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NAIDOC Week 2021: How does Comedy Facilitate Healing?

The NAIDOC 2021 theme – Heal Country! – calls for all of us to continue to seek greater protections for our lands, our waters, our sacred sites and our cultural heritage from exploitation, desecration, and destruction. We're using this week to amplify the voices of the First Nations voices on the Australian comedy scene and in doing so, asking them how comedy facilitates healing. We've reached out to previous participants of our Deadly Funny program to have a chat about their journey and their relationship with comedy and culture.

We'll be adding to this page as NAIDOC week continues - so keep an eye out and come back to check out more stoires. 

Maureen FrenchJahmarley DawsonBel Mac | Dane SimpsonDeadly Funny Women

My name is Maureen French, I am a Darug woman from the Hawkesbury river area. I’ve only been doing comedy for 6 months. I’m actually a nurse of 50 years. And in that six months, my whole life has changed, it’s amazing. The people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had have just been amazing and wonderful. 

How can comedy help to facilitate healing, or contribute to healing country? 

It’s a fusion. It all comes together like a matrix. It’s a healing process. I mean. Reconciliation means coming together, and that’s what we’ve done (through comedy). We’ve come together. I think we need to stop looking at each other as Black, white, whatever, and do start to listen to each other’s backgrounds and stories. And we’ll understand more. Knowledge and education is the key that opens the door to our children’s future. The more they are educated, the more they learn about our past, the better they’ll be prepared for the future, so that it never happens again. 

We must not have that bitterness kill us off though, we must move forward, we must never forget, we MUST move forward. It is time to move forward. 

For full Q&A, head here.

Hey everyone, my name is Jahmarley Dawson, I’m actually the 2021 Deadly Funny National winner. I’m from Queensland, a proud Queenslander (though I do go for NSW, because my Dad is from there). We’re from Gamilaraay on my Dad’s side and Wangan on my Mum’s side.

How can comedy help to facilitate healing, or contribute to healing country? 

Having that cultural way that we’ve been living on this country for ten, fifteen, thirty, sixty thousand years, understanding the land, and how people are, and how everything mechanically moves with the Sun - comedy just runs in our DNA.

You have to be funny living in the bush with each other. Like imagine if we were out in the bush and fishing - you gotta make jokes up, otherwise it gets boring! It’s just how we are in Australia, it’s an Australian thing to do, take the piss out of each other.

Being positive people, fathers, uncles and aunties, and we just want to make them all very proud. Aboriginal people and Australian people, we share history now, for the last 250 years, and we’ve come a long way. And comedy is doing great things for Aboriginal people out there.

My generation, I come from 1995, I’ve seen my Dad do a lot of the cultural learning and the skills as I’ve grown up, and I can be funny and still come across to people, and not be a racist. I hate racists. Australian people can come together and make (comedy) shows like Deadly Funny, and we’re all winners. I can’t believe I’m THE winner, but we’re all winners. Australian people see that, and they see the way that it comes together, and I’m so grateful.

I reckon comedy is a really good way to come across - like some people might come across the wrong way, but because of Deadly Funny, I feel like I can make a difference.

For full Q&A, head here.

I’m a Kukatha / Wirangu / Kaurna / Ngarrindjerri woman from South Australia and I’ve been involved with Deadly Funny a couple of times over the years, I’ve also done Nungar Funny also, coincidentally. So around 2013 I reckon I figured out to be, and 2021. In 2021 I was lucky enough to be called up as a wildcard to come to Melbourne and be a part of the International Comedy Festival. Which was a BLAST. 

How can comedy help to facilitate healing, or contribute to healing country? 

I think when it comes to Deadly Funny, and doing stand-up, is that we were all able to take a story of our own diverse lives and our own experiences as Aboriginal and Torres Strafit Islanders, that it allowed to tell a story in an environment where it was ok: Where we could share about ourselves. We could share that piece of our reality that comes from all our experiences as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and it be OK. It be accepted. Whether it be about how you walk, how you play the didge, your aunties, being a mother, evolving as a person yourself, and the rawness that comes from doing comedy. 

It’s very vulnerable to do comedy. You’re really putting yourself out there. It’s not like “I’m doing this music, or I’m doing this play”, it’s like “This. Is. Me. 100% all me.” And you’re putting it out there and you’re able to tell your stories. And that’s what we do as a culture, we’re storytellers. And so to be able to have the contemporary and traditional culture blended in with this magnificent and supportive stage, with likeminded people who have either walked the walk themselves, or respect the walk in itself, you do get a greater sense of “I can breathe now… I can breathe”. And I came back breathing. 

For full Q&A, head here.

I’m Dane Simpson, I live in Wagga Wagga, my mob is from Walgett, NSW on Gamilaraay country. I was born in Bundaberg, in Queensland, that’s my Mum’s mob. I was the host of Deadly Funny this year, in 2021.

How can comedy help to facilitate healing, or contribute to healing country? 

There is something really connecting between the performer and the audience when everyone is Indigenous, Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, whatever mob you’re from, you’re connecting to these Black stories. Sometimes you can’t help it, if you’re mob, you’re mob. Like I might tell some jokes and stuff, but I AM Aboriginal, I can’t help it but have that flavour through it, I can’t help but see the world through my own eyes, that’s just how I am.

And it’s just so cool to have an audience with similar experiences, and I’m telling these yarns and they’re like “yeah, I know what you mean. I’m from that, sort of, culture, from that idea that you’re trying to get across”. And it’s just so cool, and it feels like you’re all in on the joke… It’s that feeling of connection. For example you see a comedian do The Angels’ song “Am I Ever Going to See You Again”. And the crowd start singing “no way, get f**ked, f**k off!”. It’s that same feeling, but for your whole set, because everyone knows where you’re coming from and where you’re going. They’ve grown up the same way, and it’s cool.

For full Q&A, head here.


As part of NAIDOC week 2020, three of Australia’s finest First Nations comedians discuss their lived experiences and the opportunities and barriers facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in the comedy industry. 

'There's one thing that you can give to oppressed people to empower them above anything else and that's a voice that is listened to and taken seriously. And the best way to make that voice be heard is if it's also making people laugh. If you can make people laugh they're gonna listen to you. It's a very soft way to deliver some really hard truths.' - Steph Tisdell

'I mean, we carry so much fricking trauma every day of our lives, you know, with suicide, with deaths in custody, you know with intergenerational trauma that, yeah hell yeah, we wanna go and escape stuff and have a good laugh and hear our own jokes.' - Karla Hart