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Happy Birthday AFTRS!

AFTRS 50th Anniversary

The Australian Film Television and Radio School’s 50th birthday celebrations culminated last Saturday in a grand reunion of alumni, students, staff, and industry friends. Guests gathered to honour the national film and audio School’s revolutionary legacy, honouring the rich history of the AFTRS community and uniting behind a vision to support Australia’s future storytellers, with donations open for the AFTRS Alumni and Industry Scholarship Fund.

Established in 1973 through a bipartisan act of Government, AFTRS is regarded as one of the world’s leading creative schools, with its alumni at the forefront of Australian and international screen and broadcasting. Founding Chair and former Federal Minister Barry Jones was part of a group of committed Australians determined to invigorate an Australian screen industry. At the time, Mr Jones said: “The School must act as a revolutionary force. There can be no half measures. We must create one of the world’s great film schools, or we must abandon the project at once.” 

Minister Tony Burke’s celebratory video address echoed this sentiment, championing AFTRS technicians and storytellers as, “essential workers,” whose contributions are vital to Australian culture. “AFTRS are the long line of credits at the end of every show, the person holding the camera, not just the person in camera, the person controlling the soundboard, all the different technical skills that allow the creativity and storytelling of Australians to reach the rest of the nation and to reach the rest of the world.” 

His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley, Governor-General of Australia also sent his well wishes, To the staff, students, alumni and industry — thank you for your gift to our nation. For broadening our minds, enriching our lives and making our communities stronger.”

Spring storm clouds abated for proceedings to open with a Smoking Ceremony from Uncle Dean Kelly, and a Welcome to Country from AFTRS Elder in Residence, Aunty Rhonda Dixon-Grovenor. AFTRS CEO, Dr. Nell Greenwood was then joined on stage by AFTRS Council Chair Debra Richards, AFTRS Academic Board Chair Professor Mark Rose, AFTRS Alumni Advisory Group Chair Unjoo Moon and AFTRS Council Student Representative Amelia Pieri.  

“The mission for the School is to be a disruptive, transforming, enriching force for Australian culture. And tonight is a celebration of the power of this idea and where it has taken us and where it will continue to take us. Thanks to all of you here, alumni, industry friends, students, staff, we now have a national screen and audio school that is a global beacon for learning and creativity, casting a clear, strong light across the country for future audacious, disruptive, brilliant, revolutionary film makers, broadcasters, podcasters, craftspeople and storytellers.” – Dr Nell Greenwood 

AFTRS Academic Board Chair, Professor Mark Rose, highlighted story as the lifeblood of the nation, connecting storytellers and land. 

“Story tells us who we are and where we are and where we’ve been and where we’re going. It reflects us. It inspires the course for us to action. It comforts us. It takes us to brave places. Story fuels our spirit and that stirs our soul. For 50 years, graduates and students have come here to learn the craft of magic through story. Because it’s a place to hone their skills, stretch their minds and stir their spirits.” – Professor Mark Rose 

Alumni Advisory Group Chair Unjoo Moon celebrated the remarkable reach and skills of AFTRS graduates; her reflections amplified by birthday messages which have poured across the year in from the AFTRS alumni and industry community, including Phillip Noyce, Nick Beauman, Ivan Sen, Lena Matienko, Dion Beebe, Lynette Wallworth, Don McAlpine, Gillian Armstrong, Tom Jeffrey, Warwick Thornton, Matthew Deaner, Jacqueline McKenzie and AFTRS partner Bus Stop Films: 

The 50th anniversary of AFTRS has presented an extraordinary opportunity to share stories, thoughts, and dreams about how individual contributions enrich the delicate tapestry of storytelling. Current students and staff were asked to gaze into the future and share what they think the next 50 years of storytelling will be about.

Commemorating the past and forging the future, the 50th reception brought together five decades of transformative screen and audio community, reunited in celebration and anchored in dedication to craft and storytelling. The evening also emphasised the School’s priority on accessibility and representation, with awareness and monies raised for the AFTRS Alumni and Industry Scholarship Fund, which will see an inaugural $25,000 scholarship going support a gifted storyteller applying to study the Master of Arts Screen program in 2024. 

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