rcws – Am I dodgy?

more ponderings from ‪#‎randomconversationswithstrangers‬

so there’s this guy who lives on a boat nearby to my current parkup. He’s a bit of a character and always friendly. He asked me the first morning, as I was having coffee on my busstep, if I paddled (he was getting a kayak ready to go over to his boat which is moored in the river). I said no, but only coz I don’t have a boat.

Anyway, there’s this other guy who walks his dogs early morning. He’s been quite chatty too, only in a different way, a more ‘British’ way. He asked me yesterday if I’d met the guy with the boat. “He’s an odd fellow” he said, “seems to live on the boat out there. I’m not sure how he acquired it…”.

That really struck me. If someone lives in a house no one wonders how they ‘acquired’ that house. But if you live on a boat someone thinks they have the right to question such a thing? It’s a funny kind of judgement that only seems to come from suspicion of otherness. He lives on a boat therefore he’s dodgy. If he looked the same way but lived in a house would he be deemed less dodgy? I wonder if this old British dude thinks I’m dodgy too. Maybe I am, by default. Funny thing to consider about yourself, really: “Am I dodgy?”… ‪#‎thoughtfortheday‬

[first posted on facebook, August 11th 2015]

Selected comments:

Artfully dodgy [Steven, Perth]

Dodgy as hell, in the best kind of way! [Rebecca, Adelaide Hills]

Yeah you’re definitely dodgy! [Siobhan, UK]

Definitely dodgy dear, and subversive too. :) [Ruff, UK]

We’re all agreed – so dodgy [Sarah, Wollongong]


one of a series of avatars made by Claire Cooper

one of a series of avatars made by Claire Cooper

You have probably heard there’s been a bit of a hoo-hah around the arts sector in Australia because some rich old white man in a suit (who used to be a lawyer) decided that he was personally better equipped to decide where $104.7million of Australia’s national arts funding budget should be spent. This money was previously managed (at arm’s-length from the government) by our national funding body, the Australia Council for the Arts, through a tried and tested system of peer review. Now, call me crazy but I’m pretty sure that the best people to decide what would make good art are other people who have spent their lives working in and around the arts, not some old white lawyer dude who’s lobbyist mates run a few elite ‘high arts’ organisations, but hey that’s just my opinion.

Last night a few of us (artists, arts workers and arts organisation reps) gathered at cia studios to discuss the issue (which goes way beyond the peer review thing), read other people’s submissions and draft our own. There are some notes from that meeting at the bottom of this post (also on Facebook).

A Numbers Game

Apparently there are 44,000 self-declared artists in Australia. I have no idea how many more are undeclared, or how many arts-workers there are, or people who answered ‘creative educator’ or something that didn’t sit neatly in the survey box, but I’d imagine there are significantly more than 44k artist-types here.

Apparently 1 in 5 of the general public attend the arts in some way. Again this kind of statistic can be pretty fuzzy in real terms, but even in a country with 22million people that still amounts to a fair number of audiences.

Over 12,000 people signed the MEAA online petition against these changes, with more still coming in daily.

And yet there are currently only 93 submissions (that we can see). We know more have been submitted but haven’t shown up online yet, and we know that artists are always ones for that last-minute rush to the deadline.

But numbers are important. Your voice is important. Our collective voice is important.

The Senate deadline is tomorrow, July 17th. Artists, arts-workers, sponsors, partners, audiences from all over the world all are welcome to submit their thoughts on Australia’s artistic and cultural future.

This isn’t just an attack against Brandis because he’s giving back-handers to his elitist mates (although he is), this is a chance for us all to step up and speak out about something which fundamentally drives who we are, what we believe in, and how we communicate and debate those values with each other, nationally and around the world: our arts and cultural sector.

Please do make a submission, please do read and share all the links below, and add more for all our benefit. Just like crowdfunding, every little helps.

But before you go there I wanted to share a thought that’s been kicking around my world for a while now.

