Arts leadership breaks down barriers

Growing up in Darwin, cultural immersion was a big part of life for Yola. An Indonesian-Australian  of Makassan and Moluccan ethnicity, every aspect of her life was touched by culture. Prior to colonisation, Yola’s family members had a strong treaty with Aboriginal people in the north of Australia. Shared medicine, recipes, spices and  similarities in songlines and dance connected  her ancestors to the Larrakia, Djerimanga and  Wadjiginy people. 

That connection continued with Yola’s dad, an earth  mover. He worked with Aboriginal communities in and around Darwin, making access roads to connect communities. But the connection didn’t stop there. Yola’s family were welcomed like  siblings and she spent years dancing in the same  Aboriginal communities — just one of many times  in Yola’s life when art has given her common  ground with people who could have been perceived  as ‘other’. 

As a recipient of an Unrestricted Scholarship to the  ARLP, Yola went into the two-week experience in  the Kimberley feeling like a fringe dweller. Which she was — Yola was the only participant who didn’t  belong to a specific organisation or industry.  

“I walked into a room in which people’s identity  was very tied up in the job title that they held. I was  hard to pigeonhole because people struggle with  the intangible — if you don’t fit into any box, who are you and what do you stand for?”  

For Yola, who entered the ARLP with no expectations, because “that’s the way I choose to  exist,” the key benefit of the program has been a strong sense of self-actualisation. “Imposter  syndrome has disappeared,” she says. “And that  impacts how you carry yourself in any space”. 

Yola’s strict upbringing, cultural expectations and  immersion in Indonesian, Aboriginal and Australian  cultures made her an expert at code-switching  from a young age. As a bilingual woman of colour  working among both miners and creatives, it’s a practice she effortlessly continues today.  

This unique perspective impacted her fellow participants — through creativity and dance, Yola  encouraged them to break down barriers. Playing with language and movement in a non-threatening  environment breeds a practice of challenging  power structures, which, when taken into the  real world, results in more people from diverse  backgrounds being given the tools they need to  become leaders. 

And that’s what Yola is all about — taking the tools  that she learned through the ARLP and sharing  them with people who are marginalised. Enhancing  inclusion, equity, and equipping young people with  the tools they need to become our leaders in the  future.

Yola received an alumni funded unrestricted scholarship to participate in the Australian Rural Leadership Program 25.

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