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Elders in Conversation: Noel Tovey


Event Status

As part of our focus on ageing, we’re presenting a number of elders in conversation. They’ll each share their experiences of a life that spans several decades, as well as social and personal change.

What have they learned along the way? What are they passionate about? And what does the accumulated wisdom of their past have to teach us about the future?

Noel Tovey AM is an actor, director, choreographer and was the artistic director for the Indigenous welcoming ceremony for the Sydney Olympics.

His roots are in Melbourne’s slums, where he was sexually abused from age four, abandoned by his parents aged six, bashed for being black, and ended up on the streets as a thief and ‘rent boy’. Arrested and incarcerated for buggery at the age of 17, he contemplated suicide – but the voices of his ancestors prevented him and turned his life around, and he achieved his dream of being a dancer and actor, becoming a principal dancer with Sadler’s Wells Opera Ballet and an acclaimed choreographer. Noel returned to Australia in 1991 to contribute to the Indigenous community; he frequently speaks out for the rights of LGBT elders.

Noel has suffered crippling discrimination and seen – and agitated for – significant social change, expanding the rights of Indigenous and LGBT people. He will share and reflect on what he’s learned.


Noel Tovey

Noel Tovey AM has had a career spanning 60 years in Europe and Australia as an actor, dancer, singer, director, choreographer, designer, writer and teacher. He is Australia’s first male ballet dancer of Indigenous heritage. He studied ballet with Madame Borovansky in Melbourne and Drew Hardy in Lo... Read more

Richard Watts

Richard Watts is the National Performing Arts Editor of industry website ArtsHub; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre’s volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, a... Read more


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176 Little Lonsdale Street Melbourne Victoria 3000

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Centre stands. We acknowledge and pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Elders, past and present, as the custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.