Collective Consciousness

I have a friend who is a bit of an old hippy. He also loves crosswords. He used to say that if you struggled with a crossword clue in the morning you should put it down and wait for the collective consciousness to answer it. By the end of the day he would pick up his paper, look at the clue again and the answer would come to him in a flash. “Thanks collective consciousness”, he would say.

There is a great deal to be angry, hurt and scared about right now. I’m sure for a lot of people some shift in management of arts funding is the least of their worries. But this is more than just a few artists getting their funding cut. This is about how our current government feels about free speech, criticism, independence and otherness.

The changes to funding need to be viewed in-line with the rest of our austerity cuts. As Alex Kelly writes,

We need to talk about the destructive worldview driving these policies, we need our commentators and artists to be naming what is happening, we need to understand this, we need to build solidarity between all the sectors who are feeling the pain of this slash and burn agenda and then we need to fight, together, to build something different.

Artists cost this country very little in the grand scheme of things. In our unpaid-social-worker/educator/entertainer roles we act as a mirror to society, reflecting both the good and the bad things about that society. Brandis got very annoyed when some artists chose to ‘bite the hand that feeds’ by boycotting the Sydney Biennial. Those artists weren’t fighting for better pay, they were standing up against the festival’s core sponsor, Transfield Services, a company that profits from locking up and torturing innocent people who have come here seeking help.

Understandably, given this country’s current human rights abuse tally, there’s a lot that artists – and all of us – can hold that mirror on which won’t look good for the government, and they’re not very keen for us to do that. So, while you’re writing your submission and nudging your friends/family/office colleagues to write theirs, just think about that old hippy friend of mine and imagine the potential energy from our collective consciousness buzzing around this country today. 

You feel that? That’s the gentle murmur of hundreds of creative minds focusing their pain and anger into a set of beautifully crafted words and images (and hey, maybe even music or sculpture) that say “No. No More. We won’t accept your attempt to silence us”.

OK, so now imagine what we could really achieve if we harnessed that collective consciousness energy around ALL calls to arms. The #keepitintheground and #climatechange movements; the #stopstolengenerations and Stop Forced Closure of First Nations Communities movements; the anti-Nuclear and clean energy movements; the refugee#wewontbesilenced and anti-racism movements; the stop-TPP/TTIP and net-neutrality movements; … the list is sadly endless right now. And it’s a list which connects us all in some way.

We are all activists now. We might not feel like it, we might not be on the street every weekend holding yet another banner. We might not be an old hippy sharing messages of collective consciousness energies. But we all care in some way about the damage which is being wrought across every level of society. It’s not even about political party alignment any more; without electoral reform that removes money and religion from politics there can be no such thing as democracy. This is about our basic human rights and our cultural values, individually and collectively. We have to re-write the book of lore, collectively.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


We all have a voice. All our voices count. So please, use yours and help our arts and culture remain free, open, multi-cultural, safe from political silencing and self-determined by the peers who know and love it so much better than any rich old white lawyer dude ever could.


[[Below are some notes from the cia studios​ group therapy *AHEM* I mean group letter-writing session that we shared last night (this is the Facebook link for the same info)]]

Some notes for the Senate Commission against cuts/changes to arts funding. Plus (as a secondary document/approach) feedback on the NPEA guidelines which were recently released.

DID YOU KNOW? – You don’t have to be an artist or even employed in the arts to submit. you can be audience or sponsor or project partner or venue or even international… so please do.

1. THE SENATE COMMISSION: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Legal_and_Constitutional_Affairs/Arts_Funding (deadline July 17th)

http://arts.gov.au/nationalexcellenceprogram (deadline July 31st)

* Other people’s submissions http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Legal_and_Constitutional_Affairs/Arts_Funding/Submissions (or google/look at #freethearts to find ones that have been emailed in and then personally shared)

* Wesley Enoch’s gorgeous open letter: https://www.facebook.com/wesley.enoch/posts/706509836144950?fref=nf

* Marcus Westbury’s rants on his fb feed (because after all he’s spent a large part of his career critiquing Australia Council for the Arts​ so who better to know the figures when defending it?!):
– and his rant on ArtsHub​: http://www.artshub.com.au/festival/news-article/opinions-and-analysis/festivals/marcus-westbury/fundedlikeamajor-who-is-really-subsidising-the-arts-australians-love-248545

* The Arts Charter: [NB if you made suggestions to that you’ll probably find them useful here too!]

