About Phunktional

Phunktional
Arts

Phunktional is a leading Australian not-for-profit arts company that delivers long-term Community Arts and Cultural Development projects, tours educational theatre performances and produces award-winning dance, theatre and film productions.

Our purpose is to support the creation of art that is a catalyst for greater connectedness, community engagement and inter-cultural understanding.

Our vision is to create world-class art that helps a greater diversity of human perspectives and experiences to be heard in Australian and international conversations.

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Our background

Inspired by the heart-breaking stories of young people in Juvenile Justice Centres, Gerard Veltre (the artistic director of Phunktional) wrote his first educational theatre production, Love Drunk, to educate and support other young people at risk of making similarly avoidable and painful mistakes.

The incredible success of Love Drunk, combined with the popularity of the award-winning dance piece Melbourne Breaks and the Deaf can Dance project led to the creation of Phunktional Arts. Before 2007, in the beginning, Gerard ran Phunktional out of the back of his car. Now, over 1million people around Australia have participated in workshops and performances or seen Phunktional Arts live shows and award-winning films productions. The company works with First Nations artist and communities and supports multicultural emerging and established artists. Phunktional Arts consistently produces ground-breaking new works and delivers long-term place-based Community Arts and Cultural Development (CACD) projects around Australia.

Who we work with

Phunktional is passionate about providing equal opportunities for diverse communities including Australian and other First Nations Communities, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD); lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual and other sexually or gender diverse (LGBTIQA+); deaf and disabled people and youth at risk to use the arts as a vehicle for creative expression, to inspire change and to confront social issues of concern.

Phunktional has a long history of working with leading arts industry peers, peak service organisations and with the support of trusts and foundations that have a strong commitment to positive social change. Phunktional consistently collaborates with local, national and international artists and is committed to supporting emerging Australian and international artists from diverse backgrounds.

who we work with
Culture

Phunktional links youth to 60,000 years of rich Australian Arts and Culture.

Phunktional has provided work to over 160 Artists and Arts workers in the last 10 years. We have created award winning shows with professional Artists such as Melbourne Breaks and toured other dance work internationally.

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Modern-day Songline

Phunktional has had the honour of working with communities in Robinvale, Cairns and Far North Queensland (FNQ) for over 3 years. During this time, we have come to learn that these geographically disparate communities are actually deeply connected by family ties, and their very own modern-day songline.

For several generations, families from Cairns and FNQ would harvest sugar cane and then drive down in convoys to Robinvale, in Victoria, to pick almonds and grapes. Each year they would follow the same picking seasons, and travel the same modern-day songline.

Discovering that Phunktional’s community projects have been playing a part in this modern-day songline has enriched our community work in both areas, and continues to motivate and inspire us.

Our Team

Gerard

Gerard Veltre

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

Gerard Veltre is an artist, dancer and passionate Human Rights advocate. As Artistic Director of Phunktional Arts he facilitates opportunities for young people and multicultural communities to explore their creativity, learn, reconnect with culture, and shine.

Born to first generation immigrant parents from Sri Lanka and Italy, Gerard grew up in a culturally diverse, low socio-economic western suburb of Melbourne. A family trip to Sri Lanka inspired a lifelong passion to learn as much as he could about dance, performance skills and story-telling. This began a lifelong commitment to increasing harmony and understanding in the world through art.

Gihan

Gihan Sadek

OPERATIONS & ADMIN MANAGER

Gihan comes to us with over 38 years of administrative experience, where she has led multiple teams around Australia.

Gihan’s passion for administration is evident in the work she does as she always works to find solutions to any problem that faces her.

Gihan’s other passion is Painting. She likes to paint predominantly in Acrylic and loves to work with texture. She has exhibited in a few group shows and one day hopes to exhibit solo.

Martha

Martha Koeswibiwo

CPA ACCOUNTANT

Martha received a Bachelor of Accounting from RMIT University before continuing her study at CPA Australia. She enriched her accounting experience working for various medium to large companies over 9 years before starting her own accounting business in 2015.

Martha loves to read books, catch up with friends, and go to the gym.

