The arts. My family. Our history.

Aboriginal actor, Madeleine Madden, shares her personal story of growing up indigenous in 21st century Australia.

I grew up in a very political and creative family. I’ve always been surrounded by the indigenous art scene, which has definitely shaped me as a person. The only indigenous person I can remember seeing on mainstream television that was aimed at my age demographic was Deb Mailman on Play School. And the only other place I saw diversity was on the US Disney Channel. It was the only channel I felt I was represented on. That’s So Raven was one of my favourites, the black female protagonist was whom I felt I could identify with. 

I have always been inspired by the people who have worked tirelessly to better the Indigenous community.

I’ve always been taught to voice my opinion and express myself creatively. Growing up in a family involved in the arts, creatives have always been in my life. I look up to the people that fight for our rights and tell our stories, whether it be by showcasing their work in the National Gallery of Victoria, working in parliament or helping out on the streets amongst the community.

On both my mother and father’s side, we are a very strong family. Without their support I wouldn’t be in the position I am in today. Unfortunately that is not the case for every indigenous family. A major reason for this remains The Stolen Generations, which continues to have a huge impact on the Aboriginal community. (Editor’s note – The Stolen Generations, also known as Stolen Children, were the children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were removed from their families by Australian Federal and State government agencies and church missions, under acts of parliament, between 1905-1969.) Our sense of family, community and the importance of storytelling are extremely important in our culture. The Stolen Generations stripped so many people of their confidence and tore them away from their families and communities, which still affects the indigenous people of this country very deeply. 

Generation One

I’ve always said that having an opinion is important, as it defines who you are. Particularly in the arts; you have the freedom to express yourself and communicate your views on the world. I’m a very passionate person, which can be good and bad. For me, I could only work in the arts. I’m able to channel everything I’m feeling or have experienced, good and bad, into art and make it positive. Which brings me to Generation One – a national movement launched by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2010, which focused on ending the disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within one generation.

Living in a country where indigenous people have been downtrodden, isolated and rejected from society since colonisation, social issues like crime, substance abuse, mental illness and suicide have become an epidemic across the indigenous community. Being able to voice these concerns and issues in a positive, creative or political way is important. 

It was paramount for me as a young indigenous woman living in this country, dealing with racism and inequality, to communicate these matters. It’s important that we as the younger generation, not just indigenous people, but all Australians, come together and discuss these issues and ways to tackle inequality and injustices in this country. 

Ready For This

I had two job offers early last year, one of them I knew would give my career momentum and the other was Ready For is - the Australian teen-oriented television drama series. I had to choose due to the overlap of shooting schedules, but I knew that Ready For is would be a milestone in my career.

I knew that being a part of Australia’s first all indigenous children’s television program was necessary for children, especially indigenous, to see the community represented in mainstream Australian television. 

Ready For This has since become an acclaimed show, taking out the AACTA Award for ‘Best Children’s Television Series’ and the Logie Award for ‘Most Outstanding Children’s Program’, and also nominated for a 2016 International Emmy Award. It’s a show for people of all ages and ethnicities and has been received really well and is respected on a wide spectrum. I still feel Australia has a long way to go in terms of representing diversity in mainstream media, but shows like RFT are paving the way.


Words by Madeleine Madden.

Artwork by Noni Cragg.