* #freethearts sector channel

* the cuts to ABS made last year which prevent us from fighting back under their numbers-focused criteria:

http://freethearts.com.au/slacksubmission is a cheeky slack way to get the job done and increase numbers even if you’re too distraught to submit your in-depth thoughts.

suggested structure for submissions and some notes/thoughts when writing your responses.

suggested structure for submissions and some notes/thoughts when writing your responses.

key facts around the changes/cuts to arts funding

key facts around the changes/cuts to arts funding

questions and recommendations

questions and recommendations

thoughts on the NPEA guidelines - NB please submit a separate response to NPEA as well as making a submission to Senate Commission

thoughts on the NPEA guidelines – NB please submit a separate response to NPEA as well as making a submission to Senate Commission

part one of the sample submission letter (made by NAVA)

part one of the sample submission letter (made by NAVA)

part two of the sample submission letter (made by NAVA)

part two of the sample submission letter (made by NAVA)

Bec Dean's thoughts from the national arts bodies gatherings

Bec Dean’s thoughts from the national arts bodies gatherings

And if you have already submitted but it hasn’t come up in the Senate’s database yet, feel free to add a link to your own submission/blog/rant below.

Happy writing x

on de-registering the Burrup Peninsula as a First Nations Sacred Site

Ongoing stolen generations, extreme rates of suicide, closures to communities, the list goes on… and now this. The situation in Corporate-controlled White Australia just gets worse and worse for First Nations Peoples.

I just learned that a few days ago the WA government de-registered the Burrup Peninsula as a First Nations Sacred Site. [source: Robin Chapple; Senator Siewert]. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the rock art there when I was a visiting artist to Australia in 2005. It seriously blew my mind, revealing itself from the rocks like a magic eye picture.

Burrup Peninsula Rock Art 2005

Burrup Peninsula Rock Art 2005

According to the WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Peter Collier, “for a place to be considered a sacred site, it must show it was devoted to religious use rather than just be a place of mythological story, song or belief.” [source: abcnews]

First Nations culture is not ‘just mythology’, it is alive and well – or rather, as alive and well as can be expected for a nation undergoing repeated genocide[1] attempts. These sites are not just tourist spots or remnants of past memories. They are a fundamental part of the rich tapestry of cultural identity, social and belief systems which make up the Lore of the Land – past, present and future.

The more I learn about this nation (the Original nation now proven as the oldest civilisation in the world, not the brutally colonised version) the more I am coming to see it as a fascinatingly complex decentralised network of nodes. Over 400 tribes existed in harmony across this vast country before invasion. There were no wars, no rape, no abuse, no drug addiction and no greed for thousands of years before white man settled here. These ancient tribes (even now in their horrifically diminished numbers) maintain connection to country, lore and each other through a complex system of shared-ownership, the “Dreaming”.

“A Dreaming” is a story owned by different tribes and their members that explains the creation of life, people and animals. A Dreaming story is passed on protectively as it is owned and is a form of “intellectual property“. In the modern context, an Aborigine cannot relate, or paint someone else’s dreaming or creation story without prior permission of the Dreaming’s owner. [source: Wikipedia]

The dreamings can be stories, geographic sites, animals, etc, and as such are shared across all nations, with one tribe taking responsibility as the traditional owner, and another tribe acting as a custodian for it. The tribe who acts as custodian has with it the right to share that story, but I have recently learned that there’s another part of the story which only the owners hold. This relationship – between caretaker and owner – provides a physical and spiritual connection to country resulting in a deep respect between tribes, often across vast geographic distances[2].