Our Artists

Jamieson

Jamieson Caldwell

Recent performances include Australian Shakespeare Company productions such as Romeo in ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Malcolm in ‘Macbeth’, Mellors in ‘Lady Chatterly’s Lover’, and numerous roles in Melbourne Theatre Company’s ‘Hamlet’. Jamie makes frequent onscreen appearances in films, television and commercials. A 2006 Victorian College of the Arts graduate, Jamie regularly tours the country with theatre companies including Phunktional, Arena and Hit productions. He diversifies his professional portfolio by undertaking additional promotional work including modelling, hosting, presenting and MC’ing.

Maurial

Maurial Spearim

Actor, dancer, singer and traditional storyteller, Maurial explores theatre, song and dance through the expressions of the body and the utterance of the voice. Maurial Spearim is an Indigenous woman from the Gamilaraay nation on her father’s side. As soon as she was old enough to walk she started learning traditional dance. Such a strong foundation made it possible for Maurial to pursue her passion for dance and she gained a Bachelor of Dramatic Arts from the Victorian College of the Arts.

Demi

Demi Sorono

Nationally recognised as Australia’s most famous B’Girl, Demi Sorono was discovered on the dance show ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’ Since then she has performed in BLAZE, an international hip hop show that toured Australia, while participating in dance workshops and Cultural and Community (CCD) projects nationwide. Demi has been collaborating with Phunktional on professional and CCD projects since 2009. The 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival showcases the most recent collaborative work between Demi and Phunktional, a feature-length dance production, ‘A Touch of Grace: Shadow Warrior’.

Laila

Laila Thaker

Laila is a professionally trained Indigenous Actor based in Melbourne. With over 10yrs experience in Acting, her studies in Theatre and Human Movement have been both here and abroad. Since graduating from JCU Cairns in 2009 and The Actor’s Workshop Brisbane in 2013, Laila has been cast in numerous Films, Theatre Productions, TVC’s and Music Videos. Most notably, ABC’s “The Queen and I”, “Backbone” directed by Carol Burns, JUTE’s “The Salt Remains”, alongside Julia Morris in “House Husbands”, and the award winning “Mirror Force” by David Craig. She is currently an ensemble member for Melbourne’s Boutique Theatre Company and Girls Act Good Collective.

Julez

Julez

Arguably one of Australia’s most famous hip hop artists, Julez has been working with Phunktional since 2008. Julez balances his time performing, producing music, and running song writing & production workshops in high schools, youth justice programs, and drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. Performing hip hop and spoken word throughout the country, Julez has produced music for numerous hip hop acts including Illmaculate (World Battle Rap Champion), Hugo (Rap News), and more. He has previously collaborated with Seth Sentry, Mac Lethal (US), and other well known artists.

Chris

Chris Asimos

Having graduated with a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Honours) from Flinders Drama Centre, Chris is now an international performing artist who has worked extensively on stage, television and film. A few of his television credits include: Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries, Danger 5 Seas 1 and 2 (SBS Television), House Husbands and Bad Language. His stage work includes State Theatre Productions ‘Three Sisters’ and ‘The Give and Take’, as well as the world premiere of ‘Barassi’. ‘Barassi’ was performed at the prestigious Arts Centre in Melbourne.

Hans

Hans Ahwang

Born and raised on Thursday Island, Hans was originally taught the traditional dance of the eastern Torres Strait Islands by his late uncle Hans Sambo. Hans has since graduated from the National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) Dance College with a diploma of professional dance performance. Hans aspires to one day build a dance and cultural studio for Moa Island and the wider Torres Strait and Cape York communities. He looks to acknowledge the culture of the past and rejuvenate it as he brings traditional dance into the modern era. Previous performances include ‘Mokuy’ with the Gary Lang N.T. Dance Company, ‘Hit The Floor Together’ and ‘The Black Dig’, a NAISDA production.

Joshua

Joshua Thaiday

Born and raised in Cairns and of Torres Strait Islander heritage, Joshua is one of The 2015 Yumpla Project team members at Phunktional Ltd. With a Diploma in Performing Arts, he is currently undertaking an Advanced Diploma in Acting at the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts. Joshua has had numerous roles in the Queensland 150th Anniversary, in ‘Soul Music’, ‘Souls Entwined’ and ‘Up the Ladder’, all performed at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. Onscreen performances include appearances in the Queensland Government Advertisement for HIV Awareness, the ‘Talking Families’ Queensland Government Advertisement, and as an extra in the television series ‘The Straits’.

