National Indigenous Dance Forum (NIDF) 

Our sector gatherings are held every few years, for the sector, by the sector. 

TheSE gatherings are for all dance communities – cultural and contemporary dancers, community dance groups, educators and independent artists – to discuss our needs in communities across Australia.

The 2017 gathering brought together representatives from as many regions as possible to develop a sector-led national action plan for Indigenous dance.


read the nidf 2017 report here

When you come to the National Indigenous Dance Forum, you have to be really clear about what your purpose is, be strong and determined to fulfil that purpose. Be aware of where you are and have a sense of place.
- Marilyn Miller -
founder of BlakDance

The National Indigenous Dance Forum (NIDF) 2017 was a BlakDance gathering held in partnership with YIRRAMBOI First Nations Arts Festival. Held on the lands of the Kulin Nation at Weelam Ngalut, the Meat Markets Melbourne, 5 - 7 May 2017. Over 180 delegates participated with comprehensive national representation and international guests from; USA, Fiji, Canada and New Zealand. The gathering was inclusive of the independent and small to medium sector, with diverse practitioners from; grass roots community members, choreographers, cultural educators, contemporary dancers, cultural dancers and youth dance companies. The process and program was informed by the NIDF Steering Group which included elders and peers of BlakDance as well as sector representatives. Direct advice regarding protocol was taken from the YIRRAMBOI Elders Council.

The NIDF 2017 was part of the Bullarto Wonthaggi (everyone gathering together) program of YIRRAMBOI, facilitated by Wesley Enoch (Artistic Director, Sydney Festival), Marilyn Miller (Founder, BlakDance) and Graham Brady (Elder).


The five top priorities for action as voted by delegates are listed below in priority order:

  • Dedicated and curated intercultural and international conversations, showcases and opportunity for practice-based collaboration and connections at the next NIDF.

  • The purpose of dance to be upheld as a means for cultural transmission and healing as well as art.

  • Curriculum development for Indigenous dance in mainstream schools.

  • Increasing producers and presenters cultural competency through programs like the BlakDance Presenter Series. To ensure our cultural needs are included in our contract with the venue, through programs like Performing Country.

  • Demand for Indigenous led and curated Blak performing arts spaces.

  • There is a critical and urgent need for more opportunities to make work, developing process, practice and protocol, like the BlakDance Residency Program.

Jade Lillie, Rachael Maza, Rhoda Roberts, Angela Flynn, Lydia Miller. Photo by Mick Richards

Jade Lillie, Rachael Maza, Rhoda Roberts, Angela Flynn, Lydia Miller. Photo by Mick Richards

BlakDance Presenter Series

The 2017 BlakDance Presenter Series ran alongside the gathering for presenters and producers the opportunity to develop first hand insight into curatorial capacity of First Nations dance.

Through consultation BlakDance identified the Artists and company representatives attended market development bootcamp within The BlakDance Presenter Series.

Through consultation BlakDance identified the Indigenous dance sector wanted presenters to engage with them at the NIDF. BlakDance responded by producing the BlakDance Presenter Series held concurrently, 5- 7 May 2017. Our allies generously volunteered their time in developing and delivering the program.

The program significantly transformed the participants ways of engaging with Indigenous contemporary practice through their programming within national / international venues and institutions.

For more information about the Presenter Series please click here.

Mary Joyce Miller
Photo courtesy of Sunday Times Newspaper Perth 1959, the year Mary Joyce Miller auditioned and was accepted as a member of the West Australian Ballet Company.

Aboriginal Ballet Dancers of Australia Panel  

Melbourne City Town Hall, 7 May 2017

BlakDance hosted a panel discussion with Aboriginal ballet dancers celebrating these forgotten heroes that dared to forge careers as ballet dancers despite racism and colonial policies.

This historic discussion brought together seven Aboriginal ballet dancers to journey through history, friendship, hopes and their contributions to the artform.

Co-convened by Marilyn Miller (founder of BlakDance) and David McAllister (Artistic Director Australian Ballet), with panellists Mary Miller, Noel Tovey, Roslyn Watson, Lillian Crombie, Ella Havelka, Evie Ferris and Damian Smith.

Past national gatherings have included:

Creating Pathways outcomes from 2005

The BlakDance Symposium 2012 here

The BlakDance Summit 2015 here

During NIDF 2017 Delegates identified the achievements of the Indigenous dance sector in Australia since our first gathering at Creating Pathways in 2005. Initial data is collated here.