The dreamings are not churches with dwindling attendances to be closed down to build a new car park, and they are certainly not ours to define by our white-supremacist ideals. Their existence far transcends Churchian idolatry, rocking up every week just to ‘be seen to be’ in one’s Sunday Best. Aside from the obvious racism (would our Christian leaders dream of deconsecrating even one of their almost-always empty Churches or Cathedrals?! Imagine the furore!) this once again smacks of our inherent arrogance and entitlement. We don’t understand their ways; we are threatened by increasingly public revelations of historical truths; our corporate buddies want access to the riches buried underground[3]; let’s shut them down, wipe them from the land as we have wiped them from our memories.

Mining companies blotting the ancient landscape

Mining companies blotting the ancient landscape

This decision shows, yet again, how inhumane this Government is. Australia is not alone in this, the same disgusting treatment of Indigenous populations and lands continues around the globe, with Neoliberalism consistently placing profit over humanness. How on earth did we let ourselves end up with a system where Governments (made of individuals who seemingly have no spirituality within themselves) get to dictate everyone else’s spiritual systems (aka #lifestylechoice)? And worse still, Governments who are meagre puppets to their soulless corporate masters.

As @Jinjirri says: "Worse than ISIS"

As @Jinjirri says: “Worse than ISIS”

No. No more. This has to stop. I wholeheartedly stand in solidarity with First Nations Peoples here and around the world, fighting to protect their culture, identity and lives. I’ll be at the Tent Embassy in Canberra (where I’ve been for the past week or so) if anyone wants to come along to sit by the sacred fire to listen, learn and help in the continuing battle to wage peace against these despicable criminals.

#SOSblakAustralia #FrontierWars #WagingPeace #LifestyleChoice

1. The UN definition of genocide: “Genocide is defined in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part1 ; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

2. As an aside, this model of shared ownership/responsibility makes me yet again grieve for the loss of The Commons (a system which never made it over with the settlers, as Enclosure had well and truly taken over by then).

3. In this case, gypsum: “In a statement, the DAA said the site was reconsidered after receiving an application by Perangery Pastoral Company to extract gypsum from the salt lake.” [source: abcnews]. Wonder if they’ll build a new White Church with this sacred gypsum…


Nomads in Residence REALLYbigroadtrip EOI call

homeJames at the South Australia / West Australia border

homeJames at the South Australia / West Australia border


Thanks to a crowdfunding campaign which went viral through incredible support from almost 350 people (including tweets from Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman and Hugh Jackman) I’ve been living in homeJames (my beautiful big red bus) for over two years now. In that time I’ve been in and around most Australian states/territories at least a little bit, but I have FAR from traversed the whole country. 

In that time I have hosted a few adhoc Nomads in Residence including Sayraphim Lothian (random acts of guerilla kindness craftivist, VIC), Kate Chapman (Humanitarian arm of OpenStreetMap, US/ID), Edwin van Ouwerkerk Moria (locative media technologist, NL) and Janet Carter (the Openkitchen Project, WA).

homeJames on a ferry going to Cockatoo Island in Sydney for Underbelly Arts (photo by Edwin van Ouwerkerk Moria)

homeJames on a ferry going to Cockatoo Island in Sydney for Underbelly Arts Lab/Festival (photo by Edwin van Ouwerkerk Moria)

It’s time to ramp up both the places I travel to, and the people I travel with! Starting late 2016 I will be heading off on one long 12-18month journey around this wild and beautiful country. Where I go and what I do will be directed by YOU!

This is a personal invitation to some of the most inspirational creatives I know (and some I don’t, yet) to join homeJames and myself for segments of this mega adventure around Australia. I want you to send me your ideas, locations and possible dates so that I can wrap them all up into one big Nomads in Residence program. Then I will scheme, negotiate and fundraise to commission as many of you as possible to join me over 12-18months from August 2016.

[NB: I know everyone I invite personally will know other people this would suit. That’s totally fine – and partly why I’ve decided to make this a public post. Please just make sure anyone I don’t know reads this post and includes their contact details and links to example work in their EOI, or just introduce us first.] 

homeJames going feral at Gungaddy Swamp, New South Wales

homeJames going feral at Gungaddy Swamp, New South Wales

Call for projects

Like many countries around the world, Australia is now struggling against an increased onslaught of NeoLiberal damage. I’ve started working on my own creative activism projects (e.g. Sunday Afternoon Activists Clubhammocktime, enclosure) but there are so many issues that need attention, here and globally. What better time for smart creative minds (especially of the activist/technologist variety) to come together, bringing skills and passion to regional/remote Australia with the view of enhancing creative social change?

