Talking About... Jade Lillie
Directions Talking about… is a series of interviews with practicing artists, artsworkers and practitioners. In these interviews we discuss arts and cultural practice and identify the many various ways of engaging and working with the arts industry. We aim to offer articles that demystify the arts industry, and effectively extend the knowledge of arts educators and students, or artists embarking on their career pathway or life in the arts.
Meet Jade Lillie.
Jade is an arts and community cultural development practitioner, arts executive, educator and facilitator.
Living on the Sunshine Coast for the first 18 years of her life, Jade then hit the road to Brisbane, followed by Mossman, Far North Queensland. Following a stint as a High School Drama and English Teacher in Mossman, Jade describes her geographical life a little like this: "Brisbane, Thailand, India, Nepal, Darwin, South East Arnhem Land, Thailand, India, Brisbane, Thailand, New York, Brisbane and now, Thailand again!"
Since 2000, Jade has been developing her practice and philosophy around the belief that arts and culture, underpinned by sound engagement and social justice frameworks, are tools for social and systemic change.
With a vast range of skills and expertise in arts management, community cultural development, education (alternative and mainstream) and training, facilitation, program development and management, consultation and engagement, change management, concept and framework development, policy development and interpretation, strategic development and planning, she has an impressive skill set that has taken her across the world and back and developed an outstanding reputation with in the Australian arts community.
In the interview below find out a little more about Jade and her fascinating cultural journey.
Directions Jade... Who are you?
Jade: I am Jade Lillie. I have had the pleasure of working with communities across Australia in regional, remote and metropolitan communities. I work primarily in the fields of arts and community cultural development. I work with people who use arts and culture as tools to tell stories, aspire for change and, to engage with the world.
Directions: What do you do?
Jade: Basically, I am an Arts Executive and Community Cultural Development practitioner. Primarily, I work in arts and cultural development organisations. Over the past 6 years, I have worked with Arts Queensland as a Policy Officer, SpeakOut (now known as Human Ventures) as the Youth and Community Programs Manager, Brisbane City Council as the Team Leader, Community Arts and Cultural Development and with Contact Inc as the Business Capacity Manager.
For now, I am based in Thailand working as an Arts Management Advisor for Chiang Mai based organisations that focus on human rights and anti-trafficking issues. Australian Volunteers International funds my position. I will be in Chiang Mai, in this role until November 2012.
Directions: How did you get to be doing what your doing?
In 2010, I was an Asialink Arts Management Resident with Makhampom Community Theatre in Chiang Dao, Northern Thailand. Whilst with Makhampom, I met a group of people, from Australia who were working in Chiang Mai with non-profit organisations. They were funded through AVI – Australian Volunteers International. People were interested in what I was doing and, what on earth Arts Management even was. As I started to talk about it, many of volunteers would say ‘the organisation I work with needs someone like you!’ … So, after returning to Australia in November 2010, I began working with AVI and Gabfai Community Theatre to develop an Arts Management position that could work across a number of organisations. And, here I am!
Directions: Tell us a little about why do you do what you do?
Jade: Well, I love it! The work inspires me, I love working within an arts management role in an arts and cultural development organisation. I love the change management process and supporting teams of people who do amazing work.
Directions: Where and what did you study ? How was it useful to your practice/job/what you do?
Jade: I was fortunate enough to study at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane where incredible teachers such as: Brad Haseman, Judith McLean and Collette Brennan were my mentors.
We had a relatively small cohort and, our teachers challenged us to be our very best and understand what working with communities was all about. Even though I studied a Bachelor of Arts (Drama)/Bachelor of Education (Secondary), I was also experiencing subjects like Theatre and Community Cultural Development, Drama as Social Action and, was provided with opportunities to volunteer with organisations and festivals.
It was useful to my practice because it was an incredible introduction to this work and, I also met some of my dearest friends, peers, colleagues and mentors at this time. I look around the industry now and, there are so many people I went to university with so, that has to be saying something!
