Keynote Speakers


We are pleased to announce our two keynote speakers – Dr Liza-Mare Syron and Dr Rachael Swain, and honoured guest – Tanea Heke MNZM, and look forward to welcoming them to Tāmaki Makaurau and Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland.

Dr Liza-Mare Syron

Indigenous Scientia Senior Lecturer in the School of Arts and Media at UNSW, Senior Artistic Associate Moogahlin Performing Arts

Room: Humanities 206-220

Photo of Dr Liza-Mare Syron

Ngapa Yaan – Niibi Aanmitaagzi: Connection and exchange

In 2019, artists from two companies met to begin a cultural arts exchange project sharing stories of the people and country in which they lived and worked. The companies, Moogahlin Performing Arts, located in Redfern Sydney Australia, and Aanmitaagzi Big Medicine Studio situated on Lake Nipissing Ontario Turtle Island Canada, worked through culturally informed models of exchange and practice. The first, led by Aanmitaagzi artists, is a durational practice of story weaving, an investigative approach informed by a sense of unfolding and defined by a connection to people, country, and ancestors. The second model, led by Moogahlin artists is “our stories with your people,” a mode of interchange, of substitution and surrogation between artist from different cultures and localities. We gathered twice, once in Australia in 2019, and again in 2020 by zoom to undertake the creative developments exploring common themes of serpents and water. The first outcome of this exchange was Ngapa Yaan Niibi Aanmitaagzi (Water Speaks), a visual and spoken word digital commissioned work responding to two cultural stories from Nipissing and Murrawarri peoples for the 2022 Sydney Biennale. In this keynote, I outline the models of exchange that inform this project. I present and discuss the resulting work, and I describe the production design process that was informed by a curatorial practice based on “care and kin.”

Ngapa Yaan Niibi Aanmitaagzi (2022), Moogahlin Performing Arts with Aanmitaagzi, Sydney Biennale.


Dr Liza-Mare Syron has family ties to the Biripay people from the Mid North Coast of NSW. A theatre maker and academic, Liza-Mare is currently an Indigenous Scientia Senior Lecturer in the School of Arts and Media at UNSW. She is widely published in the field of Indigenous performing arts and has recently published a book on the Rehearsal Practices of Indigenous Women Theatre Makers: Australia, Aotearoa, and Turtle Island (Palgrave Macmillan 2021).

She is a founding member of Moogahlin Performing Arts, and as a key member of the company’s Co-Artistic Directorate for over ten years has recently been appointed Senior Artistic Associate.

Liza-Mare is recipient of the ADSA 2005 Phillip Parsons Prize for Performance as Research, the 2010 Marlis Thiersch Prize, and was given a citation in 2015 Rob Jordon award. As a theatre maker, Liza-Mare’s directorial roles include, The Fox and the Freedom Fighters (Performance Space 2014), Broken Glass (Blacktown Arts/Sydney Festival/Moogahlin 2018), The Weekend (Sydney Festival/Moogahlin 2019), Rainbows End (Darlinghurst Theatre /Moogahlin), and Gods Country (NIDA). In the role of producer Liza-Mare has presented Koori Gras a celebration of Black queer performance (Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras/Moogahlin 2017-2020), The Visitors (Sydney Festival/Moogahlin 2020), and manuwi jam ya murong (MCA/Moogahlin 2017). Liza-Mare also works as a dramaturge on various independent projects across the country. Her most recent artistic project is an international collaboration between Moogahlin and First Nations artists from Aanimitaagzi Nipissing Lake Turtle Island exploring serpent and water stories. The first outcome of this collaboration was a three channel video work called  Ngapan Yaan Niibi Aanimitaagzi for the 2022 Sydney Biennale exhibition.

Dr Rachael Swain

Artistic Co-director, Director & Creative Producer, Marrugeku Theatre, Adjunct Senior Lecturer, University of New South Wales

Room: Humanities 206-220

Photo of Rachel Swain

10 snapshots from the family photo album — the making of Jurrungu Ngan-ga


De-bordering Australia: performing, living and sharing solidarity in a time of ongoing occupation, border closure, incarceration, boycott and global pandemic

Marrugeku’s latest work Jurrungu Ngan-ga meaning “straight talk” in Yawuru language, confronts Australia’s shameful fixation with incarceration by connecting outrageous levels of Indigenous imprisonment to the indefinite detaining of asylum seekers. Applying collective power, truth telling and horrific surrealism as bodily resistance the cast and creative team draw on their intersecting yet distinct cultural and community-informed experiences (Indigenous, people seeking asylum, transgender and settler) to shine a light on new ways to resist and abolish.

Reflecting and speaking as a Pākehā/Gadiya director of the work and family member of the team that co-created Jurrungu Ngan-ga, I will describe a series of critical moments from within the research, creation and presentation of the work conducted in a time of ongoing occupation, border closure, incarceration and boycott. Part family photo album, part unburdening on the possibilities and limits of solidarity and the intricacies of intersectional sharing— intimate moments of artistic production will be unpacked to discuss how new intersectional dramaturgies can emerge from staging resilience born of lived experience in contested land.

