Warning to Indigenous people of Australia, pictures and video may contain images and voices of deceased people.
Please use discretion when viewing content or showing content to others.

Scones with Nana

Scones with Nanna 2022

The play starts when two sisters arrive at the front of Nana’s house. Well, no, the story starts nearly 200 years before hand. The sisters believe that they have brought disgrace upon the family, that is until they hear Nanna’s story. 

It is designed to be a site-specific work for 3 to five actors for an audience of 20 about people maximum, to be performed in a workers cottage, set in Fremantle WA over nearly 200 years. It will be a combination of multi-media, live performance, scone making and scone eating. It is an honest and humorous look at a family’s secrets. Secrets of prostitution, venereal disease, poverty, domestic violence, stolen generation, and hidden Aboriginal heritage. While it is set mostly in the 70’s when people were still getting their head around effective birth control and women’s growing independence, it refers back to the time when the swan River Colony was a few years old.

Stories of Strength : songs and stories from Anne Street Reserve 2021

Stories of Strength from the Anne St Reserve

‘Living on the Reserve – Stories of Strength’ was developed as a result of research done by the Notre Dame University’s Nulungu Research Unit into the story of the Anne Street Reserve from the 1960’s to 1980’s. There was a real fear that this important part of Broome history would be dropped from the collective memory of the town. The songs performed at this event have been written and performed by the people who lived there. Many of whom have become professional musicians.

  • Writer/ Director /producer: Gwen Knox Big MAMA Productions
  • Musical Director co composer Lynn Hazelton
  • Performers: Ginger and Rohanee Cox, Mervyn Mulardy, Anna Dwyer, Maxine Charlie, Tania McKenna, Lynn Hazelton, Frank Shoveller, Lorna Kelly. Broome Time Singers.  TBC Charlie Pedro

Shorebird Quest

Shorebird Quest_2019 Gwen Knox Big Mama Productions

See Shorebird Quest #2 on May 1st 2022 @ Town Beach Broome

About the life and travels of the migratory shorebirds who visit the Ramsar site of Roebuck Bay Broome, after travelling thousands of kilometres via other endangered wetlands across the world.

Gwen will work with a team of artists and Indigenous Rangers to collaboratively develop a large scale site specific performance on town Beach foreshore in May 2019.

Dinosaurs Stomp!

Dinosaur Stomp - Broome - Photo by Georgia Deguara - 4
  • From 2020 – 2021
  • Supported by Regional Arts Fund and Dinosaur Coast Management Group.
  • Puppet construction by Chris Hill and Gwen Knox
  • Photos by Georgia Deguara

Song for the Martuwarra

Song for the Mardoowarra

Song for the Martuwarra

Song for the Martuwarra is an extremely beautiful puppetry work suitable for all ages.  It an exciting example of inclusive theatre where it can engage and work with the community on a number of entry levels from: puppetry and science workshops with children, those children have the opportunity to participate in the show. It can feature river stories from local rivers where the performance will take place. It can be easily redesigned to be a site specific – community performance. Alternatively the performance can stand alone.   

  A ceremony in 2014 exchanging river water from each river by elders of the Indigenous Nyikina people from the Fitzroy Valley in Western Australia and the elders of the French Ardennes was the impetus for “Ngalyak and the Flood” and this project to develop further understanding of the universal importance of both river health and the art of storytelling to connect with our natural environments.

Song for the Martuwarra tells part of the story from the Warloongarriy  Law Songline.  Woonyoomboo the first ancestor, who long, long ago in the beginning of time, went searching for food and water and travelled between living water billabongs.  Woonyooomboo was responsible for causing two giant serpents to escape from one of the billabongs, which carved a river and split it into two, forming parts of the landscape along the Martuwarra – Fitzroy River. He calls everyone to come to the river and to know how important it is to value, respect and protect the river.    

 Nyikina people believe that the rainbow serpents still live in the river.  The serpents are named Yoongoorrookoo.  When people behave disrespectfully, Yoongoorrookoo can get very angry and may drown somebody or cause a flood. Yoongoorookoo and Woonyaoomboo meet another river who is not doing so well.

This cautionary tale pays homage to the way that culture has shaped country and how country shapes culture.

This work compares shared stories and is a potent warning about the importance of caring for country and culture. It encourages us to begin listening to nature again.

Children have helped shape this work. It includes some of their stories that are told beside more ancient ones. “The Song for the Martuwarra” is sung by the children of Broome Primary School in Western Australia.