Directions: What kinds of skills do you need or are useful?
Jade: In my work, exceptional organisational and facilitation skills are essential. I also need great communication skills and, keen active listening skills. When working with communities, it is important to listen for what is not being said but rather what you are observing and, checking through conversations. Strong public speaking skills are also really important in this work and, this is something I continue to work on.
Directions: If you could start again what would you change (if anything)
Jade: Honestly, I would not change a thing. I have thoroughly enjoyed my career journey and, although it has not always been clear, I have simply taken good opportunities as they have presented themselves to me, worked hard, been a strong advocate for the work, created good relationships and, always brought integrity, ethics and respect to my work.
Directions: Any advice for someone wanting to embark career in the arts?
Jade: Volunteer and Intern whilst you are at university. Generally, we employ people with a strong track record of engaging with the industry. Go to networking events as often as you can and, develop your coffee list – which are the people you would like to take out for coffee in the industry. We are a pretty generous bunch and, have all had mentors so, we tend to give back when we can.
Also, the arts is not a linear career pathway... You potentially will do some of this, some of that, travel here, visit this community, meet this person and, then work in that place … All of a sudden you will realize that you are having a career in the arts! The most important thing you can do is build your networks wherever you go. They come with you to every job you do and, you will need to collaborate so, don’t burn those bridges!
Directions: What are the drawbacks of working in this field.
Jade: Big hours, a constant search for work/life balance and, high demands. Most people who work in this field get very tired at some point hence, why we head off overseas or, do other things every now and again.
Directions: What kind of income could you expect to make by working in your field?
Jade: Depending on the level of your position ie. Administration or, Arts Management or Program Management. I have earned anywhere between $55 000 and $90 000 per annum. I think that is pretty good really!
Directions: Most rewarding moment so far?
Jade: Winning the Kirk Robson Award (Young Cultural Leader through Australia Council for the Arts) in 2009 was pretty amazing and an absolute privilege.
But also, most rewarding moments include: getting that young person from Hope Vale down to Brisbane for the Stylin’ UP Festival, even though he had missed the bus and been suspended from school and, for him to be feel such a sense of pride and confidence on stage and go on to write more songs and, become a star in his own community. And maybe, just maybe, this changes the way people see him in community and, the way he sees himself! He did not even really know who I was, and I was totally fine with that!
Directions: And your least rewarding moment?
Jade: Burn out! Working too hard for too long and, not taking care of myself. I did not see my family, my friends or my partner enough…. So, I had to change this. But, burn out is a pretty disappointing time and, really, not very rewarding at all! So, try and keep up the things that keep you calm and balanced. Easier said than done but, if you start a yoga class, keep it up, no matter what and, eat well, go to the beach on the weekends and be sure to spend time with your family and friends.
More about Jade...
Jade has lived and worked extensively in regional and remote Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, both nationally and internationally, Jade believes that cultural exchange is the most effective way to get to know the world and all of the people we share it with
Having worked in a variety of government and non-government contexts, Jade’s most recent positions in the sector include a enaging role as Youth and Community Programs Manager – SpeakOut (now known as Human Ventures and as Team Leader in the Community Arts and Cultural Development department of Brisbane City Council. Last year (2011) Jade applied her skills to assist Brisbane’s Contact Inc as their Business Capacity Manager, but most recently has undertaken a role in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand to work with Australian Volunteers International as an Arts Management Advisor for Gabfai Community Theatre and, Chiang Mai based NGO networks, who work with communities around human rights and trafficking issues.
Jade is inspired by people, resilience, solid ethical frameworks and processes, social change, arts and cultural practice, interculturalism and community development, and has been celebrated and rewarded for her work being awarded the 2009 Kirk Robson Award – Young Cultural Leader of the Year from the Australia Council for the Arts. ade also was the the recipient of an Asialink Arts Management Resident and worked with Makhampom Foundation and Theatre Group in Thailand in 2010.