You may know actor Katie Beckett from television shows such as Redfern Now, but there’s more to the 31-year-old than meets the eye.
The proud Indigenous woman and mother of one is also an award-winning playwright and she brings to the stage a fictionalised account of her own upbringing with her new play Which Way Home.
The play, directed by celebrated Melbourne director Rachael Maza, sees Tash (played by Katie) and her father (Tony Briggs) on a road trip from Ipswich inland to Goodooga on the Queensland/NSW border.
Raised by her father Les, Katie was just six years old when her mother and an aunt died in a car accident returning from her grandmother’s funeral.
In raising Katie and her two siblings (Katie’s brother tragically died when he was 12), Les was a loving yet authoritative figure who didn’t drink, fought to keep them and thereby pretty much overturned every racial Indigenous stereotype around.
‘Yes, he’s an amazing man,’ Katie tells Warcry. ‘That’s why I wanted the play’s take-home message to be about the unconditional love shared between a parent and their child, no matter what your background is.’
It’s no surprise that Katie is a little defensive about the power of her father’s love. While she was rehearsing for the play’s debut in Melbourne the now infamous Bill Leak cartoon incident was sending social media into overdrive.
The cartoon, which was published in The Australian, showed an inebriated Indigenous man who couldn’t remember his own son’s name.
‘It was unfortunate and sad that it was even allowed to be published,’ says Katie. ‘It puts a dim view for me personally on the society we live in if we still have to defend who we are as Aboriginal people on a daily basis.’
The incident propelled Katie to add her voice—as well as old family photos—to the positive #indigenousdads social media campaign that followed.
For Katie, Which Way Home is just another positive counterbalance to the negative chatter. Another such influence is her faith.
‘I’m a Baptist,’ she says. ‘My dad has always loved church. I was baptised in the Murri Church in Ipswich, Queensland. My dad goes to church every Sunday, I sometimes go to the once a month gatherings in Sydney at the Koori Church in Glebe, held by Pastor Ray Minniecon.
‘Me, my son and dad go together. I wish I was more regular at going to them. It’s so much fun and Pastor Ray relates parts of the Bible to what’s happening for our people.
‘The kids draw and play together, there’s a sharing [time] and at the end we all share a meal, everyone brings a plate of something. It’s something that’s on my “to-do” list to make church more regular in my life.
‘For me it’s good to know I’m not alone and through all the bad there’s a higher power by my side. No matter what.’
Which Way Home runs to 3 September at Northcote Town Hall in Melbourne and at Belvoir in Sydney next year. For more information go to ilbijerri.com.au.