Roshelle

Roshelle Fong

Roshelle is a performer, filmmaker and leap-year baby who completed ‘The Actor’ part-time course at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA) in 2007. She has since produced and performed in film, spoken word, stand-up comedy, theatre and performance art pieces. Roshelle worked throughout Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, including Woodford Folk Festival, RAW Comedy Festival, YouAreHere Festival, Australian Poetry Slam and the Living Museum of Erotic Women. Her short documentaries, music videos and films have gained critical acclaim and received awards in festivals worldwide and on prime television.

Help us continue to make art with and for young people.

Your donation can support Phunktional so we can support vulnerable young people to keep making art that that gives voice to issues often felt but rarely discussed.

Our Board

Rick Noble

CO-CHAIR OF THE BOARD (FROM 2011)

Rick’s professional background is in Information, Communication and Security Management predominantly within the Health and Community Services sector. He is a qualified AGAL QIC reviewer with significant experience in assessment and guiding organisations through standards compliance. Rick has been a contributing author to a range of industry publications and papers and has served on a number of Boards, Committees and Reference Groups since 1992. He is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and has completed the Company Directors Course in 2017.

Gerard Veltre

BOARD MEMBER & SECRETARY (FROM 2009)

Gerard is an artist, dancer and an equal opportunities and Human Rights advocate for young people and marginalised communities. He leverages arts to create opportunities for Australia’s young people and multicultural communities to explore their creativity, learn, reconnect with culture, and shine.

Alison Craigie-Parsons

BOARD MEMBER (FROM 2015)

Alison is a proud Aboriginal woman of the Gamilraay people of Central New South Wales/ Southern Queensland with over 20 years of experience in indigenous health and higher education. Alison has a policy and visual and performing arts background. She has previously been a dancer with the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) and later Assistant Manager of Walkabout Gallery at World Vision Australia.

Carolyn Worth AM

CO-CHAIR OF THE BOARD (FROM 2015)

Carolyn Worth retired from being the Manager of SECASA in Melbourne, Australia for 27 years and is now working as a consultant in the areas of sexual assault, family violence and restorative justice. Whilst under Carolyn’s leadership SECASA was known for staff retention and supporting workers in a stressful environment.
Carolyn has sat on Government advisory committees and steering groups working to improve the situation for victim/survivors of sexual assault and family violence and produce guidelines and information for people working in the violence against women sectors.

Dana Moran

BOARD MEMBER (FROM 2015)

Originally contracted as a media and communications officer for Phunktional, Dana became a welcome member of the Board of Directors in 2015. Dana is a strategic communications professional, specializing in the not-for-profit and government sectors. Dana is currently employed at the Australian Ballet as Government Relations & Strategic Communications Manager. We are thrilled to have Dana on the Board, contributing her expertise in communications strategy development to Phunktional.

Australian First Nations Governance

An established Australian First Nations Reference group has been meeting regularly since the beginning of 2023 and will oversee and guide the delivery of all of Phunktional’s projects connected to young people who are in or recently released from Youth Justice Centres.

first nations

Warren Roberts
Chairperson

Warren is a proud Thunghutti and Bundjalung man. He has extensive experience working with Original Sovereign Nations of Australia having worked for NGO’s, universities, as well as local, state and federal government. Warren has been fortunate enough to work alongside esteemed elders from Original Sovereign Nations of Australia, and he has reflected on the importance of respecting cultural protocols.

April Shepherd

April is a proud Dunghutti/Gumbaynggirr woman from the Mid-North Coast Australia. She has worked in the areas of Family Preservation and Targeted Early Intervention for an extensive period of time. April is currently the secretary on the Board of Directors for Launchpad Youth. April has developed and facilitated parenting programs designed specifically by and for Aboriginal woman in community.

Michael Kirk

Perun Bonser

Susan Griffiths

Australian Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property Guiding Principles

Phunktional is a multi-cultural Arts company, with a board of directors that includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Directors. Phunktional delivers performing arts projects and performances into communities around Australia. When invited, Phunktional always feels privileged to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and acknowledges that sovereignty has never been ceded.

Reconciliation Action Plan

Our vision for reconciliation is to build and maintain a positive two-way relationships built on trust and respect with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities.

We will be intentional in the creation of performance art, ensuring that it facilitates cross-cultural collaboration, community engagement and inter-cultural understanding.