Australia needs a thriving Australian Circus & Physical and Theatre sector with more than one significant First Nations-led company, a flow-through of Australian First Nations practitioners at all ages and career stages, significantly increased programming of First Nations work, and increased employment of First Nations practitioners.

Representation of Australian First Nations people across the performing arts sector is still lacking, and there is an urgent need for supported, self-determined leadership and peer-learning programs.  TNA is working to respond to this need via targeted programs.


This program will support the establishment of a national Australian First Nations Circle for the Circus and Physical Theatre sector. This group will be First Nations-led and consist entirely of Australian First Nations representatives. As an Australian First Nations-only space, the Circle will be empowered to explore complex and widespread sector issues such as representation, cultural safety, and organisational accountability. Circle members will be supported with co-designed professional development over 2023-24.

This program has been developed with Harley Mann, a Wakka Wakka man, a leading First Nations circus artist and member of the TNA CaPT Advisory Committee and the TNA Board. TNA runs the program and supports the Producer and the circle members. 

Recruitment for the First Nations Circle will begin in early 2023. Stay tuned!


Once established, the Circle will be supported to develop a national First Nations action plan for the sector and a rider/best practice guide for organisations. 

The Producer will work with circle members to cultivate long-term sector relationships and gain commitments from organisations within the CaPT sector (and beyond) to embed the Action Plan and Best Practice Guide in their ongoing strategies and operations.


TNA has engaged emerging First Nations producer, Lauren Swain, to coordinate the circle. Lauren will be supported in this role with professional development and regular mentorship from the TNA team and First Nations Board Members Harley Mann and Erica McCalman (Chair).

Lauren Swain is a proud Dabee Wiradjuri person with English, Irish and Norwegian heritage, based in Naarm (Melbourne). She grew up in a rural town in the Mountains of Ngarigo Country (Cooma, NSW), an upbringing that underpins an artistic practice grounded in: community consciousness, care, inclusion and working with what you’ve got. Lauren is an emerging multidisciplinary theatre maker and weaves between performer, collaborator, facilitator and producer, holding the process and interpersonal connection at the centre of her practice. Lauren is a 2022 VCA graduate (BFA Theatre) and is interested in theatre that is led by physical play and movement.


The Emerging First Nations Artist Mentorship is awarded each year to an Australian First Nations CaPT artist in the early years of their professional career. The mentorship supports the emerging artist to engage with the Circus and Physical Theatre sector, and comprises:

  • An Industry Engagement Bursary of up to $1000 to facilitate attendance at a significant CaPT sector gathering such as the National Circus Festival, CircFest Meanjin, Western Australian Circus Festival or another equivalent event.
  • A free ticket to attend the Victorian Performing Arts Forum or Australian Performing Arts Forum.
  • Invitations to attend all TNA-run events.
  • One year of free membership to Theatre Network Australia (TNA) as an independent artist.
  • Regular mentoring sessions with producers from the TNA CaPT team.
  • Opportunity to engage directly with the TNA team throughout the year for guidance, resources and industry connections.

The 2023 Mentorship Recipient is Johnny Brown.