Alumni Feature: Casey Natty - 17.04.18

Casey Natty is a 2014 NAISDA graduate from the Kamilaroi nation.

Since leaving NAISDA, Casey has enjoyed an exciting and varied career, starting with a spell in Sydney Dance Company’s sought after Pre-Professional Year and now taking a different direction, working as a Sports and Recreation Coordinator on the beautiful Elcho Island in the East Arnhem Region.

We recently sat down with Casey to learn more about his time at NAISDA, his passion for culture and his plans for the future. Here’s what he had to say.

When did you attend NAISDA?

I started training at NAISDA in 2011 when I was 17. I first learnt about NAISDA through its talent identification program ConnectEd, which is now known as Garabara Ngurra. After I participated in Connect Ed, I decided to audition and was accepted the next year. I graduated from NAISDA in 2014.

What was your most memorable experience during your studies at NAISDA and why?

For me, it was definitely the cultural experiences and connections. Going to the Torres Strait and Arnhem Land with the Cultural Tutors and seeing their homelands was a big eye opener that many people wouldn’t be able to experience otherwise. I’d say that the cultural experiences really helped me to prepare for the journey that I am now on.

How do you think NAISDA helped you grow as an artist?

It opened my eyes to what I could achieve, both academically and physically.

NAISDA provides you with a lot of tools to help set you up for the future. I made an effort to utilise these tools, take everything on board and learn as much as I could. It helped me to build the foundation of where I am today.

Did you have any specific career plans after graduating? What did you do following graduation?

When I first graduated NAISDA I joined Sydney Dance Company’s Pre-Professional Year, which gave me an opportunity to see if a full-time professional dance career was the right path for me. After six months, I decided that I didn’t want to do full-time dance – I much preferred performing on a freelance basis.

After Sydney Dance Company, I got a job at a school working as an Aboriginal mentor and teacher’s aide, which gave me the experience to take on my current role as a Sports and Recreation Coordinator on Elcho Island in the Torres Strait.

This is a fantastic job which is a bit of a full circle moment for me. Ever since I first visited Elcho Island on Remote Cultural Residency with NAISDA, I knew that I wanted to come and give back to this community because they’ve given me so much. It’s exactly where I want to be.

My role is quite varied, I run sporting competitions in the community, but I’m also a youth worker and counsellor and everything else rolled into one. We work with all groups in the community, from school children to the ageing and disability sector.

What has been the hardest part of that journey?

To be honest, there haven’t been many hard parts. I take things as they come and have never really been worried about my career because of the knowledge that NAISDA has provided me with.

Have you discovered anything about yourself or the industry that surprised you or you weren’t expecting?

Not really! When I entered the workforce, I think I was ready because NAISDA had prepared me. It was all a matter of learning and figuring out what I wanted to do with my career. When I left NAISDA I had a choice to pursue a professional or community-based career. I chose a professional career path because that’s what felt right at the time. Now I’ve changed to a community path because I’ve realised that’s what I want to do with my life.

What’s next for you?

I’m about to start a course at Charles Sturt University in Yolngu language studies so that I can better connect with the communities that I’m working with up here in Arnhem Land.

I love the work I’m doing in Elcho Island and want to identify ways that I can help develop the Yolngu community by connecting them with new tools that they might not currently have. It would be good to help some of the younger communities to get out and experience new opportunities in other parts of the country.

In the long term, I’m also considering a Bachelor of Teaching. I love culture so I may also work on some cross-cultural projects too.

Finally, what advice might you give to a young person thinking of coming to NAISDA?

There are three pieces of advice that I always like to give:

  1. You’re a human first and foremost
  2. Create the art you want to show to the world
  3. Be the dancer that you want to be