 This work is available for touring from February 2019



Stage size 5m x 5m Minimum Height 3m (black box)

Masked wing space,

Number of professional performers: 4

Venue supplies: Lighting as per plot, Sound system, projector set, 3 head set mikes, projector

Audience size 150 -200+      Depending on site lines

For more information Please contact: gwendolyn@westnet.com.au

Proudly supported by

Ngalyak and the Flood

Ngalyak and the Flood Poster

There is an old Nyikina man who sits under a tree carving wood with his old pocket knife.

As he carves he tells the story of Ngalyak or the Luma Lizard. He cracks jokes and laughs a lot. Next to him is his bag of tools and a collection of lizards that he has already made. As he talks, his lizards begin to take life of their own. And crawl out his bag.

He tells the story of the changing seasons and the flow of Mardoowarra the mighty Fitzroy River that for most of the year has been a dry hot river bed. When it floods it can be over 20kms wide in places.

He tells how a woman became a lizard or Ngalyak or Luma or bobtailed lizard.

They know the rain is coming because they can hear the thunder in the distance and see the big clouds filling the sky.

And the Green tree frogs have been calling the rain.

Once the rain begins the grass grows and all the creatures come to have a feast. The Frogs party all night long. The cicadas shed their skins and start their deafening harmonic buzz as they beat their body drums. The frilled neck lizard hunts them for lunch. He wears his mating colours on the chance that he will meet a nice lady while he is doing it.

The Flying foxes fight all day as they hang in the trees along the river until they take flight at sunset to feed on the ripening fruits of the bush trees.

The high pitched alarm of the mosquitoes can be heard as they look for fresh blood to suck.

The big old goannas (Perenties lizard) hunt the juicy bugs, the people hunt the big old goannas.

The Brolgas dance their courting dances on the floodplains.

The woman is about to have her babies and knows that the river will flood soon. She must not let her babies drown. She travels down the dry river bed. Very soon the rain fills the river and it starts to flood. She begins to swim. As her babies are born she carries them on her back across the country down the flooding river. (NB Blue Tongues give birth to live young)

With the flood waters came millions of incredibly beautiful microscopic creatures called diatoms. They do not exist if the water in which they live they is not healthy. They underpin all life on our planet.

The flood waters washed the mother away and she became a sand dune. Her children crawled up onto the rocky cliffs and waited for their mother to return. They have waited for so long that they have turned into stone. Another name for the Ngalyak is the Luma lizard. The little lizards still watch over a small town that has taken its name from them. It is called Looma.

Photos by Rachel Taylor and Eric Gallet.

“Two Rivers Talking” Puppetry Workshops

Mardowarra “Two Rivers Talking” Puppetry Workshops Poster

“Two Rivers Talking” puppetry workshops with the Pandanas Park kids in the second week of the last school holidays. Great fun with Bernadette Agatha Trench-Thiedeman and Karen Hethey, Anne Poelina, Meredith Bell 
Even Jabby came out of his suitcase!
thanks Danielle Odore and tropical upholstery for all the foam.

Anne Street Commemoration Oral History and Concert Project

Aerial photo of Anne Street

The Anne Street Commemoration Oral History project is series of projects designed to tell the story of the Anne Street Aboriginal Reserve.  It is the result of 2 years of research by Notre Dame University. About 30 ex residents were consulted with as part of the research and who now form the management committee, of this project.  The committee have identified a number of cultural outcomes that they would like to see delivered. This project is the one they want to achieve first as it will feed into many of the other projects that they have planned.

The committee have employed Gwen Knox, who has over 30 years’ experience with working in collaboration with Indigenous people in performing arts events, through seed funding from Notre Dame University. She will project manage the arts based aims. Gwen has close personal connection with Anne Street.

ASCOH involves the collection of new oral histories to add to the ones already collected by Indigenous researcher from Notre Dame Uni, Anna Dwyer, who is also an ex-resident of the reserve, and turning them into songs to be performed as part or NAIDOC week 2019 at Goolarri Media GMME Bar. it will be a free event to ensure as many ex residents and family members are able to attend.

