The Australian Film Television and Radio School honored three industry luminaries at its annual graduation ceremony on Friday.
First Nations media executive Dot West, OAM, showrunner, writer and director Tony Ayres and the late director, Shirley Barrett were awarded Doctors of Arts, Film and Television.
Dot West (pictured left) said: “I am honored to receive this recognition from an institution that, for the past 50 years, has supported the growth and development of our creative industry to become the revolutionary force it is today for the ‘Australia and the World.”
Tony Ayres (pictured center) said: “I attended AFTRS in 1989 at a time when I was very uncertain whether or not I belonged in the film industry. It was the inspiration and guidance of the key teachers there (most notably, Barbara Masel) that set me on the path that still sees me in this industry thirty-four years later. For me, the idea of groundbreaking cinematic content is finding the courage to say what’s not being said, to add to the current cultural conversation, and to humanize polarizing debates.”
Shirley Barrett’s (pictured right) posthumous honorary degree was accepted by her husband, Chris Norris.
Chris Norris said: “Shirley and I met when we were nineteen. It was exciting to be with her as her talent blossomed. I watched her thrive at AFTRS. It was there that she developed her own unique voice. You have often spoken of what a privilege it was to have the opportunity to play and experiment in such a resourceful, supportive and non-restrictive environment. Her senior film Cherith, which she wrote and directed, gave her the confidence and determination to follow a creative path that was hers. Her signature comedic style was incredibly funny but always compassionate.
Over the years I have marveled at how determined, disciplined and uncompromising an artist she is, but also an inclusive and generous collaborator. It was these qualities that made her much loved and appreciated in the Australian film and television industry. That and the fact that he was so fun to be around.
The ceremony saw 141 students graduate from the 2022 academic year.
Arts Minister Tony Burke addressed the students: ‘The reason we have a culture policy is not a set of arts adverts, we have a culture policy because the work you have now been trained to do as graduates is essential for Australians have to know themselves, we can understand each other and the world can know us”.
The winner of the inaugural Women in Cinematography Prize, awarded to AFTRS graduate Grace Clinton, was also announced.
Nick Rowe, Demand Creation Manager, Sony ANZ, said: “We congratulate Grace Clinton for her outstanding creative excellence in filmmaking and for being awarded the Sony-sponsored Women in Cinematography Prize. This initiative recognizes the challenges faced by women and diverse professionals in the film industry and encourages students who identify as women to take on film roles. Australia’s vibrant film and television industry is vital to sharing Australian stories with a global audience, and Grace is among those pioneering greater diversity and representation in this industry.”
Grace Clinton replied: “I am exceptionally honored to be awarded this award, I am thrilled to be considered alongside some incredibly talented cinematographers. This Women in Cinematography Prize from Sony has given me the chance to pursue my dreams as a cinematographer, as I intend to one day direct large-scale long-form productions, both here in Australia and internationally. But, before doing all of that, I hope to make more exciting short content alongside all the talented people I’ve met along the way of my cinematic journey. I hope to help create stories that demand attention and will use this opportunity to bring more amazing women behind the camera and hopefully create a space where women feel invited into a predominantly male field. I am very fortunate to be in the position I am in and I am exceptionally grateful to Sony and everyone who has supported me on my AFTRS journey, especially Jackie Wolf, Simeon Bryan and my wonderful Lake Emba production crew, especially the our director Maddy Jurd. “
Russel Howcroft, attending his latest graduation as Chairman of the AFTRS Council, said: “The AFTRS Graduation Ceremony celebrates the outstanding achievements of our graduates who have completed their journey through this world-class institution. The Australian film, television and radio industry has a bright future with AFTRS graduates who are sure to make a significant contribution, creating memorable works of art that will touch hearts, change minds and impact our Australian culture.
AFTRS CEO Dr. Nell Greenwood said, “Graduation is always a significant and very proud moment in the AFTRS year as we celebrate the talent and hard work of our graduate students. In the School’s 50th anniversary year, it was an especially joyous event as we reflect on the School’s long history of excellence in creative education and the strength, generosity and brilliance of the AFTRS alumni community that these recent graduates have just joined .
