Catherine Simmonds OAM

Transforming people's lived experience into powerful performance, where everyone takes the lead role in their own story!

Selection of Works

Three Sides of the Coin

Devised with people recovering from the harms of gambling (including  families affected). Working with Vietnamese, Chinese, Arab and Anglo communities.  The  work evolves as presenting to diverse audiences;e.g.  PDs for Health and AOD sector, rehabs, prisons, conferences, live online and creative video stories.  

Listening to Voices

“I was reacting normally to things that should never be normal”

Established in 2015 this work is a creative intervention, devised with people living with a 'mental health diagnosis'. The new mental health and wellbeing Act for VIctoria puts the views, preferences and values of people living with mental illness at the forefront of service design and delivery.

 Act of Translation

Devised with  international students who partook in theatre workshops, culminating in four incredible booked out performances of ‘She’ll Be Right’.  This work inspired a permanent film installation for the immigration museum.  

Story IS Connection

We collaborate with communities and transform people’s lived experiences into performance and film. Our creative process enables a space that connects people to their own story, each other, and the wider community. We facilitate and curate stories that nurture empathy and help us move beyond prejudice, enabling safe spaces to hold complex narratives.

'Not just my story' for Light in Winter

'Light in Winter'.  A story exchange between 30 asylum and seekers and indigenous artists Rob Bundle, Larry Walsh, Viki Couzens and Kutcha Edwards.  Adapted from a performance created with 30 asylum seekers (featured in the Human Rights Arts Film Festival 2011) for presentaion at 

YES move NO move MOVED

Developed as part of Be SpectACTive! (Creative Europe Program of Eurpoean Union)

The work explored ethnicity vs citizenships vs identity via residencies with B51 Cultural Society in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Tanec Praha in Prague, Czech Republic and Radu Stanca National Theatre in Sibiu, Romania.  Working across three countries with asylum seekers in detention, gypsy communities and migrant workers with the artistic team Melita Jurisic, Bridget Fiske,  Joseph Lau, Andrew Crofts, Miguel Marin 

Timor Leste - Preserving Timors Anciet Tales.

Transforming sacred ancestor stories into performance, for the first time with elders and youth in the Lautem district of East Timor. The project was documented by ABC TV and was shown several times on ABC 1 and ABC 3.

Brunswick Women's Theatre (compilation)

Footage from 1992 - 2011.  As the founding artistic director in collaboration with the many women, Catherine facilitated, wrote and directed 20 major performances. This is a video montage from five performances.  Closing with  excerpts from  the forum theatre project 'Pretend You're Asleep' (where audiences stepped onto the stage to change  the dialogue in the scenes of childhood sexual abuse and family violence.


OAM  2020 (Order of Australia Medal) For service to the performing arts

Australia Council of the Arts awarded Catherine two-year Fellowship in 2001 
Studied and worked with legendary Augusto Boal and his Center of the Theatre of the Oppressed in Rio De Janiero in Brazil. Forum Theatre is a fundamental method of CTO and has influenced her work there-after

Asialink Residency 2011  to work with Many Hands International in Timor Leste

Honouring Women in Moreland Award

I was fortunate enough to see the performance and the work not only entertained us all, but shifted minds – specifically mine! Such a powerful way to have us all ‘see,’ perceive and empathize with the lived experience of international students in our city. I can say that it felt like it was absolutely essential ‘professional development.

- Dr Jackie Watts -
Councillor, and Chair of the Knowledge City Portfolio, City of Melbourne


Audience member “Amazing, Powerful, Connecting, Brave. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You can change the world”.

Audience Member: Theatre that changed my mind forever

Participant: It’s not just a performance it’s an intervention 

Audience Member: The most profound, authentic, moving non simplistic expression of lived experience mental health issues I  have been previldge to witness. Thankyou

Asylum Seeker participant (Europe): Today, dancing with you is the first day I feel happy since I left my country”.

I feel less alone in my struggles. It's dissolving shame, because the performers are sharing stories of shame in an un-shameful way. It can help to remove stigma associated with mental illness and give hope to those who are still fighting their battles.

- Audience member -
At Drug and Alcohol Centre

"Thank you to each of you from the many communities I've had the privilege to work with, 
you've been my teachers and enriched the way I see the world!"

- Catherine Simmonds