I am therefore calling for Expressions of Interest around creative activism/social change projects with the potential to enhance and/or catalyse a longterm impact for individuals and communities in regional and remote Australia. If those projects can also affect change in urban centres then so much the better, but initially the focus is outside cities.

homeJames at Boreen Point for Floating Land Festival and Balance/Unbalance conference, near Noosa, Queensland

homeJames at Boreen Point for Floating Land Festival and Balance/Unbalance conference, near Noosa, Queensland

I’m of the belief that lasting change can only happen from the bottom up, middle out and, only later, top down. I don’t believe we can change the mindset of the masses in one foul swoop, but we can support those who already do great grassroots work by giving them recognition, letting them know they are not alone, and connecting the dots leading to a mass of decentralised/distributed networks. Collectively these can form strength in numbers, all working independently and sometimes rallying to support a common cause. It’s worth also considering the increasing number of Conservative Australians who voted for Abbott but who are now questioning their decision as he increasingly displays his lack of humanness.

In any case, the kind of change we need isn’t about a single politician or a single political party. We need to imagine, demand and collaboratively build the world we want.

Therefore the target audiences I’d like to focus on are:

  • like-minded communities who would benefit from recognition and support for the work they already do;
  • like-minded communities who need help in increasing their skills and experiences so they can do more locally and collectively;
  • opposing-minded individuals who question the current lack of humanness in society and could be persuaded to jump ship with the right argument delivered in the right way.

[NB: When proposing projects targeting ‘opposing-minded’ audiences you should know that I am in no way interested in or encouraging hate-fuelled campaigns. Real change – and certainly the world I want to exist in – comes from openness and love, despite differences. Aggressive or negatively-charged proposals will be rejected outright.]

homeJames peeking in at the corner during hammocktime at WOMADelaide

homeJames peeking in at the corner during hammocktime at WOMADelaide

Types of projects include (but are not limited to):

  • visual art (e.g. craftivism, street art, public art, etc, rather than more traditional gallery presentations);
  • performance (spoken word, live art, theatre, circus, dance, etc);
  • media arts / interdisciplinary arts / locative arts / social media as a meaningful exchange;
  • co-creation projects (interactive project development / creation processes where the community are at the heart of the entire process);
  • workshops / skills exchanges / train the trainer programs;
  • community screenings and/or dialogues leading to call-to-action strategies.

NB: I am interested in activism and social change through creativity and will be applying for arts funding for the bulk of this, so please consider and express the ‘artistic excellence’ of your idea in the EOI. Even if there’s no creative element at all it’s still worth letting me know what you’re thinking as I might be able to connect you to an artist or look at community engagement/technical innovation/sponsorship types of financial support.

homeJames at Memefest direct action symposium, Swinburne University, Melbourne.

homeJames at Memefest direct action symposium, Swinburne University, Melbourne.

Areas of interest include (but are not limited to):

  • land rights, The Commons, permaculture and alternative/intentional communities (especially those responding to the closure of remote aboriginal communities and the fact there has never been Common Land in Australia since colonisation);
  • open source digital literacy and personal area networks (especially responding to the lack of broadband outside urban centres, and legacy based projects that will increase affordable online confidence and actions);
  • climate change (especially those responding to Australia’s fire and tornado risk areas and projects bringing the ‘nay sayers’ into open and constructive dialogue);
  • First Nations cultural exchanges (NB these will ultimately only be possible following direct invitation from the Aboriginal community in question, but can be considered/discussed as I make increasing connections within community);
  • asylum seekers (especially challenging Australia’s appalling human rights record, attitudes to ‘boat people’ and the impending increase of ecological refugees);
  • nomadicy and mobility (especially projects taking advantage of our obvious movement across the country in the bus, exploring the liminal spaces between ‘destinations’, exploring the bus as a space for creative experiences or protest billboard as much as a living and transportation space);
  • gender representations, inequalities and disparities;
  • mental health (especially responding to bullying and depression and the high suicide rates in Aboriginal communities and remote regions).
homeJames being used as a canvas for Illuminart's Port Adelaide light projections in South Australia

homeJames being used as a canvas for Illuminart’s Port Adelaide light projections in South Australia

