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Australian Biography: Noel Tovey

Australian Biography: Noel Tovey

2006, 26 Minutes. Classification: M. Consumer advice: Adult themes, infrequent coarse language.

Considering the horror of his childhood, it's amazing that Noel Tovey survived at all.
Born in the slums of Melbourne in 1933, Noel's early memories are "all about drunks". Sexually abused for the first time at the age of four, abandoned by his parents at six and bashed and bullied for being black, he ended up on the streets as a thief and "rent boy". In Pentridge Jail at the age of 17, he contemplated suicide - but the voices of his ancestors prevented him and helped turn his life around.
Inspired to reinvent himself, Noel pursued his dream to become a dancer and actor. He built a career in theatre, radio and television before marrying and sailing for England in 1960. There, he became principal dancer at Sadler's Wells Opera and an acclaimed choreographer.
He also opened an internationally renowned gallery with his new partner, Dave - whose death, after 17 years together, is one of the most deeply painful episodes in Noel's life story.
Noel's return to Australia in 1991 gave him the opportunity to connect more deeply with his Aboriginal heritage and contribute to the Indigenous community. As well as sitting on various boards and committees and teaching, he has continued to find success as a writer and theatre director.
In this intensely moving interview, Noel speaks - with extraordinary candour and grace - about his complex sense of identity (including his alter-ego, a blue-eyed white-skinned matinee idol called Rohan Scott-Rowan) and the forces and events that shaped him.

A Film Australia National Interest Program. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.