Film school’s first Indigenous PhD student follows in father’s footsteps

Almost half a century since acclaimed artist Ron Hurley was the first Indigenous graduate from the Queensland College of Art in 1975, his daughter Angelina Hurley is the first Indigenous doctoral candidate at Griffith Film School.

“Dad would be chuffed,” she said.

“Both of my parents were always 100 per cent focused on us getting a good education.

“My Mum grew up on the mission at Cherbourg and was forced to leave school early to work as a domestic, so she was always keen for us to have the kinds of opportunities that were denied to her.”

‘Humour is our survival, our healing and our super power’

Angelina’s doctoral research explores Aboriginal cultural perspectives on humour. She believes comedy gives a voice to oppressed and marginalised people and helps dispel negative cultural stereotypes.

“If you don’t laugh, you cry. As an Aboriginal person, humour is our survival, our healing, and our super power,” she said.

“It all comes back to being able to tell a good story, and everyone in my family was good at telling yarns. I think Aboriginal humour is really unique and it is at the heart of who we are.”

Getting Indigenous stories on screen

The cast from Aunty Maggie and the Womba Wakgun.

Angelina is from the Jagera, Gooreng Gooreng, Mununjali, Birriah and Kamilaroi nations.A Fulbright Indigenous Scholar in 2011, she made her writing debut with a short film Aunty Maggie and the Womba Wakgun, directed by Leah Purcell and funded by Screen Australia. As part ofher Doctor of Visual Arts, Angelina is scripting a TV comedy series.

“I just want to write – whether it’s short films, short stories or TV,” she said.

“I’m scripting a comedy series called Reconciliation Rescue, which is a parody of shows like The Block and Renovation Rescue.

“We were driving through Cherbourg with my Mum and she said, ‘why doesn’t anyone ever renovate blackfellas homes … if anything needs a makeover it’s this place’. That inspired me to get writing.”

‘Griffith sets you up to succeed’

As well completing her doctoral studies, Angelina reviews film and theatre and recently contributed to a collection of essays, Bjelke Blues. She co-hosts the popular radio show Wild Black Women with Dr Chelsea Bond on Brisbane’s 98.9FM and is on the organising committee for the Australasian Humour Studies Network Conference at Griffith’s South Bank campus in February. She said the support network at Griffith had helped her juggle a diverse range of projects.

“Griffith is really welcoming, and you are set up to succeed,” she said.

“I have a great supervisor and my studies have opened so many doors for me.”