my mentor) and the work that she does, and so it is a real privilege to share this time with her and support and learn from each other.

Reconnect Mentee


About the mentees

Maya Hodge

Maya Hodge is a proud Lardil woman raised in Mildura, Victoria. Based on Kulin Country, Maya is an emerging poet, artist, curator and musician whose work explores healing through the arts. Maya is a co-winner of the PEN Mildura Indigenous Writers Award. Her poetry is published in Overland Literary Magazine, Cordite Poetry Review and Lot’s Wife Magazine.

Maya is mentored by Mykaela Saunders

Mykaela has been supporting Maya by issuing writing challenges and introducing new poetry techniques, each meeting. They have each been writing new poems for/with each other, and Maya has felt supported and valued to the point she now intends on submitting some poetry to prizes and publications, with Mykaela’s support.

Rosie Kalina

Rosie Kalina is a visual artist and proud Wemba Wemba and Gunditjmara woman.

Rosie specialises in makeup artistry with an Instagram presence as @rosiekalina & works in fashion, television & film, editorial and live events including ABC TV’s Warriors series, shoots for PUMA, has been a personal makeup artist for actor Miranda Tapsell and artist Sampa the Great.

She was selected as one the Top 10 Instagrammers in 2018 by Huffington Post.

Rosie is a multifaceted creative; Her work includes curating, Blak to the future series, and most recently, has been commissioned as a visual artist for Melbourne Fringe festival, she has modelled in runway and editorial for brands such as Gammin Threads, and has walked in VAMF four times. She also features alongside ARIA winning singer Thelma Plum in her music video ‘Better in Blak

Through these platforms Rosie challenges the notion of what it means to be Aboriginal through fierce & beautiful decolonial imagery and by asserting herself as a sovereign woman.

Rosie is mentored by Paola Balla

Paola has supported Rosie, who is her daughter, by discussing solo arts practice and the intersections with feminism, womanhood, and Blak Matriarchy – as cultural reinforcement, and a (empowerment based) wellbeing measure. Rosie has decided to develop a podcast series, in-which she will interview First Nations women, to discuss these points, and to explore further.

Lauren Sheree

Lauren Sheree is a proud Wakka Wakka person who has been living on Kulin land pursuing a career in the arts since 2016. Moving from the out-skirts of so-called Brisbane, Lauren is a cross-disciplinary artist who uses theatre, music and visual art to tell their story – founding their own art company, Love Like Wine. They come from an educational theatre background and has been nurturing skills through the Barpirdhila Foundation and the Let’s Take Over 2020 program by Darebin Arts and Speakeasy. The next step is working closely with ILBIJERRI to flourish as an emerging Associate Producer.

Lauren is mentored by Crystal Clyne (Lady Lash)

Crystal has been supporting Lauren by providing advice and expertise re songwriting and DIY recording, as Lauren has been teaching herself to use home recording equipment and software.

Kate ten Buuren

Kate ten Buuren is a Taungurung curator, artist and writer investigating the meeting points between people, place and different forms of creation. Kate is interested in collective and collaborative practices within Indigenous communities, and is a part of First Nations arts collective this mob; who make space for young artists to connect and create on their own terms. this mob have curated exhibitions and produced programs including workshops at Footscray Community Arts Centre, West Space, Blak Dot Gallery, Melbourne Fringe Festival and more.

Kate’s multi-disciplinary practice is underpinned in First Nations self-determination, self-representation and knowing one another, ultimately forming the foundation for her interest in contemporary visual art, activation, film and oral traditions.

Kate is mentored by Kimberley Moulton

Kimberley has been supporting Kate as she develops a new project - a research project that will culminate as an exhibition in 2022. They spent their time catching up regularly to discuss work and community. Each have expressed appreciation for the opportunity, and feel as though they will continue the relationship beyond this project, given they each experienced such positivity and value from the process.


If it weren’t for the guidance and mentoring I’ve received by other Blak women, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I continue to learn so much from my community around me; and I really owe it all to those who have helped me get to where I am today. Working with (my mentor) has boosted my confidence in my ideas, given me knowledge of what’s happening around the world, kept my belly full and my mind and spirit inspired.

Reconnect Mentee


Being mentored is such a valuable experience. As Blakfullas, we’ve always grown up around community and being supported by our families, aunties and uncles. So, I think we’ve always been mentored throughout life, by our Mob. So as an artist, being mentored by an Aboriginal person is perfect, because we understand each other, because we come from the same walk of life.

Reconnect Mentee


About the mentors

Mykaela Saunders

Mykaela Saunders is an award-winning writer, teacher, and community researcher. Mykaela has won awards for fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction and research. She has worked in Aboriginal education since 2003, and her research explores trans-generational trauma and healing in her community. Of Dharug and Lebanese descent, Mykaela belongs to the Tweed Goori community.

Paola Balla

Paola Balla is a Wemba-Wemba & Gunditjmara woman, visual artist, curator, writer, lecturer & producer. A current Lisa Bellear Indigenous Research Scholar PhD Candidate at Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Unit, VU focussed on Aboriginal women's art & practices of resistance through practice led research. In December 2019, Paola held her PhD exhibition, Disrupting Artistic Terra Nullius; the ways that Aboriginal Women Speak Blak & Back to the colony & patriarchy at FCAC. In 2010, in collaboration with community in Melbourne’s West, she developed FCAC’s Indigenous Arts & Cultural program & Wominjeka Festival. In 2012, she was a member of the curatorium for First Peoples Gallery, Melbourne Museum & in 2013 curated Incident in Swanston Street & Executed in Franklin Street, (2015), City Gallery for the City of Melbourne. Paola co-curated Sovereignty with Max Delany at ACCA (2016) & was part of the curatorium on Unfinished Business; Perspectives on art and feminism (2017), ACCA. Currently Paola is a member of the Indigenous Advisory Group at FCAC & the Blak Brow Collective who edited Blak Brow (2018) for The Lifted Brow.

Crystal Clyne aka Lady Lash

Lady Lash is a Kokatha woman with Greek ancestry. Pushing beyond all expectations she has carved a successful career in the male dominated Hip Hop industry, with successful and award-winning releases, and performances at major festivals and alongside leading artists.

Kimberley Moulton

Kimberley Moulton is a Yorta Yorta curator, writer and Senior Curator, South-Eastern Aboriginal Collections at Museums Victoria and Artistic Associate for RISING Festival Melbourne. Kimberley works with knowledge, histories and futures at the intersection of First Peoples historical and contemporary art and making and her practice includes anti-colonial curatorial methodologies, working to extend the paradigm of what exhibitions and research in and out of institutions can be for and with First Peoples communities.


I’ve really enjoyed our time having creative discussion and look forward to our future sessions in 2021. Programs such as this led by Barpirdhila in collaboration with state arts organisations are crucial to the work of addressing the lack of representation and development opportunities for First Peoples in the creative sector and I’m pleased to see Arts Centre Melbourne supporting Barpirdhila Foundation and their vital work and First Peoples arts communities.

Reconnect Mentee


Related Links

Visit the Barpirdhila Foundation

For more information about Re-Connect contact the Creative Learning team at


Reconnect is made possible with the generous support of the The Marian and E.H. Flack Trust

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