Many of the ex-residents of the reserve are established musicians and artists eg Mervyn Mulardi, Steven Baamba Albert and Franky Shoveller . We hope that many of the performer who lived there will join us in the concert

Oral historian Dr Elaine Rabbit will facilitate the collection of oral histories from people who lived on the reserve. Songwriter Lyn Hazelton and Mervyn Mulardi will translate the oral histories into songs with the people who own the stories. Individuals will have the opportunity to perform their own work at the concert as supported by the accompanying band or have band members perform them for them. Some of the stories will be given to music students of Broome to create and perform songs that they write on the subject.

While significant in the history of policy making re Aboriginal people in WA, and resulting town planning issues, the reserve has almost become forgotten except by people who once lived there. The reserve was designed to be a transitional accommodation for Aboriginal people who would go into state controlled housing.  When the reserve was closed in 1982 state houses were built on the land and filled with families following the model of “salt and pepper communities”. ie. Alternating Indigenous families with non-Indigenous. As a result of this government experimentation, Anne Street is now known as the Bronx of Broome. There is high incidence of crime and family dysfunction.

ASCOHP fulfills some of the aims of the WA Department of Communities who currently manage the government housing in the area, “People and Home” as part of its Anne Street Urban Renewal project with the Shire of Broome. Dept of communities have identified this and further projects as being a key part of their redevelopment plans with potential for future funding. (See LOS)

ASCOHP is considered very important both historically and culturally by the WA Museum.  Aspects of the project, specifically songs and artworks, are being considered as part of the Continuous Cultures (Working Title) exhibition in the New Museum for WA.

Supported by :

Goolarri Media, Department of Communities, West Australian Museum, Australia Council for the Arts, The Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSC), WA Police, Notre Dame University.

Oral Histories collected by Dr Elaine Rabbit

Song writing facilitated by Mervyn Mulardy and Lyn Hazelton

Children’s visual art by children of Anne Street

Concert by the songwriters and support musicians during NAIDOC Week 2019

Worn Art

Worn Art poster

The 14 years that were Worn Art.

Gwen was approached by a friend who came from Nelson New Zealand who had a great idea. To do a costume event that would rival the New Zealand World of Wearable Art event. The idea was just too big to take on board. She managed to avoid the subject for another two years until the friend Barbara Richards, caught her at a weak moment in 1989 and she agreed to give it a go. The event grew into an extravaganza that had enormous support from the community and around Australia. It was decided to discontinue the event after 2011 as it had become too big and unsustainable. 
Some people went into mourning. Gwen met a 13 year old skate boarder who told her “Ï think it really sucks that there’s no more Worn Art!”

Worn Art has been rebranded to Worn Art Revamped. It can be found at Theatre Kimberley Worn Art Revamped.

Costume Design

Costume design

Gwen has created many costumes throughout her career including entries in each year of Worn Art and Kimberley produced TV and movie productions. Here are some highlights.

Jandamarra’s War – ABC TV 

Written and Directed by Mitch Torres

Worn Art

Staircase to the Moon

Staircase to the Moon Poster

Based on the children’s book of the same name by Indigenous local author Bronwyn Houston, Gwen Knox is writer director of the play. The story is inspired by the natural phenomenon of the staircase to the moon where the moon reflects on the mudflats at low tide on Roebuck Bay, Broome.

The great music written by local, famous Indigenous musician Lorrae Coffin

The play features articulated boab and frangipani costumes by the very clever puppeteer Karen Hethey. There are a large number of puppets that have been developed in workshops with the amazing Sandy McKendrick and the in workshops with young performers who make up the large ensemble of puppeteers and dancers. Gwen Knox created the three main characters puppets.

  • 2012 performers Jub Clerc, Neil Turner, Tahya Jamieson, Maeve Driffle, Musical Director and composer Lorrae Coffin, band members 
    Ralph Bermann, Toby Prewitt , Steve Angoorly.
  • 2014 performers: Ninian Donald, Susie Quicke, Wenonah Cardenas, Dale Kelly. Musical accompanist Rob Pascoe. 
  • Artists working on the project: puppets by Sandra McKendrick, Karen Hethey, Gwen Knox , Choreography by Claudia Alessi, Design and construction Chris Hill, Lighting Andrew Chambers and Rick Turner

Sandfly Circus


Sandfly Circus ~ the Theatre Kimberley incarnation started in 2007. It is taken from a name given by Eleanor Davies who used to help Gwen run short term circus projects after Gwen left full time teaching.

When Gwen left full time teaching as a music drama specialist, she freelanced as an artist in residence in schools and communities as part of Big MAMA Productions. 

