Australian Biography: Noel Tovey

This title is available to stream on demand on NFSA Player for personal use.

If you would like to access this title for any purpose other than private home viewing please contact us via the NFSA's Access Enquiry Form.

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

Noel Tovey survived a childhood of poverty, neglect, sexual abuse and racial prejudice to become a leading light in the arts as an actor, choreographer, writer and theatre director.

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.

FREE Teachers' Notes - Download here

NB The Australian Biography series (1-11) are only available for sale within the territories of Australia and New Zealand.


Director/Producer: Rod Freedman

Interviewer: Robin Hughes

Year: 2006

Running Time: 26 Minutes

Classification: M. Adult themes, infrequent coarse language.

Curriculum Links: Performing Arts; Drama; Theatre studies; Dance; English K-10: Insights into Aboriginal experiences in Australia; Indigenous Studies; Identity, Place and Culture; Child and Community studies; SOSE; HSIE (Aboriginal Studies Stage 6)


SKU 200402203
Brand Film Australia

Others Also Bought

More From This Category