First Nations training grant announced at AFTRS graduation

Two programs for First Nations creatives support access and career pathways.

(L-R) AFTRS Council Chair Rachel Perkins, Minister for the Arts Tony Burke, Master of Arts Screen: Business Graduate EJ Garrett.

A $530,000 grant over two years to support First Nations training and career pathways was announced last Friday by the Minister for the Arts Tony Burke, at the Australian Film Television and Radio School Graduation Ceremony.

“The role of AFTRS is to train and to inspire,” Minister Burke said to AFTRS’ graduating students, “You, with the training you now have, are some of the best equipped people in this nation, to make sure Australia knows itself.”

He added, “To imagine our nation without our stories is to image a place where none of us would want to live.

“We’ve invested in you. Don’t stop imagining.”

The announcement came three days after the Federal Budget confirmed AFTRS will receive $23.2 million over four years.

AFTRS CEO Dr. Nell Greenwood said, “This restoration of government funding to previous levels is a relief, and such a great outcome for the School and its future students. We are grateful to Minister Burke and the Government. In a time of industry upheaval, challenges and opportunities, it means we can continue to champion and support brilliant Australian talent and our resilient, ever dynamic screen and audio communities.”

The ceremony saw 158 students graduate from the 2023 academic year. Six graduating First Nations students were honoured at a ceremony attended by Elders, First Nations community and industry colleagues.

Heartbreak High Creator and Showrunner Hannah Carroll Chapman gave the Alumni Commencement Address.

“Our industry is one in a state of perpetual change. The companies change, the formats change, the technology and the screens and the politics. But what doesn’t change, and what never will, is our insatiable human appetite to see and hear and feel our stories told. Know that the worldwide hunger and interest in Australian stories is out there,” she said.

Graduate speaker EJ Garrett, a Darumbal man from the coastal lands of Central Queensland who studied the Master of Arts Screen: Business online. EJ said, “This has been a life changing experience. This process has really emboldened me to achieve my dreams.”

Also announced at the Graduation ceremony was the winner of the  $10,000 Women in Cinematography Prize, presented by Sony to AFTRS Bachelor of Arts Screen: Production graduate, Mia Schirmer.

The funding will allow AFTRS to support two programs of work. The First Nations Bridging Program will offer participants a bespoke combination of training, placement, mentoring opportunities and community support based on the needs, interests and ambition of First Nations students. It will create pathways for cohorts of emerging First Nations talent from remote and regional areas into the screen, radio and audio industries.

The second program will support a Training Audit of current First Nations employment and training within the screen sector to provide AFTRS, screen agencies and the industry with a clear map of the current needs and gaps, as well as the areas that are well supported. This will be a vital part of a targeted and coordinated approach to First Nations screen, radio and audio training, across Australia.

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