Circus Corridor, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia; SeedArts Australia, NSW Northern Rivers, Australia
Bio: Simone O’Brien is a contemporary performance maker specializing in circus and physical theatre since 1990. She has created works with the corporate, educational, youth, disability and community sectors including large-scale site works in East Timor, intimate works in cars and social circus projects with regional and remote communities in Australia. She is the co-founder of Circus Corridor, SeedArts Australia and notorious feminist aerial icons Club Swing and lives in Mullumbimby, Australia.
Title: Cirque du Coraki: a social circus project about a small town & the world’s greatest tight wire walker Con Colleano – an Australian First Nation’s man
Abstract: Con Calleano was born in Lismore, Australia in Bundjalung territory in 1899 as Cornelius Sullivan to an Irish father and a First Nations mother (Gamilaroi) of West Indian heritage.
Coraki, population 1,500, is in Bundjalung territory; it lies 20 minutes from Lismore with a significant Indigenous population. Cirque du Coraki’ (CdC) is a 4 year social circus program and partnership between Coraki Public School, Circus-in-Education and a Spaghetti Circus, a regional youth circus from Mullumbimby’. The CdC program aims to increase Indigenous self esteem and school attendance through, amongst other strategies, employing professional Indigenous artists as trainers, leaders and career role models because “several key factors in schools support growth in achievement for Indigenous students: leadership… and Indigenous presence” (ACER, 2005).
In 2017, the project focused on contemporary Indigenous storytelling and local circus heroes, such as Lismore’s Con Colleano, who achieved international stardom as the Wizard of the Wire, passing off as a Spanish matador at a time when Aboriginal people were considered flora and fauna.
This paper celebrates Con’s identity and agility as circus sleight-of-hand to outmaneuver oppression. It explores creative links between Con’s legacy and social circus to investigate existing barriers and pathways to success for regional Indigenous youth.