Best Practice Flows From My Connection to Community: Libby Collins

Libby Collins is a producer with a strong national profile, working in production, marketing, communications and community engagement across the country for more than a decade. Libby’s credits reflect a diverse body of work from feature film to TV documentaries including Channel 10 and NITV collaboration ‘The First Inventors’ (2023) and feature film ‘Top End Wedding’ (2019).

After a decade in New South Wales where she fulfilled a national facing community engagement role with Bangarra, Libby returned to the Northern Territory, working with Aboriginal health leaders to get clear messaging into communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Libby’s connection to community and culture drives the work she does and through her personal life. She is passionate about creating opportunities that advance First Nations people and communities to bring about change.

In this reflective piece on best practice, Libby chronicles a distinctive relationship to work and a diverse career informed by an ethic that expresses a connection to community and culture.


When I think of Best Practice in the blak space, I’m immediately led to the quote “nothing about us without us.” Something I’m constantly witnessing and experiencing is the blak perspective, inclusion and engagement as an after-thought – in a nutshell, best practice is the exact opposite of this. If a project is Indigenous-specific, these perspectives have to be placed at the forefront, which positions Indigenous stakeholders to drive the project instead of being driven by the project.

I often come across projects that are fully realised with no Indigenous input, even where the project is a wholly blak one in terms of its content or impact. I would encourage any individual or company – not only in the arts and creative sectors, but across industry and policymaking more broadly – to include our mob in the inception of these projects …not half-way to mitigate risk, and certainly not afterwards as a check-off process.

The reality is that the experience/project will be richer for being grounded the right way.


Thankfully, there have also been many.

My background is comms and although this isn’t an arts-specific gig, when it existed, I was very proud of my work at the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples’ (around 2011-2014ish). It was a national advocacy body for First Nations people until the Australian Federal Government withdrew funding in 2019. The communications team ran under the leadership of a Birri Gubba man, and one of the ultimate bosses in the blak comms game, Aaron Ross. In the context of a Western, policy-driven system that I was really hesitant about, he had an ability to bring all of the bureaucratic walls down and put mob first. Aaron worked to find ways to connect with our communities through emails and social media while maintaining the primacy of of face-to-face connection. I grew up knowing that sitting and talking with my family and community was the best way to get any message across – but his work validated that this approach was applicable in a work and national policy setting too. It also helps that we had the biggest blackest laughs imaginable together.

One of my favourite experiences in the arts industry, more recently, was working as a Field Producer in Borroloola for a short film called Power to Country, which was part of a climate change initiative for the ABC(with Screen Territory and DocSociety). We followed a local Garrwa Elder and a powerhouse of a woman, Mum Shirley Simon, in her life in the community and her longing to get back to her family’s homelands of West Island. But the livability of her home is affected by energy insecurity that can be reformed by access to solar power. This, for me, speaks to so many levels of best practice, in its content but in the way we worked with mum too. Very much following her lead and working on the ground with her as the main voice. Our team on the ground led by Director Josef Egger, DOP Ryan Andrew Lee and our soundy Francis Diatschenko worked very carefully with Mum Shirley, having her lead the process and working around what she needed to get the work done in a respectful way. It was an incredible experience, even with scorching temperatures and lots of schedule changes. Funnily enough, as a random Tiwi in Borroloola, I was still able to make family connections that really helped the engagement process and evidently the logistics of filming, through a link to one of my grandfathers, Timmy Kerinaiua, hence me calling her ‘mum’.

Another great experience was working within Marri Madung But-But for World Pride, which was a performance space dedicated to LGBTQIA+SB and First Nations specific content at Carriageworks in Redfern. The brainchild child of one of the best Creative Directors I’ve had the pleasure of working with, Ben Graetz. That space, in itself, is an example of best practice. Having a dedicated place over a week of World Pride. We (GARUWA) were tasked with also creating a gathering space within Carriageworks that was First Nations only. We took one of the existing performance spaces, dressed it to accommodate a warm space for mob and included light programming (like weaving, film screenings, arts workshops and Yarning Circles featuring LGBTQIA+SB Elders and mob with disabilities). Shout out to Sonny Dallas Law who helped us coordinate this space too!

I loved working as the Community Engagement Manager at Bangarra. The work of Stephen Page and the team as well as the Youth Programs crew (shout out to Sidney, Sani and Channy), was some of the most community-oriented work I’d done. Working within the confines of a system that heavily relies on funding and an acquittals process is a real tightrope of a dance (no pun intended). They made it work. We tried to make it work. Having things like Community Nights, a creative process that brings community in from the start and Youth Programs that travel to community and are led by those communities are examples of the work I was involved in.

There are so many more examples of best practice and First Nations led projects that I’m very proud to be a part of and too many to mention here.


My family and community are my priority, my mother and brothers being a huge part of this. What I mean by this is that these are the things I hold most important, this is what has built me into the person that I am and it is what I draw inspiration from and why I try to create better opportunities for our mob.

This is not to say that I don’t value and prioritise work, and not to put too fine a point on it, but we lose our mob at a rapid rate and Tiwi funerals are a common factor in my life – work will always be there. But the simplest way I can put it is that I take the care that I have for my family and community and apply it to my work, where it makes sense to do so.

I’m not saying that is the benchmark for best practice. In some ways it can be unreasonable. But that’s what works for me and helps me carve out my little space – be that TV, film, communications or community engagement generally. It also helps that mum’s quite a force to be reckoned with when she’s disappointed,so I’ll do most things to avoid any eyebrows down from Rosie.

In the interest of keeping to the point, here’s my list of dos and don’ts:


  • Engage early with mob when developing blak-specific work
  • Value the information you receive and the people who have given it to you
  • Have the cash to pay people what they’re worth
  • Value the connections they bring that you wouldn’t have without them
  • Ensure that your people are with you throughout the whole process
  • Bring community in and find initiatives that allow for your finished projects to be accessible for community mob.


  • Engage with mob at the last minute!
  • Create situations where all your metaphorical blak eggs are in the one basket. For examplemdon’t engage a person as a producer/director/artist and also have them be the primary advisory for all blak questions, beyond their role
  • Censor the voices you’ve sought out –do the work of understanding the views of people you’re engaging with before it comes to that
  • Ignore the advice that you asked for
  • Engage with mob (as a consultant or otherwise) without a budget in mind. They are as important as everyone else on the payroll. Exposure doesn’t buy the bully beef!

The idea of ‘best practice’ is quite a broad spectrum that exists across all sectors and can be answered in so many different ways – these are things that jump out to me.


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