EOI deadline

Initially this call asks for an Expression of Interest to start working out who’s interested, how they could collectively fit into a logistical geographic roadtrip, what possible co-production partners might be suitable and a ballpark idea of costs so I can prepare to apply for funding.

I’d like to put in a proposal for the Australia Council for the Arts 1st December 2015 deadline, so 1st July 2015 is a target date for your EOIs. Feel free to throw over an idea for discussion by email/video conferencing in advance too.

REALLYbigroadtrip Dates

TOTALLY open right now, but starting after August 2016 with a view to lasting 12-18months overall. Each NiR can be anywhere from a week to a month (or more if you can handle it) and can happen in one block or over a few visits (travel costs dependent).

What’s on offer


homeJames’ “Master Bedroom” (which now has curtains at the end of the bed for a little extra privacy)

homeJames now has hammocks inside, so my guests can choose to luxuriate in ‘the master bedroom’, a hammock, or a swag/tent (or a combination of those decided on a nightly basis). If buslife really isn’t your thing I can look into alternative accommodation as we organise locations and partners. 

Rest assured I fundamentally appreciate the value of having one’s own time and space (we will both need that). If you have concerns about living in extremely close proximity for durations let’s have a conversation about how that can work for both of us. One idea, for example, is to get more than one bus and start the convoy I’ve always dreamed of… 

homeJames kitchen (w/ sodastream)

homeJames kitchen (w/ sodastream)

My aim is to raise enough funding to offer travel, accommodation, food, materials/equipment and an artist’s fee. Obviously if you have equipment you can bring with you then so much the better, but I strongly encourage you to consider the legacy you can leave behind. There’s no point running programs using high-end resources when at the end of that project you take all that sexy kit away with you. Having said that it might be possible to get co-production partners and funding and some communities may already have access to the resources you need. I suggest starting with what you’d love to see happen and we’ll work from there.

NB: It’s worth mentioning that Australia is a VERY expensive country these days. If you want to bring equipment with you be aware that shipping it both ways won’t be cheap and it’s worth organising the return shipment with the outward one. If you’re going to want to purchase materials/equipment here we will need to get local quotes to be sure of estimates – so leave enough time for us to do that.

homeJames' new lounge area

homeJames’ new lounge area

So, interested?!

Please use this form to submit your EOI’s by July 1st 2015. Or just ping me to discuss.

The form asks things like:

  • what would you like to do?
  • where would you like to do it?
  • who do you want to meet (as collaborators and as target audiences)?
  • what do you want to achieve (give AND receive) from your trip?
  • when might be a good time for you to do this?
  • what kind of ballpark cost might this entail? (artist fees, travel, materials/equipment)
  • would you be prepared to drive if a convoy was possible?
homeJames for hAbitAt, a commission for the Canberra Centennial Birthday Celebrations, Australian Capital Territory

homeJames as part of hAbitAt, a commission for the Canberra Centennial Birthday Celebrations, Australian Capital Territory


If you would like to share this post/call, please tag me so I can follow discussions:

NB: This was going to be a private post as I have a huge list of people I am personally inviting to be Nomads with me, but I’ve decided to publish it publicly so everyone knows what I’m scheming. This is an enormous long-lead venture (even by my normal standards!) and I’m gonna need all the help I can get! If you’d like to be a co-producer, potential location/host or even a co-funder, if you want to help me develop logistics, be on a selection team, or even just offer some advice or feedback, drop me a line!

UPDATE: Thanks to George Brandis’ arts-heist (see #freethearts) this project has been put on hold until further notice. I’m working on alternative sources of finance (so feel free to continue sending your EOIs) but know that the originally proposed timeline sadly won’t be adhered to.

