Leah Purcell.

Actor, writer, director and producer Leah Purcell will deliver the Hector Crawford memorial lecture on November 22 at Screen Producers Australia’s Screen Forever conference.

SPA CEO Matt Deaner said: “Against the milestone of the 25th anniversary of Screen Australia’s Indigenous Unit, Leah’s story is a triumph unlike any other in our industry when you consider the breadth and range of her work to date.

“Leah is not only an accomplished creative in her own right but also a fierce advocate for Indigenous storytellers involved in every facet of the creative process and a loyal supporter of the ‘Make It Australian’ campaign – a campaign in fact started by the namesake of this Memorial lecture.”

Her nomination for the AACTA award for best lead actress in a TV drama for Wentworth is the latest accolade in a career which last year saw her triumph at the AWGIE Awards, Helpmann Awards, UNESCO City of Film Awards and Victorian Premier Literary Awards, all for her retelling of Henry Lawson’s classic ‘The Drover’s Wife’.

Her first professional break came in 1993 when she was cast in Bran Nue Dae, touring Australia to rave reviews. Moving to Sydney after the death of her mother, her seminal play Box the Pony was the smash hit of the 1997 Festival of the Dreaming and has since played to sell-out seasons at Belvoir St Theatre, the Sydney Opera House, the 1999 Edinburgh Festival and a season at the Barbican Theatre in London in 2000.

Roles in Police Rescue, Jindabyne and The Marriage of Figaro followed. In 1996 she established the independent Indigenous production company Bungabura Productions and began developing her own slate of projects with an authentic Indigenous voice.

Black Chicks Talking, Coloured Inn and Moxie Girls were created, written, creatively produced, directed, acted and musically inspired by Purcell.

Long before the term “showrunner” became part of the entertainment vernacular, she took control and steered the creation of her own intellectual property. As SPA says, she carved a new pathway which opened the floodgates for a new generation of Indigenous talent.

The Drover’s Wife has been commissioned as a a film, TV series and novel. Speaking to Screen Australia about re-imagining the classic tale for a modern audience, she said: “I want to put my black pepper on anything I touch. I’m always asking – how can I put my blackness through this? I love history and if I can tell a story that can also tell my Indigenous heritage and culture then I’ll absolutely do it.”

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