Actor and musician Joel Jackson reflects on his time as been part of Operation Pilbara 2005 a joint project between The Australian Theatre for Young People (atyp) and Black Swan, sponsored by Pilbara Iron (a member of the Rio Tinto Group). This project aimed to give the youth of the Pilbara an opportunity to experience high quality theatre and drama skills training.
Joel is best known for his role as Charles Bean in Deadline Gallipoli and Peter Allen in Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door. For both roles, he was nominated for and won the 2015 AACTA Award for Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama.
I can’t remember how old I was when Operation Pilbara came to my small town (at that stage) of Karratha. But it was the first time it felt like something that had everything I was interested in or curious about had found me. Headed by the great Phil Thomson and his talented team; including a hilarious and passionate clown, Craig Williams, it was an experience in all things theatre and the power of your own creativity.
We wrote songs, made skits, explored dance and different movement techniques. At the end of it all we put on a show to what seemed like a huge audience, but to us it wouldn’t have mattered. We were kids from the bush; Newman, Dampier, Tom Price and Karratha, who were champing at the bit to stretch our creativity, we were in our element.
My fond memory of that time is that it didn’t instil in me that I had to become a performer, it wasn’t a pressured learning environment with an expectation of an outcome. It was a safe haven for kids to craft their natural, untethered ability and expand upon it.
Working with other like-minded youngsters, we consolidated our talents and collaborated to make something fun that also gave us a huge burst of confidence. After all, we were living in a region of the country where theatre and the arts was not a huge part of the local community tapestry. This has since changed with three participants, of the Operation Pilbara group I was part of, going onto study at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts and West Australian Academy of Performing Arts.
The opportunity that Operation Pilbara afforded us as young would be performers is not lost on me now, but back then it was the best school holiday we ever had. My thanks to all who were involved with it and I hope you continue to give the next generation the opportunity and confidence you gave me.
Image by Peter Brew Bevan.