Joann Russo, a Kuku Yalanji woman from Ingham North Queensland, is one of the shining lights leading the way for others having successfully chartered a career drawn from skills she learned as an arts worker to becoming the first Aboriginal woman appointed as Manager of the Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre.
The Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre, located in the Far North Queensland town of Cardwell, is a community hub for 9 language groups covering 25,000 square kilometres and is home to multi-award winning Indigenous artists and designers.
‘I am excited to see what the future holds for the art centre considering it’s the first time an Aboriginal person has taken the helm,’ Joann said. ‘I hope that I can inspire and be an example for other Mob to step up and become leaders within their own communities and art centres.’
‘The Elders and members of Girringun have been my biggest supporters. They are the ones who gave me the opportunity to step up into my current role. I am forever grateful for their support and know I can confidently continue to honour their vision with them.’
A graduate of the National Gallery of Australia’s Arts Leadership program, Joann has gone from strength to strength as a strong advocate for Indigenous voices and culture to be seen and heard.
She is one of many individuals who have benefited from the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support (IVAIS) program, which provides employment and pathways for arts workers to gain skills and build corporate knowledge which can be passed on to others.
In 2019, Joann was appointed as a Director of the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation Board and in 2020 was appointed a position on the Indigenous Art Centre Alliance (IACA) management committee.
Building on professional skills to assist arts workers to move into management roles is essential to strengthen the sector.
That is why one of the key outcomes of the recently released National Indigenous Visual Arts Action plan is providing training and professional development for art centre managers, board members, Indigenous arts workers and artists who are seeking independent business opportunities.
The Action Plan outlines a 5-year pathway to safeguard and grow a vibrant and sustainable Indigenous visual arts sector.