Published by Belvoir
10 November 2020

Belvoir is pleased to announce the brilliant emerging writer and playwright Jorjia Gillis as the 2020 Balnaves Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fellow. Jorjia is a proud Saltwater woman of the Budawang tribe of the Yuin nation. The Fellowship is an evolution of the Balnaves Foundation Indigenous Playwright Award, which has long been recognised as one of the most prestigious playwriting awards in Australia.

A $25,000 paid residency at Belvoir, the Balnaves Foundation Fellowship offers an opportunity to work across production, programming and development in 2021 including the commissioned development of Jorjia’s new work Throwback which has already impressed this year’s panel of judges. Past recipients of the Fellowship and Award, include Nathan Maynard, Kodie Bedford, Leah Purcell, Nakkiah Lui, Jada Alberts, Megan Wilding, Katie Beckett and Ursula Yovich.
Over the course of her career to date Jorjia has amassed an impressive list of credits as a performer, writer, story consultant and director. She has worked across theatre, television and film and her training has taken her across Australia and to the UK.

In her new play, Throwback, Cassandra is making history as the first Aboriginal woman to be made Artistic Director of a major theatre company. She has a safe, and financially lucrative season in the barrel and is feeling good about her trajectory, and then on the eve of the launch she receives a phone call about a break in and is immediately called back to her family home. Back in the home she fossicks through her old room, replete with its inflatable furniture and fluffy pens from the early 2000s. As she is uncovering old secrets she unearths a series of ghosts from not-quite-Christmas past; Ginger Spice, Andrew Johns and George Michael to be precise. What follows is an outrageous blak-Dickensian romp about family, history, and reckoning with a painful past.

“I’m excited and honoured to be the 2020 Balnaves Fellowship recipient, 15-year-old Jorjia would be very proud right now.” said Gillis “I look to all the storytellers who have come before me and who have paved the way, previous recipients like Leah Purcell who have mentored and inspired me as an artist. 2020 has been a tough year and to have the opportunity to develop my play through the Balnaves fellowship is life changing. I look forward to working with Belvoir over the next 10 months and to be back with community making theatre.”

Hamish Balnaves, CEO, The Balnaves Foundations said “We believe that philanthropy can make a significant contribution by supporting the next generation of artists and funding new Australian work at the creative development stage. New Indigenous works, that educate and challenge, play an important part in truth telling, treaty and reconciliation. We would like to congratulate Jorjia on the award and are excited to see how she will use the fellowship to further her exceptional work to date”.