NAIDOC profile: Michael Leslie Foundation for the Performing Arts

Posted: July 6th, 2011

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Eugene Lyndon, a Michael Leslie student, before his trip to Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of The Michael Leslie Foundation for the Performing Arts.)

Since its beginnings in 2006, the Michael Leslie Foundation for the Performing Arts has been empowering children in the Pilbara to reach their potential through the performing arts. The many programs run by the foundation all share a common goal of helping people gain self confidence and overcome self-defeating attitudes.

Choreographer Michael Leslie is passionate about changing the lives of young people in the Pilbara. “Performing arts is the way to inspire confidence,” said Michael. “Children need to be taught that they are beautiful, that they are unique. Performing arts is a way for kids to express themselves, and get that confidence… Aboriginal people are cultural people. Singing, acting, dancing- it’s all storytelling. It’s a part of us.”

Michael is motivated by past injustices to Indigenous Australians and a desire to help Indigenous kids become leaders. “Kids need to be supported… I can relate to them because I went through all the same things in my childhood that they are going through now. I set up the foundation to give Aboriginal kids the advantage I had,” said Michael.

The foundation has many different facets, including after school programs, creative writing and adult literacy, workshops, mentoring, and international leadership programs. Currently Michael visits schools throughout the Pilbara to teach performing arts, bringing with him singers, actors and playwrights as guest teachers. The students then visit other schools to perform. He is working on setting up a regional school choir next term.

Through strong corporate partnerships he also supports students to travel internationally to participate in dance and leadership events. Earlier this year he went with three young Pilbara dancers, Treya Long and Kiefer and Eugene Lyndon, to the 23rd Annual International Association of Blacks in Dance conference in Los Angeles, California.

“I try to expose the students to new experiences and open their eyes to the world. It isn’t just about dance, it’s about leadership. Aboriginal people need strong, innovative, savvy leaders. That will make Australia a better country for everyone.”

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Across Australia every July, NAIDOC Week celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In honour of NAIDOC 2011 YMAC is featuring a series of Aboriginal people and organisations that contribute to the vibrant Aboriginal culture of the Midwest and Pilbara. For more information on NAIDOC including its history and events happening near you, visit