The team recently completed a collaborative three-year project with Performing Lines, to assist them to evaluate their Indigenous Community Engagement Coordinator position.

For those not familiar with Performing Lines, the organisation produces new and transformative performances, and initiates creative and strategic opportunities for diverse contemporary artists whose work pushes boundaries and sparks new conversations. 

They created the Indigenous Community Engagement Coordinator role to assist presenters to develop closer connections with their local Indigenous communities, build their Indigenous audiences, and broaden the reach of Indigenous theatre and dance work being presented in venues across the country. 

Our Managing Director Tandi Palmer Williams sat down with Karilyn Brown and Narelle Lewis of Performing Lines, to pick their brains about the project.

What were the main drivers for Performing Lines to initiate this evaluation?

Karilyn: In 2015 Performing Lines was successful in securing Australia Council funding for an Indigenous community engagement pilot project, to be implemented in association with the Blak Lines tour of Head Full of Love. We were delighted to appoint Denise Wilson, a proud Aboriginal woman from the Kamilaroi Nation (around Walhallow, NSW) as Indigenous Community Engagement Coordinator. 

We thought that articulating the benefit and value of this role and the outcomes from the project would be important for the presenters, Performing Lines and the Australia Council. To our knowledge, there was no other program like this in the performing arts in Australia at the time, and we were keen to develop a model that could be applied for future Blak Lines tours, as well as for our non-Indigenous tours in order to continue to build engagement with local Indigenous communities. 

Narelle: We hoped the project may create a blueprint that other organisations may be able to follow in instigating their own community engagement programs, and saw a thorough evaluation as a way of testing this idea.

Why did you choose to work with a research agency? 

Karilyn: We wanted professional expertise in the development of the framework for the project's evaluation and report, so that Denise and the team could start collating and compiling relevant information and data from the outset.

What is the main thing Performing Lines has taken away from the research?

Karilyn: Following the pilot, we were fortunate to be in a position to continue the ICEC role with Denise on a part time basis. She worked on the 2016 Blak Lines tour of Sugarland, and the 2017 tour of Saltbush, as well as taking on some Associate Producing responsibilities working with Narelle. We set aside resources to create the three evaluations as a suite of case studies for the performing arts sector in Australia. 

Narelle: Denise and I presented insights from the program at the Australian Performing Arts Centres Conference in 2016, and Head Full of Love, the first tour in the study, was also awarded best regional tour of the year. 

The evaluation was also featured in the Australia Council’s Building Audiences research in 2017, as a case study of interest to the wider sector. 

Karilyn: It’s important to have these kinds of evaluations available in a public forum rather than tucked away in the archives as acquittals.


For any questions about this work, please contact us at

You can read more about this project in the Indigenous Community Engagement Coordinator Evaluation report

Image: Saltbush – photo courtesy of Performing Lines


About the Author

Penny Cannan
Business Administrator

Penny has a background in Art and Design, Communications, Brand Identity and Project Management.  Her broad experience brings a fresh perspective to the team and her passion for all things creative meshes with the Patternmakers vibe.