One of her projects was a regular circus holiday program called Sandfly Circus. It is name given by circus practitioner Eleanor Davies and it stuck. 

When Gwen started working full time with Theatre Kimberley and started a regular circus program for Broome kids the name Sandfly Circus was adopted. The year was 2007. 

There are now around 80 kids and Gwen is pretty much retired from her role as circus facilitator. The Group is currently called Act Belong Commit Sandfly Circus. Occasionally she needs to dust off the cobwebs and help out. 

Find out more about Theatre Kimberley’s Sandfly Circus Youth Program.

A Ship of Dreams

A Ship of Dreams

A Musical Drama for Children

Written by by Mary Durack, With Music by June Fitzgerald, Adapted by Gwen Knox 2008, musical director Damion Watkiss. 
Gwen performed in the original production in 1968. She was thrilled to be able to adapt and direct the 2008 production.

When this play was first performed in 1968 it was a major event in the town. Civic fathers decided it would be good to have a regular event to help create a tourist industry. And Shinju Matsuri was born. 
Many of the original cast went on to pursue and have very successful careers in the arts.

Photos by Leon Meade Photography 

Starring: Stephen Baamba Albert, Rohanna Angas, Mark Cole-Smith, Craig Marvel, Lesley Marsh.

Carnival of Light

Carnival of Light poster

200 hand made and hand held lanterns, several large lanterns, 200 children and 30 adult voice choir, live band made up of key Broome musicians, dancers and fire twirlers made up an truly magical performance on the mud of Roebuck Bay during the Shinju Matsuri 2012. 

The performance was adapted from one that Gwen helped write and direct in 1996 titled “Stories from the Mangroves”. This time choosing only 3 of the songs that were written by Lorrae Coffin and Lyn Hazelton taken from oral histories that Lorrae and Gwen collected as part of the project development. 

Photographer ~ Leon Mead 
Musical Director ~ Susie Quicke 
Lantern Maker and Co Director ~ Chris Hill 

Shadows, Dreams and Memories

Shadows, Dreams and Memories Poster

Traces the story of Japanese woman who lived in Jap Town, Broome in the early 20th Century. Her man is at sea. She writes him letters of love until she receives a letter to confirm that her man has been lost forever to tragedies that often stalk the pearling industry. 

Excerpts performed at UNIMA Perth in 2008

UNIMA and a Million Puppets

UNIMA and a Million Puppets poster

Gwen was contracted by Spare Parts Puppet Theatre to work with a number of communities across Western Australia to create puppets to go into the Guinness book of records attempt to create a million puppets.



Jabby is a puppet character created by Gwen Knox.

He is based on the old Aboriginal men that had such an impact on Gwen’s childhood as the daughter of a Kimberley cattle station manager and butcher, men that taught her to ride horses and filled her head with stories. 

The name Jabby comes from the Walmatjarri (south of Fitzroy Crossing) word for grandfather “Jappi”. He is a generic Aboriginal man who has retired from the life of a stockman on a Kimberley cattle station. As a puppet, his initial role was, and still is that of a storyteller and demonstration model when Gwen teaches puppetry in schools and community workshops. 

He has taken on the role quite accidentally with the help of his grandson “Nyili”, as a health promoter in trying to educate people about: 

  • Trachoma creation of a short film called “Jabby’s Friend” video by Desert Pictures and Gwen Knox for Kimberley Public Health 
  • Smoking awareness making puppets with Members Kadjina Community resulting in an education package and film “Jabby Don’t Smoke” and extensive TV advertisements by Desert Pictures, Gwen Knox  for Kimberley Public Health. 
  • Scabies, making puppets with residents of Wingalina community, Central Australia resulting in an education package and film “Under you Skin” with Desert Pictures. 
  • Use of seat belts and installation of car ute role carriages for carrying people on the back of utilities (this TV advertisement won an award). 

As part of the Jabby don’t Smoke project (sponsored by Healthway and Kimberley Public Health) Gwen ran Puppet making workshops at Wulungarra School in Kadjina Community south of Fitzroy Crossing, facilitated writing the script, and coordinated community members as puppeteers and voice overs to perform for a twenty minute video. Out of that project Jabby acquired a wife “Ngunju” (pron. Ngoonjoo) two sons a daughter, a nephew and a new magic grandchild “Larmparrn”. All new puppets remain the property of the people who made them. 

