Dr Pearson, who is of far north Queensland eastern Kuku Yalanji and Torres Strait Islander heritage, gained her PhD in Health Economics and Social Policy from the University of South Australia. She is now a Senior Research Fellow at UniSA and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute.
Dr Pearson said open access festivals like the Fringe provided a range of health benefits for artists and audiences alike.
“Whether you’re making or engaging with and artistic work, it’s quite therapeutic and it’s a great way to express yourself and share your culture,” Dr Pearson said. “It’s for this reason I was happy to accept a position as a member of the Adelaide Fringe Board, and I look forward to helping this fantastic festival continue its work to make the arts as accessible as possible.”
Adelaide Fringe Board Chair David Minear said Dr Pearson brought with her a valuable set of skills and her appointment further reflected the festival’s commitment to cultural inclusivity.
“Her in-depth research background, high-level education and hands-on experience with the health and well-being of Indigenous Australians all make her a significant and valued addition to the Board of the Adelaide Fringe,” Mr Minear said. “The Adelaide Fringe has a deep commitment and true desire to showcase First Nations culture and heritage and to continue to change minds and perceptions. For me, being truly aware and genuinely inclusive of Indigenous people, culture, art and history shouldn’t be a sometimes thing. It is something we need to be always aware of and respectful of. As the saying goes, art can change hearts and minds, and Odette gives us more power to deliver that aim.”
Also welcoming Dr Pearson to the Adelaide Fringe Board is newly appointed Deputy Chair Lisa Bishop, who last night accepted the role and has more than 20 years’ experience in the private, public and not-for-profit sector working in music, tourism, events, health, film, TV and the arts.
Dr Pearson’s appointment coincides with Indigenous Business Month, which this year is celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in business.
It also coincides with the recent announcement of Adelaide Fringe Director and CEO Heather Croall as Chair of the newly created SA Aboriginal Employment Cluster in Arts and Culture.
Ms Croall instigated the formation of the Cluster, which consists of creative industries employers who are committed to increasing Aboriginal participation and employment in the arts in South Australia.
She said her appointment as Chair of the Cluster followed her graduation from the Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program and was an extension of Adelaide Fringe’s focus on creating a culturally safe place for its employees across all departments.
“We want the Fringe to be an inclusive festival where Aboriginal artists and producers can thrive. We want the visibility of Aboriginal people to increase in the Adelaide Fringe, and we welcome Aboriginal artists to participate and for people from all communities to engage with the Fringe in all areas,” Ms Croall said. “Adelaide Fringe has an ongoing commitment to reconciliation and aims to provide opportunities to increase the pool of skilled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts workers in the arts sector.”
Other initiatives of Adelaide Fringe to promote reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians include:
- Collaboration with Kaurna Cultural Advisor and Co-Producer of Ceremonies Karl Telfer including a sunrise smoking ceremony to mark the start of the Fringe season since 2008 and Opening Weekend event Tindo Utpurndee – Sunset Ceremony since 2015
- An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander work placement program since 2013
- Cultural awareness training for all staff through the Department of Industry and Skills, Tauondi Aboriginal Community College and Karl Telfer
- 20% of Adelaide Fringe Artist Fund grants have been awarded to Indigenous art groups including Tal-Kin-Jeri Dance Group, YELLAKA and Tandanya
- A Reconciliation Policy and working on a Reconciliation Action Plan
Photo: Heather Croall, Odette Pearson, David Minear in front of artwork by Lisa King. Photo credit Trentino Priori