Jurrungu Ngan-ga (2022), Marrugeku Theatre, image: Prudence Upton

Jurrungu Ngan-ga (2022), Marrugeku Theatre, image: Prudence Upton

Jurrungu Ngan-ga (2022), Marrugeku Theatre, image: Prudence Upton


Rachael Swain is a Pākehā director, dramaturg and performance scholar of Scottish, Irish and English descent. She was born on the lands of the Ngāi Tahu, Aotearoa, and currently lives and works between the lands of the Gadigal (Sydney) and the Yawuru (Broome, north Western Australia). She is a founding member and Co-Artistic Director of Marrugeku, Australia’s leading intercultural and trans-Indigenous dance theatre company, working in close collaboration with Yawuru /Bardi dancer and choreographer Dalisa Pigram. Rachael specialises in directing intersectional and trans-disciplinary dance and theatre created through intercultural choreographic processes and with distributed models of cultural and performance dramaturgies. She has co-conceived and directed Marrugeku’s productions Mimi (1996), Crying Baby (2001), Burning Daylight (2006), Cut the Sky (2015), and Jurrungu Ngan-ga (2022) and co-directed Buru (2010) and Ngalimpa (2018) with Pigram. Her dramaturgy credits include Gudirr Gudirr (2013), the video installation Gudirr Gudirr (2021) directed by Vernon Ah Kee, Burrbgaja Yalirra 1 (2018) and the New Caledonian/Australian co-production Le Dernier Appel (2018). Together with various collaborators she has co-facilitated Marrugeku’s intensive practice based research laboratories in choreography and dramaturgy.  Rachael gained a Masters in Advanced Theatre and Dance Research from DAS ARTS, Amsterdam and a Doctorate in Performance Studies from Melbourne University, titled Ways of Listening (2010). She was awarded the Australian Research Council’s first DECRA fellowship offered in the field of theatre and performance studies, which she held at Melbourne University (2013-2016). She is the author of Dance in Contested Land— new intercultural dramaturgies (Palgrave Macmillian, 2020), and co-editor of Marrugeku: Telling That Story—25 years of trans-Indigenous and intercultural performance (Performance Research, 2021)She is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at UNSW, Sydney.

Tanea Heke MNZM (Honoured Guest)

Ngā Puhi nui tonu, Ngāti Rangi, Te Uri Taniwha, Ngāti Hineira










We are honoured that Tanea Heke, Tumuaki/Director of Toi Wahakaari: New Zealand Drama School will be joining us for the conference. Tanea will be contributing to our opening conversation on Wendesday morning, and to our event on Wednesday evening, “Storytime: how are we lashing the aspirations of Indigenous, First Nations and Mana Moana communities to tertiary performance programmes?”

Tanea is a graduate of Te Ako Pai: Wellington College of Education, Victoria University and Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School. She has been working as a creative and administrator in the arts industry for the last 25 years and started at Taki Rua Productions in a producing role before moving to Te Papa Tongarewa overseeing exhibition management.  At Creative New Zealand, Tanea was responsible for delivering the Venice Biennale project and working with the Aotearoa delegation of Māori and Pasifika artists at the Festival of Pacific Arts in Guam.  In 2012, Tanea worked in Germany as New Zealand’s Project Director at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Tanea has appeared in several theatre and film productions including Cousins by Briar Grace Smith and Ainsley Gardiner (based on Patricia Grace’s book), The Justice of Bunny King by Gaysorn Thavat, Waru by Briar Grace-Smith and No 2 by Toa Fraser.  Her theatre credits include:  Astroman by Albert Belz, He Kura e Huna ana nā Hōhepa Waitoa, Portrait of an Artist Mongrel by Nancy Brunning and The Prophet by Hone Kouka.

Tanea is the Producer of Hāpai Productions – a mana wāhine, kaupapa Māori theatre company she and Nancy Brunning set up in 2013.  She is currently mentor for the Māori Arts Interns Programme run by Toi Māori, a Board member of Track Zero (bringing art and science together to inspire transformative climate action) and Te Tumu Toi – The Arts Foundation (creating opportunities for artists). In 2019 she returned to Toi Whakaari as Tumuaki and in 2020 was the recipient of the Creative New Zealand Ngā Tohu Hautūtanga Auaha Toi Making a Difference Award.

In the 2022 New Year Honours, Heke was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to the arts and Māori.

Days until Conference









Call for Abstracts: 11 March
Abstract Submission closes: 9 May
Registration opens: 26 April
Registration closes: 12 noon NZT 29 November
Conference commences: 6-9 December


Contact Us

For abstract inquiries please contact Emma Willis;

For registration inquiries please contact Nickylee Anderson;