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Yaegl woman Pauline Clague has been awarded this year’s $20,000 Natalie Miller Fellowship, which “supports the professional leadership of aspirational women in all sectors of the Australian screen industry”. Image: Contributed.

Yaegl woman awarded fellowship

Geoff Helisma |


Self-described story teller and producer, Yaegl woman Pauline Clague, has been awarded this year’s $20,000 Natalie Miller Fellowship.

The Natalie Miller Fellowship (NMF) supports the professional leadership of aspirational women in all sectors of the Australian screen industry; with the aim of developing further skills, knowledge and connections through fellowships and programs, the NMF website states.

“Pauline has been a trailblazer, teacher and mentor among first nations filmmakers for many years and we are delighted to champion her important work to the wider industry,” president of the Natalie Miller Fellowship, Sue Maslin AO, said in a statement on the website.

“We look forward to working with Pauline to build more leadership and career development opportunities for indigenous women going forward.”

Natalie Miller said that Ms Clague was “our first member of the Indigenous community to receive this award and we hope not the last”.

“Leadership, which is what the fellowship is all about, is nowhere more important than in your community and we look forward to more leaders emerging through the work you are undertaking.

“You have a very impressive career to date and we look forward to the results of your fellowship project.”

Earlier this year, Ms Clague was one of three finalists for NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year 2020.

“It is such an honour to be the recipient of the Natalie Miller Fellowship for 2020,” Ms Clague said.

“This year has been so turbulent for our industry and so much of the arts has had a hit during this time of covid.

“To be supported by a fellowship named after a strong woman, Natalie Miller, who introduced foreign cinema to Australia, I am hoping to show the lens of Indigenous cinema in a new light; to be a part of enhancing our identity and to continue to shape our next generation of filmmakers.”

Speaking with the Independent, Ms Clague said when she “first started in the [film] industry” and subsequently “working on things like ‘Message Stick’ at the ABC, [she] could see that people were hungry for the stories, because they’d never heard them before”.

“So opening the world up at that time was something that was very important for our country, to engage with those kinds of stories.

“That’s why I work in this industry; because it’s about raising the voices of my people to strengthen a way forward that has positive images, not just about our mob, but about white Australia as well.

“We have a history that is a shared history, but it’s also about making sure that voices are heard in a time when there is a lot of noise because of social media.

“So we have to make sure that we do right by, not just the person we are telling the story of, but also by the audience.

“You have to balance and weigh up the way in which you tell the stories, so it engages with a community in a way that helps to define the conversation in much more of a positive way than in a negative way.

“That’s one thing I’ve always tried to, whether it’s NITV, the ABC or my own work, it’s got to instil this idea of ‘everyone has a story to tell’, but we always have to make sure that we’re getting the right message across so the audience is able to engage with that story in the right way.”

Ms Clague, who is also an associate professor at the University of Technology Sydney, has worked in the film industry for about 26 years.

Her first two projects, with director Rima Tamou, were documentaries: one about the houses built at Hillcrest, Maclean, and the other for the NSW Labour Council’s Indigenous drama initiative – a short film titled Round Up.