28 November 2019

Much has changed over Helpmann’s 25-year lifespan, but the heart of what we do remains unchanged – “supporting emerging creatives to realise their visions and build sustainable practices”.

The Helpmann Academy was formed in 1994 as a joint venture between the Government of South Australia, South Australia’s three Universities and TAFE SA. The objective of the Helpmann Academy was to offer opportunities to “all who seek a greater degree of excellence in learning and honing their creative talents in the field of performing and visual arts.”

As the only organisation of its kind in Australia, the strength of Helpmann Academy is rooted in our partner institutions – University of South Australia, The University of Adelaide, TAFE SA, and Flinders University. Over the past 25 years, Helpmann has worked alongside our partner institutions to devise and deliver meaningful and valuable opportunities for their students and graduates. Together, we work to ensure artists are exposed to a range of programs, providing the best chance to develop their artistic identity and act as the principal driving force of their careers.

To celebrate our unique 25-year relationship, we asked the leaders of our partner institutions to tell us what makes Helpmann Academy special.

Home to one of the oldest art schools in Australian history, the University of South Australia is known as innovative, with a research focus that promotes a critically reflective approach to creative practice. Boasting an impressive list of alumni, including Margaret Preston, Hans Heyson, and Barbara Hanrahan, the University aims to provide students with skills in critical analysis and creative thinking and practice, ready to graduate as career-ready professionals.

Professor David Lloyd, Vice Chancellor of the University of South Australia says it is this focus on preparing graduates for a career in the arts that makes the relationship between Helpmann and UniSA so significant.

“The history and longevity of our partnership with the Helpmann Academy is very important to us at UniSA. I feel that our partnership with Helpmann Academy is based upon true collaboration and a mutual desire to support emerging artists and designers, ensuring a strong future of creative practice in South Australia.”

For over 130 years, the University of Adelaide has educated generations of leaders through their Faculty of Arts program. Incorporating the Elder Conservatorium of Music, one of Australia’s oldest and most distinguished tertiary music schools and a leader in the Australian music landscape, the University’s fundamental aim is to help students to think, research, and communicate clearly and creatively.

Professor Peter Rathjen, Vice Chancellor of the University of Adelaide says that like the University, Helpmann understands that education doesn’t stop in a lecture theatre.

“The University of Adelaide and the Helpmann Academy both aim to empower generations of young people to realise their vision and their potential for South Australia. We are very conscious that education is more than just sitting in a lecture theatre or going to a tutorial. It’s about holistic development and enabling people to harness and express their creativity. For the past 25 years, the Helpmann Academy has supported the development of students from the University’s Elder Conservatorium of Music, recognising our position as the State’s premier music educator.”

TAFE SA’s Adelaide College of the Arts is the only tertiary institution in Australia that has students studying visual, music, and performing arts all in one building – enabling cross-discipline learning that has long-term benefits. The modern, $60m iconic performing and visual arts centre is based in the heart of the city and features purpose-built studios, theatres, and workshops with industry-specialist equipment and technologies.

David Coltman, Chief Executive of TAFE SA says that Helpmann and TAFE SA are invested in the same thing – ensuring that emerging creatives have the support to make the most of their talents.

“We have a common goal and that’s to encourage and support people on their creative journey. It’s something we do collaboratively. We provide a stimulating learning environment for students to develop their skills and start their creative journey, and Helpmann enhances this with additional experiences which continue well after graduation.”

“The organisation is a hub for SA’s creative industry, providing information, grants, mentoring and other professional development opportunities. Importantly, it encourages people to think about their creative passion and skill in terms of a viable career.”

For over 50 years Flinders has nurtured the aspirations of those who would pursue creative roles in theatre, film, writing, music and more, with many of their alumni going on to establish remarkable and influential creative careers. Their close collaborations with industry such as State Theatre Company of South Australia, the Adelaide Fringe, and Adelaide Film Festival (to name a few) give students the chance to gain placements, learn from the very best, and gather real-world experience.

Professor Colin Stirling, President and Vice Chancellor of Flinders University says that the University’s connection with Helpmann goes way back.

“The relationship between the Helpmann Academy and Flinders University has been immensely strong from the very start – with former Flinders’ Deputy Chancellor Judith Roberts AO appointed as the Academy’s foundation chair in 1994. The arts are a valuable vehicle for learning and are widely used at Flinders to shed light, context and new perspectives on knowledge, and to foster a deeper understanding of the things we teach. The strong reputation of the Helpmann Academy means its support becomes a badge of honour and a mark of achievement. By identifying talent and investing in it, the Helpmann Academy has helped successive generations of creative artists on their pathways to success.”

We are proud to be a part of a unique and valuable collaboration between South Australia’s universities and TAFE SA – one that has worked harmoniously and generated impressive results over 25 years. The genuine shared passion all partners hold for supporting creatives to achieve their goals is what makes these partnerships so strong, and something that we look forward to deepening even further over the next 25 years.

Images: Professor David Lloyd, photo courtesy of UniSA. Professor Jennie Shaw, Professor Peter Rathjen & Dr Joy Rathen, photo by Russell Millard. Natalia Sledz, David Coltman, Lucy Haas-Hennessy, photo by Hayley Jessup. Professor Colin Stirling, photo courtesy of Flinders University.