Lisa’s family clans are Eora, Gamilaroi and Yuwaalaraay. Born in Sydney, Lisa grew up living between city and country areas, reconnecting with the land and people moving around with family. Lisa started acting in the 1990’s with appearing in G.P, Heartland, Man from Snowy Rivers; lead actor in Julie Jansen’s Gunjies at Belvoir St Theatre and in documentaries including Freedom Riders, Re-enactment of the Tent Embassy and The Last Frontier, portraying Truganini. She has acted alongside Cate Blanchett, Guy Pearce, Wendy Hughes, Ernie Dingo and Deborah Mailman, to name a few. Lisa was involved as a actor in two national playwright conferences at ANU.
Lisa left acting to raise a family of five. Active and interested in the arts and culture, horticulture, hospitality, Lisa has taken on different jobs including being a tradie, public servant at state and federal level, a discovery ranger/visitor services officer with the National Parks and Wildlife Service NSW and cultural educator in school programs, from child care centres through to high schools – all while being a mother – the biggest and most important role in her life.
The Street talked to Lisa before her acting role in the creative development of Dylan Van Den Berg’s Milk, First Seen’s new work in progress showing 12 May.
YOU HAVE TRAVELLED ACROSS AND AROUND THE COUNTRY SINCE YOU WERE YOUNG. TELL US MORE ABOUT YOURSELF.
Travelling, gaining experiences and learning play a big part of my life. Our mum, who was a single mother after my father passed away when I was a baby, had no choice but to follow work. I attended many different schools in NSW and Victoria. It was a great opportunity to reconnect with family and land. It was education it its own right.
WHAT IS BEING AN ACTOR TO YOU?
Expressing, story-telling, showcasing skills, making characters come to life, sharing, giving a voice, connecting as an artist with others.
HOW DOES YOUR INDIGENOUS CULTURE INFORM YOUR WORK IN THE THEATRE?
It’s a big part of who I am. Educating theatre-goers by my being part of the oldest culture in the world informs my work on the stage. It’s really important for me to share, inform, and educate others. I am of mixed heritage – Scottish, Irish, Maori and Aboriginal descent. I continue to learn about my own culture that will inspire me more and acknowledge and pay respects to the local custodians of the land where I live and work.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST RESPONSE TO READING THE SCRIPT OF MILK?
I can identify with MILK as many of my relatives have fair skin and this reminds me of characters in the story and how they feel about their milky relations. The story moved me, bringing back my own family history and dark secrets. Not only stories from my family but the many stories of deeply rooted in the history of Australia.
WHAT GRABS YOU IN THE STORY?
Everything. It’s soul searching and healing. Stories need to be told of how young and old Aboriginal people were treated and their feelings today about their past and present, especially in Tasmania, the southern land. We don’t hear of their stories on the mainland. And there are similarities in what happened to Tasmanian Aboriginals and Sydney’s Eora nation. My own grandmother on my father’s side had light skin and kept her Aboriginality to herself.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE IN MILK?
I play the grandmother in the story – a black slave to a white man. My role is to express what she was going through in the 1800’s and her connection with the next generation revealing her pain, and long suffering.
YOU ARE ABOUT TO GO INTO CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT FOR MILK? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU AS AN ACTOR?
It’s important to get the story right and tell it accurately. I will probably get emotional, especially coming from the land and sea. Even as an actor, I feel for what I am reading and performing. This week will bring us together to learn and develop the best outcome of the work in progress for the writer.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS IMPORTANT TO A SUCCESSFUL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AN ACTOR AND DIRECTOR?
Respect for each other. Listening, learning and encouraging on both sides. Acknowledging the skills that the director can teach and share and vice versa.
WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE STREET?
I first came to know The Street Theatre when my daughter Breanna Barker was selected to perform in Tourmaline and I came to see her in the theatre. I was very excited and proud that my daughter was doing acting as it reminded me of my years as an actor. A year later I was contacted to play an ancestral elder in Dylan Van Den Berg’s work in progress, Milk.
WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?
Life, my family, my children, people I meet and work with and travelling. Being around positive people and hopefully making changes for the better. I love my art classes and enjoy music. I am active in the community and looking forward to the events in Reconciliation and NAIDOC week.
WHAT ARE YOU READING AND WATCHING CURRENTLY?
The Bible, documentaries, true stories. I love looking at shows about animals, the environment, climate change and all the issues that are impacting on our survival.