Gwen has made other “Jabbys” along with other puppet characters as part of puppet kits to be used in schools to promote understanding of “code switching” in language use with Indigenous children from non English speaking backgrounds. For example, students use the various puppets, be they Jabby, a European schoolteacher, a court judge, and Aboriginal health worker to identify the different Traditional languages, levels of English and Kriol language used and to learn appropriate language behaviour for a variety of occasions. 

Jabby is a very popular character. For example: On a trip to Wingelina near the Northern Territory, South and West Australian border, he upstaged, by accident, the federal minister for education who was also visiting the community. 

Jabby’s image has been reproduced into posters, stickers, pencils, hats and screen savers, and TV advertisements. 
Gwen wrote a song to go with the “Jabby Don’t Smoke” project that was used in the advertisement. It became the most requested song on the children’s hour on Radio Goolarri (Broome’s Community Aboriginal Radio) Gwen has children (and often their parents) stopping her in shopping centres all over the Kimberley so they can sing the song to her. 

When Jabby appears people reach for him and instantly treat him like an old friend. 

The following is some informal feed back received during the question and answer sessions at the end of the puppet show and in talking to teachers.

Jabby’s grandson pictured here with Gungi Laurel. The puppet arrived at Kadjina Community nameless. The men of the community had a discussion in good fun and decided with much amused solemnity that his name should be Nyirrli. We had a naming ceremony complete with cups of tea.

  • It is the most relevant piece of educational theatre I have ever seen. (teacher)
  • Jabby is my favourite puppet (a common sentiment from 100’s of children)
  • Hey who am I ? (teachers husband imitating Jabby driving the Toyota when they were on a camping trip.)
  • This is fantastic, the students were captivated all the way through.(teacher)
  • Oh thank god you’ve got here, The kids are driving us nuts with asking “When is Jabby going to get here?” (a common teacher greeting when we arrived at a school)
  • “I liked the bit where Jabby said he gave up smoking because the bull got him up the bum and now he can run really fast….. but he’s old….Miss, how can he run really fast?” Child 2 “No silly he was telling a true story but he exaggerated to make it more interesting for us. That’s why Ngunju growled at him for telling fibs. It was a story about when he was young. He could chuck a bull over the fence then couldn’t he Miss.” (two students discussing the puppet show)
  • I liked it when Clinton got the Goanna ‘cos he stopped smoking. (a popular response.)
  • I liked to see Aboriginal puppets. (High school student)
  • How come you see these people jogging, and popping health pills end everything then you see them smoking. I think that’s really stupid of them. (high school student)
  • How can you stop your parents from smoking? I hate it! (a common question)
  • I loved this show. I wish more people could see it. My mother died from cancer last year, she was always smoking. I hope my kids have taken notice. (Aboriginal mother watching the show.)
  • What’s Jabby made from? (One of the most popular questions.)
  • Can Jabby come and look at the students work? (teacher)
  • “Nah I think we’ll only have the one show. We had this other crazy puppeteer here last week and the kids ran riot!” after the first show “Hey this is fantastic, the other classes will mutiny if they miss out.”
  • Can we do the song for our assembly item? Can you teach me the chords? (several teachers.)
  • I like the use of language. English, Kriol and recognisable Aboriginal words (teacher)
  • My granny is just like Ngunju. She’s always looking for tobacco to chew and telling us kids to go and get it for her.(student)
  • How can we say no to our parents when they tell us to go and get the tobacco and smokes? (student)
  • Hey listen to Jabby, he’s your man! Your crazy if you start smoking!(Tony Modra from the Dockers football team to a group of high school students)
  • Oh! (squeel) Tony Modra shook Jabby’s hand and said that? Oh (sigh) can I shake that same hand. I’m giving up smoking today! (teacher in the staff room)

Jabby Don’t Smoke by Gwen Knox

(To be played with feeling, and a slow country feel. Twangy out of tune guitars welcome.) 

Chorus x2 

Jabby Don’t Smoke 

Jabby don’t chew, 
D                                 G 
This old man knows what to do 

G                  C            G 
He’s got to tell all the young kids 
D                    D 
not to make a start. 
       C                 G 
It’s bad for your lungs 
       D                G 
Its bad for your heart. 

Chorus x2 

G                C               G 
He’s got to tell all the people 
          D              G 
that tobacco is wrong. 
     C                 G 
Tobacco will kill you 
         D             G 
you must stay strong 

Chorus x2