#homeJames on the Nullarbor

#homeJames on the Nullarbor

How can we harness the power of creative digital culture to improve Aboriginal rights?

reallybigroadtrip is calling for expressions of interest from artists, geeks, filmmakers and social change warriors. Join us in a South Australian/APY Lands Aboriginal roadtrip, April – August 2016.

#homeJames, Uncle Chris and I being sent off with a smoking ceremony from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Canberra

#homeJames, Uncle Chris and I being sent off with a smoking ceremony from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Canberra

Digital literacy is often considered to be lacking in Aboriginal communities, yet smartphones, social media, games, music and film production can be prolific. Storytelling sits at the heart of social change, yet (despite increased solidarity) non-Aboriginals often haven’t experienced what life is like for remote communities such as those currently threatened with closure.

This begs the question: How can we harness the power of creative digital culture to improve Aboriginal rights?

reallybigroadtrip invites emerging or established artists, geeks, filmmakers and social change warriors to help respond to this question. Thanks to funding from Country Arts SA, travel (on the reallybigroadtrip bus, homeJames), subsistence and a negotiable artist’s fee will be provided to selected candidates.

Aboriginal applicants from South Australia and the APY Lands are strongly encouraged to apply.

About the project

The overall roadtrip will take place between April and August 2016. We aim to visit a number of Aboriginal communities, with locations and durations determined according to proposals received and permissions from those communities. Potential locations include (but are not restricted to) Adelaide, the Coorong, Point Pearce, Port Augusta, Coober Pedy, Ernabella and Alice Springs.

Our activities at each location will depend on the proposals received and subsequent conversations with selected artists. Anticipated activities include (but are not restricted to) workshops, screenings, exhibitions, creative productions and collaborations within each community. A budget for materials is available but know that we will preference legacy and agency over expensive, hard to access kit.

Expression of Interest

Please email fee@technoevangelist.net with an Expression of Interest (EOI) and a response to the question “How can we harness the power of creative digital culture to improve Aboriginal rights?” by February 22nd, 2016. Your EOI can be informal but should include your contact details and give us an indication of who you are, where you’re from, what you do, where you’d like to take us, why you chose that location, and what you’d like to share or create in our time together there.

A selection panel will review proposals and contact a shortlist of candidates for discussion around detailed logistics and collaboration. The final selection will be announced in March 2016.


Applicants are advised to check out the reallybigroadtrip.com blog, Facebook page and homeJames flickr album to get a feel for the journey so far. You can also email fee@technoevangelist.net with any queries prior to applying.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Frequently Asked Questions

I’m getting a few common questions coming through so will add them and their answers here as we go.

Does my project have to cover the entire April to August period?
No, the overall roadtrip can start in April and will finish at the end of August. Each project can last anywhere from a week or two upwards but are expected to be individual blocks within that four month period. Of course that largely depends on the proposals we receive – some might want to start in April then come back again at further stages, or might have a physical presence in one community then continue as a digital experience across the rest of the time. We’re keen to keep things open until we’ve seen what people want to do.

Do I have to be based in South Australia to apply?
No, the project’s activities will take place around South Australia and the APY Lands, but applicants can come from anywhere in Australia. Sadly we don’t have budgets for international travel, so if you are from overseas and want to apply we would love to hear from you but you will have to seek alternative funding for the international component of your travel.

Can I propose a project but not be involved in the roadtrip?
Possibly… but projects demonstrating an active engagement with community will be given preference. If you think you can demonstrate significant engagement without being physically present then feel free to send in your ideas, but please pay special attention to explaining how you think that can be achieved.

Why are you running this project?
I’ve not actually been asked this, but I felt it would be useful to give some background for those who don’t know me.

lateral drifts

Increasingly pissed off with Facebook’s continued disrespect for our personal rights and privacy, I’ve started using a new platform for my personal ramblings, to begin taking myself out of the anti-Net Neutrality world.

