The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.
Bob Maza was born on Palm Island, a Murri Reserve in Queensland. His father was from Murray Island in the Torres Strait and his mother from the coastal Yidinjdji people. He completed his schooling in Cairns, spent some years as a manual labourer and then worked as a store clerk in Darwin. Maza began acting in Melbourne in 1969 with little formal training. He was a founding member of the National Black Theatre in Sydney in 1972. In 1970 Maza was a delegate to the 25th United Nations Assembly in New York to highlight the Third World status of Indigenous Australians. In that year he was also involved in the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, where he often used theatre as a means of showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues. In 1981 he was an official delegate to the World Indigenous Festival held in Canada.
Maza directed his first play, the premiere of Richard J. Merritt's The Cakeman, at the National Black Theatre in 1975. After that he worked as an actor, director, playwright and a consultant in theatre, radio, film and television. Maza's pioneering role in the ABC program Bellbird, which saw him playing a barrister, was vital in changing the way Indigenous people were portrayed in the media. His eminent acting career included countless roles on television, in theatre and feature films such as The Fringe Dwellers, The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith and Reckless Kelly. In 1993, in recognition of his work in the Arts and for his people, Maza was awarded an Order of Australia (AM). During his years as an AFC commissioner (1995-98) he made a significant contribution not only to the development of Indigenous filmmakers in Australia but to the Australian filmmaking community generally. Maza is the father of Lisa Maza and actor and director, Rachel Maza Long (qq.v).