NIDA acknowledges the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the lands on which we learn and tell stories, the Bidjigal, Gadigal, Dharawal and Dharug peoples, and we pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past and present.

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NIDA urges its 60th intake of students to be the face of change

On a historic day, the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) proudly welcomed a new cohort of students for its 60th year.

On a historic day, the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) proudly welcomed a new cohort of students for its 60th year.

Above top: NIDA students at Welcome Week 2019 in the Parade Theatre (photo: Patrick Boland)
Below: NIDA students in acting and production in 1979.

The energy was palpable throughout NIDA’s Nancy Fairfax Foyer, as fresh faces and returning Master of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts and Vocational Diploma students arrived to begin the next stage of their dramatic arts training.

At a special all-school meeting NIDA Executive Chairman Jennifer Bott AO was joined on the stage of the Parade Theatre by academic and administrative staff, special guest and award-winning Australian director Tim Jones, and President of NIDA’s student council (SCON) and second year BFA (Acting) student Rebecca Attanasio to mark the start of the academic year.  The proceedings commenced with Dr Peter Yanada McKenzie welcoming the students to Bedegal land on behalf of the elders of the Saltwater Aboriginal Community of La Perouse.

NIDA attracts students from all over Australia and the world, with many students relocating to Sydney to access education at the celebrated institute.

In the renowned Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) degree, 24 new students selected from nearly 1,000 applicants are starting their first year. While the first year actors excitedly commence a new phase in their creative development, second year students will tackle working on live productions for the first time, and third year students look forward to a year immersed in performance. Second year BFA (Acting) student Mantshologane Maile was excited to be back and exclaimed: ‘this year I am looking forward to the extreme workload and to be under the pressure to deliver exquisitely through liberation in the process!’

These onboarding students are now part of the 60-year-old legacy of teachers, performers, designers, writers, producers and directors who have experienced NIDA, which began in 1959. ‘Your capacity as professionals to develop empathy in audiences, to show what it is to be “the other”, is one of the most powerful things you will learn to do to make this world and our community a safer and better place,’ said Bott.

Above top: NIDA students and staff at Welcome Week 2019 at the NIDA campus (photo: Patrick Boland)

Special guest and NIDA alumnus Tim Jones, Director/General Manager of the Seymour Centre and former Artistic Director/CEO of Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP), delivered an inspiring address to the students.

‘I auditioned three times to get here, as I was determined to learn acting at NIDA. I feel enormously privileged to be able to speak to you today,’ said Jones. ‘I remember clearly when one of my tutors in my third year at NIDA, renowned film and theatre production director Jim Sharman, directed the production of Jean Genet’s The Screens as we opened the new Parade Theatre. He pulled me aside and suggested I could consider directing, and after I travelled and taught acting, I stuck my hand up at the ATYP and began my directing career. Never did I think that my career would play out as it did. It was precisely because NIDA put Jim Sharman in my path, and because he provoked me into thinking about my creativity in new ways, that I am where I am today.’

Jones urged the students to ‘remember the big picture. Remember that you are here because you have an interest in participating in an artform that at its best touches the human heart, reflecting the domains and the joys of the human condition, and one that can imagine and present visions of a better future for us all.’

Above top: NIDA celebrates its 60th anniversary.
Below: NIDA Executive Chairman Jennifer Bott AO. (Photo: Patrick Boland)

Hayden Tonazzi, commencing the MFA (Directing) course commented: ‘I just heard an amazing speech by Tim Jones, that has got me very excited. Just hearing from someone who has gone through all this, has come out the other end, and has been such a successful storyteller is so inspiring.’

Rhyanna Martinussen, first year BFA (Properties and Objects) student said: ‘I’m here from Melbourne, and moved to Sydney to be here. I love building things and I’m so excited to be here to start this course.’ Rachel Hallett, also in first year, BFA (Properties and Objects), has moved from her home in Toowoomba, Queensland, to Sydney to start the course.

Tess Burg, in the second year of her BFA (Design for Performance) course, said: ‘I’m most excited to do more hands-on things this year in design. We get to work more one-on-one with directors and more industry mentors.’ Emily Pires, in the second year of her BFA (Costume) course, said: ‘It’s so great to be back with friends. I’m really looking forward to making costumes in the productions this year.’


For a complete transcript of Tim Jones's address to NIDA students, please visit here.

NIDA has developed a program of events to celebrate 60 years of delivering excellence in dramatic arts education, with the first event, In Conversation: Love is Love, on 14 February. For more information, please visit

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