He’s a friendly and familiar face Australian households love. Tiwi Island man and Darwin local, Rob Collins, has risen to fame and stolen hearts on both the television and the stage.
Born and raised in Darwin, Collins’ childhood was mostly spent outdoors.
“My time, as a kid, was split between here and Bathurst Island (Wurrumiyanga) … we’d go over in the school June/July holidays. Growing up in Darwin was all about footy as a teenager, and fishing,” Collins said.
Collins enrolled in university to study Business but found himself struggling.
“I remember sitting down with the course head lecturer … He looked at my electives, which were all creative … And he said to me, ‘Maybe this is not for you? Maybe you need to do something artistic’.
“I didn’t pay any mind at that point, my focus was getting through that degree and making the folks happy.”
Finishing his degree, Collins moved into public service, however, found passion in his creative hobbies.
“I had a band with my brother called Black Chapel … We started a boy band here in Darwin as well. I was doing creative things, but they were very much a hobby.”
“Feeling in the back of my mind that there must be something different to that nine to five – you know every Pixar movie is based on this idea. I was one of those Pixar characters, there’s a great big world out there and I was finding out how to be a part of it.”
“My brother and I had gone to an acting workshop … at a local community arts organisation in Darwin … Through that process, I started doing ads for small community announcements and small community organisations, things like that.”
Collins eventually connected with Wesley Enoch, and confided in Enoch for advice to break into acting.
“He said, ‘Don’t do it, it’s a hard life. You travel, your animals die, you’re on the road constantly,’ but he wasn’t discouraging. He was really encouraging and realistic. That chat made me think seriously about it … I couldn’t think of it as a hobby. There are real world consequences and if I’m going to commit to it, I needed to commit properly.”
In 2011, Collins began studying at National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA) in Sydney and after graduation, was cast as King Mufasa in the stage production of The Lion King.
“I was finishing NIDA with two teenagers in high school and a new-born, we had this little family and all of sudden we were touring Australia.
“I feel tired when I think about what we went through … we were living week to week. I’d leave in the morning before the sun was up and I’d come home when the sun was down. I only saw my family at night.
“We did that for months on end. I look back and I’m really proud of what we did.”
Collins has appeared in Sydney Theatre Company’s Midsummer Night’s Dream along with his television career which includes, The Wrong Girl, Cleverman and Total Control.
In 2017, Collins accepted his Best New Talent Logie and spoke in language.
“I feel a real responsibility when I speak language publicly or represent my family … I was so conscious to get it right because I really wanted them to feel proud. Seeing the reaction after it was so worth it.”
“I love hearing language spoken in such public forums. This was a way for me to affirm my connection to the Tiwis because it’s part of my DNA and I wanted to acknowledge them and their presence with me that night. I think on a broader scale it’s nice for the world to see it and hear it and I think there should be more of it.”
Travelling has become a large part of his career. However, no matter how far his feet wander, Darwin will always be home.
“My roots feel like they’re so deep here … I really feel disconnected when I’m not here. And not just in a physical way, there’s something about being in a place on Country that gives you things you can’t quite articulate. I feel settled here, I feel like my feet go through the soil almost like roots of a tree when I’m here. I don’t feel that anywhere else, my feet stay on the surface.”
Big things are on the horizon for Collins in 2020 with a potential career in the United States. However, he stays grounded and humble.
“When I look back, I’m so proud and I’m so thankful for all I have. My 23-year-old daughter is going to roll her eyes at this, but I feel so blessed!
“If I can continue this, and to continue to put food on the table for my family, provide a nice home, do what I love and get paid for it, that’s all I can wish for.”
By Rachael Knowles