Prior to graduation, AFTRS held its annual First Nations graduation event to recognize the dedication and hard work of First Nations students. The event brought together the graduating class of AFTRS First Nations students: Nazareth Alfred (Bachelor of Screen Production), Kyneisha Murray (Bachelor of Screen Production), Natalie Agius (Graduate Diploma in Radio and Podcasting), Reilly O’Loughlin (Master of Screen Art Production Design), and Joshua Yasserie (Master of Screen Art Animation – together with their families, friends and community to celebrate Indigenous excellence. This was a night to celebrate with family, friends and community. L The event included dances, a Welcome to Country from AFTRS Elder-in-Residence Aunty Rhonda Dixon-Grovenor, a keynote address by veteran producer Pauline Clague, and screenings of student work.
Dr Romaine Morton, Director of AFTRS, First Nations & Outreach, said: “We are honored to support five First Nations graduating media creators as they emerge into the national and global media landscape. Each graduate is imbued with a unique voice vital to the entirety of First Nations representation, and each is positioned to contribute to the ongoing celebration of First Nations excellence.
Dot West, née Henry, is a Noongar woman from southwestern Western Australia, with ancestral ties to the north. She has lived and worked in the Kimberley region since 1977. Dot began her media career on radio in 1987 before moving into the film industry. For ten years Dot was Head of Productions at Goolarri Media in Broome, overseeing radio, television, music and events operations. Dot has held numerous board positions across the industry. She currently works as a screenwriter, story advisor and accredited trainer, and is a director of Goolarri Media Enterprises and Ramu Productions in Broome, a board member of the Cinefest Oz Film Festival and chair of the First Nations Digital Inclusion Advisory Group. Since 2014, Dot has been a co-facilitator of the Goolarri Writers Program, where she supports emerging Indigenous writers.
Tony Ayres is an award-winning Australian showrunner, writer and director and a founding member of Matchbox Pictures. In 2018 Tony formed his own production company Tony Ayres Productions (TAP), developing and producing feature films and television for global audiences and international markets. Collectively, Tony’s feature films and TV programs have been nominated for over one hundred Australian and international awards and he has won over sixty of these awards including an International Emmy, a BAFTA, a Golden Horse (the Asian Academy Awards), six AACTA awards and six logie. Tony was the creator/showrunner of The Slap, Nowhere Boys and the world’s number one Netflix hit, Clickbait. He co-created and executive produced Glitch, Stateless and Fires. He has executive produced such acclaimed shows as Barracuda, Seven Types of Ambiguity, Wanted, Creamerie, The Devil’s Playground, Old School, Underground: The Julian Assange Story, The Straits and The Family Law. In feature films, Tony directed Cut Snake (2015), The Home Song Stories (2007) and Walking on Water (2002). He has also executive produced award-winning feature films such as Ali’s Wedding and Lou. His films have premiered and screened at top-notch festivals around the world, including the Berlinale and the Toronto Film Festival.
Shirley Barrett was a screenwriter, director and novelist. She graduated from AFTRS in 1987, majoring in writing and directing. Her final year film Cherith won the Dendy and AFI awards for best short film and the Prix Canal + award. She went on to write and direct three feature films. Love Serenade (1996) won the Camera d’Or (best first feature) at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. The film was also awarded Best Film at the 1996 Valladolid International Film Festival Spain, selected to screen at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival and was the opening night film at New Directors New Films, New York 1997. Walk the Talk (2000) screened at the Toronto and Rotterdam Film Festivals. South Solitary (2010) had its world premiere opening the 2010 Sydney Film Festival. Shirley was the recipient of the 2009 Winner Western Australia Premier Literary Award (Premier’s Prize and Script Award) and Winner Queensland Premier’s Literary Award 2010 (Film Script). Shirley has also worked extensively in Australian television as a director and screenwriter. His credits include Boys From The Bush, A Country Practice, Heartbreak High, Police Rescue, Packed To The Rafters, Wild Boys, House Husbands, Mr & Mrs Murder, Love Child, Winter, A Place to Call Home, Offspring, Five Bedrooms and Home and Away. She has written three novels: Rush Oh! (2015 Picador Pan Macmillan) and The Bus on Thursday (2018 Allen and Unwin). Mrs Hopkins will be published by Allen and Unwin in June 2024. Shirley died in August 2022.