Known lets you publish status updates, etc, which are then pushed to Facebook, Twitter, etc (it’s in beta so there’s a lot more to come too). This means you own all rights to your content rather than giving them away to walled gardens that are more interested in your data than providing the open service you originally signed up for.

Check out more at http://withknown.com and follow my lateral drifts at http://fee.withknown.com.

Nomads in Residence

Since things are starting to hot-up around here it seems to be time to post a bit about what I mean by “Nomads in Residence”.

These nomads are basically my guests in the bus. They must be from the creative digital culture space but I’m really broad about that. By “digital culture” I mean artists, makers, hackers, coders, practitioners, researchers, games developers, animators, filmmakers, policy folk, arts workers, cultural practitioners… ummmmmmm…. other people who play creatively with technology. The point is to be INclusive, not EXclusive, so if you’re not included by title here but feel you should be included by practice then message me regardless.

I have a list of people I have already personally invited. I also have a bundle of folk I have just loved working with/around over the years and will be contacting in due course. But there’s also folk I stumble on/am introduced to who just spark something and need to be invited. For example, I just contacted my first total stranger because her work suits my thinking perfectly, and there might be the perfect match event coming up next year.

And then there’s the unknown-yet-by-me. Of which there are many!

I do not know everyone (or everything). Obviously. This whole project is about getting out there and seeing who/what I don’t know, as well as sharing who/what I do.


The ‘challenge’

  • Location: You don’t need to be from another country; plenty of you gorgeous Australians are on my list. I need to see this country through your eyes and be introduced to your networks too.
  • Your mission: I ask all my “Nomads in Residence” to define where you want to go, who you want to meet and what you want to achieve from your trip.
  • Networking: Once I know your intentions I can help make connections with people you could meet both with me and outside of your time with me. I really encourage you to spend extra time in this amazing country if you can. I can also follow up on people you tell me I should know about in case we can meet them together.
  • Duration: I would love you to stay with me as long as you can, but I understand time is a valuable commodity and you are probably travelling a fair distance. When I started visiting Australia from the UK our costs were often split across a few organisations and that worked a treat, but affects timing/demands, etc.
  • Monies: As you can see from my crowdfunding campaign, this is all very DIY. I would love to offer you travel/accommodation, a nice fat artists fee and a luxurious ‘maker’ budget, but that’s not something I can promise. Especially right now. But I can fundraise (either through crowdfunding targeted to both our communities or through traditional arts funding) and co-productions/shared visits are pretty straightforward to coordinate. You will at least get standard return flights, acommodation/food in the bus and some kind of artist fee.
  • Accommodation: The bus will have a ‘bedroom’ space, a sofa-bed in the ‘lounge’ space, a swag (traditional aussie sleeping bag/tent), and an extra tent. You can choose which you’d like, even on a daily basis.

The Bigger Picture

This often freaks people out when I talk about it; “Your plans are too big, Fee. Calm down and take one step at a time”… Um, no. I think big missions help you better achieve baby steps… but that’s just me.

The big picture plan is to start the model in Australia but then take the concept all over the world. I’ve already been talking to a University in Canada who likes the concept as a research methodology. At some point we’ll run a co-production together to raise funds for a bus and the same process over there. That bus would of course drive across Canada, down to America and then South America, scooping more locals and international en route. I’m also British, so at some stage I’ll be setting up another bus in the UK, which would go to Europe… and so on.

The really-big-picture is that eventually I would like to have a bus in (or within access of) every continent. While I’m not using it the bus would be available for other digital culture practitioners. If they maintain the bus and continue to support the concept (capturing/sharing data, etc) they can have it for free when it’s not being used. If they want to do their own thing then they can hire it and any proceeds will go back in to the project.

National / International

This really isn’t just an Australian project, it’s a digital one. Like the internet it’s inspired by community, collaboration, creativity and connection. The potential is huge but the baby steps are really manageable and realistic. It just takes a little bit of conversation and we can make amazing things happen together.

So if you’re interested, message me with some responses to the above ‘challenge’ and we’ll take it from there.

UPDATE: Get a flavour of some of the Nomads.