Scott Rankin was in a taxi on his way to Limelightwhen he got a phone call from the people who work for him in Roebourne, a town in the Pilbara in Western Australia.

Scott Rankin with Cultural Leader and Performer Patrick Churnside in Roebourne, Pilbara. Photo © Frances Andrijich

Once a gold rush town, it now has a largely Indigenous population and is known for its social dysfunction and high levels of child abuse. Since 2011, Rankin’s company Big hART has been working there, undertaking arts projects with people across the community. “[It] is an exquisite place and wonderful people, [though] incredibly traumatised and currently in the media for some very serious issues,” he says quietly. “And my discussion is that the cultural centre was trashed last night – so [you need to know] what kind of damage it was so you can identify who the kind of age level of the perpetrators were, whether your staff are in danger, and if you have to pull them out. This is the reality,” he says.

“To work in the most needy communities of this country, at the...