One of Australia’s most inspirational Indigenous figures is being recognised alongside one of the country’s most successful theatre producers with honorary doctorates from Flinders University.
Dr John Moriarty, the first Indigenous Australian selected to play soccer for Australia before going on to forge an internationally influential career in art and design, receives the award today (Tuesday 20 September) at Flinders University’s Bedford Park campus, from which he graduated in 1970.
Also receiving a Doctorate is Dr Rob Brookman, the leading theatre producer, festival director and arts administrator who is currently Executive Director of the State Theatre Company of South Australia.
Dr Moriarty, who has dedicated much of his time to philanthropy, was one of the ‘Stolen Generation’ of Aboriginal children who were separated from their families and culture and placed in either government or church homes.
He is known for his cultural and artistic leadership resulting from the successful establishment, with his wife Ros Moriarty, of the Balarinji Design Studio in 1983.
In 1994, Balarinji was commissioned by Qantas to design artwork for a Boeing 747-400 aeroplane. The finished result was the ‘Wunala Dreaming’. A second aeroplane, a Boeing 747-300 was painted in 1995 and is known as ‘Nalanji Dreaming’.
At the age of four, Dr Moriarty and his classmates were taken from the school they attended at Roper River and sent, via Alice Springs, to the Mulgoa Home at Mount Wilson in New South Wales.
He was later sent to the St Francis Home in Semaphore, Adelaide, before finishing his schooling at Le Fevre Boys Technical High School, and going on to learn a trade as a boilermaker apprentice.
He represented the State of South Australia 17 times and in 1960 was selected to play for Australia.
In the late 1960s, he decided to return to study, and enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts at Flinders University. He graduated in 1970, becoming the first Indigenous person to graduate from Flinders.
His awards include a Churchill Fellowship, an Advance Australia Award, an Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Australia, and becoming a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2000 for service to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community through political advocacy and the promotion of Indigenous culture, and to business.
Between 1994 and 2004 he served on the board of Indigenous Business Australia and has also served as Chairman of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council and the National Aboriginal Sports Corporation of Australia.
Dr Brookman completed a Bachelor of Arts in English and Politics at the University of Adelaide, before beginning his career with a short stint as a radio actor and presenter.
He has held key positions in a number of Australasia’s foremost festivals and performing arts organisations, including as Programming Director, Producer, and Artistic Director for the Adelaide Festival Centre; Administrator, then Associate-Artistic Director from 1984 to 1990 and then in 1992, Artistic Director for the Adelaide Festival.
In 1992 he was the Founding Director of Australia’s leading world music festival WOMADelaide and remained as Artistic Director and interchangeably, Artistic Advisor, until 2007.
He continues to contribute through the WOMAD Foundation, which he was instrumental in establishing.
Dr Brookman has also been Artistic Director of the National Festival of Australian Theatre in 1996; Artistic Director for the New Zealand International Festival of Arts in 1994; founding Co-Director of the Arts Projects Australia from 1996 to 1999; and then General Manager at the Sydney Theatre Company, a position he held for 11 years, until 2010.
In addition, he has run his own cultural consultancy Sweet Reason Pty Ltd, undertaking a diverse range of work, including a major review of Sydney’s cultural venues and a feasibility study for a National Indigenous Arts Festival.
He joined the State Theatre Company of South Australia in March 2012, and has been at the helm of its partnership with Flinders University, which is a Partner, Red Carpet Program Partner and sponsor of the Young Playwrights’ Award.
Dr Brookman has been a key contributor to the arts industry in Australia through a large number of arts industry boards and associations.
In 2003 he was awarded the Australian Institute of Arts Administration’s ‘Nugget’ Award – named for Nugget Coombs – a national award for excellence in Arts Administration, voted by members of the Institute.
His contribution to the arts was recognised by the award of the Member of the Order of Australia in 2010.