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 celebrates the resilience of the Class of 2020

Above from left: NIDA CEO Liz Hughes, The Hon Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, Diploma of Live Production and Technical Services student Kaylan Koks, Bachelor of Fine Arts (Costume) graduate Emily Pires, NIDA Chair Noel Staunton.

Guests, students and staff came together at NIDA’s Parade Theatre to celebrate the class of 2020 at the Graduation Ceremony on 16 May. The event was also streamed online for those who were unable to attend.

NIDA CEO Liz Hughes welcomed NIDA graduands and staff, Chair Noel Staunton, distinguished guests, and Hon Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts.

Liz Hughes addressed the students, saying, ‘These last 12 months have been a time of huge change and a time like no other in recent memory. Your hard work, resilience and innovation in a time of great disruption in the arts industry, is a credit to all of you.’

She also acknowledged the help and support of the Federal Government for NIDA in its 62nd successful year, saying ‘We are extremely gratefully for this support, and I want to whole heartedly thank the Federal Government.’

NIDA celebrates diverse Australian stories 

‘NIDA is firmly committed to creating and nurturing the world’s best storytellers and unlocking the power of the performing arts across stage, screen, future media and beyond,’ Liz Hughes added. ‘We know Australians, and the world, want more entertainment, want more from the creative sector, and quite simply, more Australian stories. And NIDA is where it all begins.’

Liz Hughes pointed to the future of NIDA’s diverse learning environment, saying that, ‘We are actively increasing the diversity of NIDA’s student cohort and staffing. We are also increasing our support for First Nations and under-represented artists through scholarships and financial and cultural assistance.  Despite our main campus being based here in Sydney, our outreach is to every part of the land and to communities across the country.’

She also announced that in 2022, NIDA is waiving the application fee for all courses, giving more people the opportunity to apply.  ‘Our hope is we will break down some barriers so that more talented individuals like yourselves are able and feel welcome to attend.’

She pointed to the digital future of theatre and screen entertainment, saying that ‘The focus on virtual and emerging technologies is now embedded in NIDA’s core practice. We know you will invent new futures for performance across existing platforms and those not yet invented. We can’t wait to see you delighting, surprising and captivating audiences of all ages across the nation.’

The outlook is positive for NIDA graduates 

The Hon Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts.

The Hon Paul Fletcher MP said it was ‘great to see a full house of people in the Parade Theatre again after the empty houses of last year. There is no doubt there has been extraordinary innovation in the arts during this past year, and the opportunities are now greater for Australian content makers to find outlets, particularly in streaming platforms.’ The Minister acknowledged the challenges for a young student entering the performing arts industry but said that the outlook was definitely positive for NIDA graduates.

Actor and alumna Susie Porter.

Actor and alumna Susie Porter (Acting, 1995) then delivered the occasional address. Susie is one of Australia’s most in demand actors, and has appeared in countless movies and films, including East West 101, Little Fish, Two Hands, Ladies in Black and most recently Wentworth. She recounted moments in her career, saying ‘there are no guarantees as an actor. I’ve spent years learning about resilience. For most of us, success and failure go hand in hand, but I have loved my career as an actor and meeting extraordinary creative artists. Be brave, be bold, stay hungry and continue to learn.’

Honorary Master of Fine Arts to Ursula Yovich

NIDA Board member and iconic Australian actor Sigrid Thornton presented an Honorary Master of Fine Arts in recognition of those who are making a significant contribution to the performing arts industry, both in Australia and globally.

NIDA Board member and iconic Australian actor Sigrid Thornton.

This year, the Honorary degree was given to playwright, singer, songwriter Ursula Yovich for her work as a powerful multidisciplinary storyteller, making an outstanding contribution to our cultural landscape across theatre, film, television and music.

A Burarra and Serbian woman, Ursula grew up in Darwin and Maningrida. She went on to perform with all the major main stage theatre companies in Australia, and dazzle audiences as far afield as Carnegie Nall in New York and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. Truly multi-talented and multi-disciplinary, Ursula is an award-winning writer and performer known for film and stage work, including The Saphires and the multi-award-winning Barbara and the Camp Dogs.

In accepting the Honorary Master of Fine Arts, Ursula spoke to the gathering via video: ‘Storytelling comes naturally to us. We all have something to offer up and to share. Every word uttered in story since the beginning of time has added to the picture as a whole. We are here to tell stories from many different perspectives, because it needs to be told. We must open our hearts, to grow our humanity.’

After a performance by NIDA’s second year Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) students and students of the Diploma of Musical Theatre, NIDA chair Noel Staunton presented the awards and conferred the degrees on behalf of the NIDA Board of Directors.

‘Stay connected to your passion’

Albert Mwangi, graduating Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) student, responded on behalf of the students. Albert gave a heartfelt speech about the future and urged the room full of emerging artists to remember to connect to their passion.

Albert Mwangi, graduating Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) student.

‘We have no choice but to live up to this in a world that seems to be burning up more than it is growing. Remember you came into this building because of your great sense of individuality and purpose for what you love. Remember to not let yourself get stepped on by power trippers whether for your skin colour, your sexual preference, your religion, your lifestyle choices, etc. And most importantly, remember to grow you for the better. Now, in the real world, be fierce, be ready to pick yourself back up, be ready to lift others up, be selfless, be selfish, be the best you can be and finally, don’t forget to have fun while at it.’

NIDA Director of People and Culture Susan Kibukamusoke introduced the Leslie Walford AM Award, made possible by the late Leslie Walford who was a generous supporter of NIDA and a thoughtful board member, passionate about the performing arts and outstanding students.

Gary Simpson AM awards the Leslie Walford AM Award to Bachelor of Fine Arts (Design for Performance) graduating student Liv Hutley. 

The Award is administered through the Seaborn Broughton and Walford Foundation and was presented by its representative Gary Simpson to Bachelor of Fine Arts (Design for Performance) student, Liv Hutley. Liv’s proposal for the award is to create a YouTube series covering over 65,000 years of fashion called If Clothes Could Talk.

In closing the event, Liz Hughes urged the now new members of the NIDA alumni community to keep in touch. ‘As alumni you will always be a part of NIDA. Your graduation today is not an ending; it is the beginning of an incredible future.’

‘We are so proud of you.’

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