Interview with Ros Sailor, Indigenous Arts and Culture Leader Townsville

Ros Sailor was born in Cloncurry; relocating to Townsville nearly 40 years ago. Her mother’s traditional Country is Wanji on the border of the Northern Territory and Queensland and her father is Kuku Yalanji from Cape York Peninsula. Ros became involved in working with community in the early 90’s working in arts and crafts as well as founding the Jurragai Dance Group. She has also worked with the Townsville City Council; organising Family Fun Days in the parks and gardens throughout the city.

After the passing of one of the Elders involved in the company, the dance group decided to rebrand as the Big Eye Theatre. Big Eye Theatre a not for profit community organistation supporting and promoting Indigenous Theatre, Arts and Artists in North Queensland. The Big Eye Theatre focuses on performing plays in traditional language as a way to engage younger generations and pass on culture and heritage through performance. The theatre company has performed extensively as a part of the Townsville Cultural Centre program. However, The Cultural Centre site near the Museum of the Tropical North is currently under redevelopment.

Cultural Arts Centre Townsville Relocation

During this redevelopment Big Eye has relocated the Cultural Centre Gallery shop to Stockland Shopping Centre in Aitkenvale where Ros is responsible for operational running of the pop-up. The group was initially approached by the Stockland management as part of their reconciliation action plan; to create an exhibition as part of a NAIDOC week event in 2017. The CEO and management were so impressed that they have allowed a gallery and working space for local Aboriginal artists to stay on. This was 8 months ago.

What does Ros want to see happen in the future?

Ros is very keen to use the gallery as a training facility for visual artists and young people to teach them skills in curation and arts management. As well as training the younger generation, Ros also wants to build the profile of local Indigenous artists practicing within the Townsville region. She wants to take the promotion of their artists to the next level.  ‘We have so many amazing artists in Townsville, performing artists, visual arts, music, that is the way our culture evolved and changed. They are cultural practitioners and professionals in their own right.’

Big Eye is the caretaker of the Cultural Centre gallery but are not funded and are reliant on the goodwill of others volunteering their time and expertise. The group undergo professional development with the volunteers, and hope to be able to obtain funding to employ staff to run the gallery and develop new works in the future.

The new location has meant that the gallery has seen an increase in walk-by foot traffic, with customers popping in and enquiring about artworks and artists. ‘Being based in Stockland is bringing the art to the people of Townsville, they are getting the right stories and hearing from our artists.’ says Ros.

Ros is currently also working on Corroboree 2020, a project titled ‘Through Our Eyes’ which will be held from 1 May – 8 June 2020. This is a six-week festival remembering the 250 years since Captain Cooks arrival in Australia.  The event will be held at different venues throughout Townsville locally as well as regionally, acknowledging First Nations stories from the coast line. By showcasing these stories with a variety of programs including of exhibitions, dance, storytelling, theatre, poetry, film and forums Big Eye hopes to encourage debate and discussions, and to have local stories recorded educational purposes and for future generations.


Cultural Arts Centre Townsville:

Big Eye Theatre: