Neil Curnow Award 2020



The Neil Curnow Award is available to final year students and graduates, for the purpose of undertaking further study or career development in acting, theatre development or directing. Proposed activity must include at least one element of study (e.g. short courses, masterclasses, workshops) at a recognised institution, and can also include internships, or residencies with an organisation or industry leader interstate.

The award is made possible through the generous bequest of the late Neil Curnow, an extraordinary South Australian theatre practitioner. Following his impressive career as an actor, director, teacher and voice coach, Neil made a bequest through the Independent Arts Foundation to support emerging South Australian theatre practitioners through this prestigious award.

Facilitated by the Helpmann Academy on behalf of the Independent Arts Foundation, the award enables the recipient to further develop their burgeoning career, seek out training in areas of interest, gain hands-on experience, and build networks. This is an invaluable opportunity for an emerging theatre artist to undertake significant activities, that will support and inspire their future endeavours.

Due to COVID-19 and the uncertainty around international travel, the 2020 Neil Curnow Award will support opportunities within Australia with funding of up to $7,000. However, you are welcome to contact the Helpmann Academy to discuss an international opportunity if you believe that your plan is feasible taking COVID-19 restrictions into consideration. Applications for international opportunities will not be considered without approval from the Helpmann Academy prior to submission.


Emerging artists eligible to apply will meet the following criteria:

  • Applicants must be final year students or graduates (within 5 years following their final year of study) from an eligible Helpmann Academy partner institution and program (see eligibility list here)
  • Honours graduates are eligible if they are within 5 years of graduation
  • Applicants must be the recipient of a place in further study or an internship at a recognised interstate or overseas organisation
  • Aged between 19 and 30 years old (as at 23 November 2020)
  • An Australian citizen who is based in South Australia


The award is designed to support an emerging artist to take the next step in their career development, by means of further study and gaining hands-on experience through an internship, or residency.

Applicants are encouraged to thoughtfully consider the progression they would like to take in their career development, and research what opportunities might be available to help facilitate this. An opportunity should offer the right education and experience to provide pivotal development, not available in South Australia. Programs must include at least one element of formal study at a recognised institution and can be combined with short courses in specific techniques or with specialised instructors, or placements with companies or organisations producing work closely aligned with the field you would like to work within.

Applicants are encouraged to apply for support to undertake a self-devised program of multiple opportunities.



Before commencing your application, please ensure that you are eligible to apply.

Applicants are encouraged to check with Helpmann that their intended program will meet the criteria.

Clearly answer all the questions and provide the required support material.

The application is made up of 3 questions requiring written responses. They are;

  1. Outline the program of activity you wish to undertake (be as specific as possible with details – what, when, where, and who is involved).
  2. Outline why you want to undertake the varying aspects of the program, and what the expected artistic, professional, or audience development outcomes will be (i.e. if you propose to undertake a mentorship, explain why you want to work with the mentor, and how they will contribute to your professional development).
  3. Outline your professional experience to date, including any awards and successful grant applications, details of any productions and key artists you’ve worked with

The required support material is outlined in the application form and includes:

  • Artist CV (maximum 2 pages)
  • Official academic transcript
  • Reference letter from a current or previous lecturer (on letterhead), or letter from an industry peer*
  • A letter of confirmation of application or acceptance to study at your chosen institution or correspondence confirming your place as an intern.
  • A budget outlining all expenses associated with the program and how they will be supported (see sample budget).
  • Timeline of the proposed activity (activity must take place between 1 January 2021 and 31 December 2021).

* It is highly recommended to organise and request your reference letter as soon as you start to put your application together and in plenty of time before the application due date. Reference letters must be provided with the online application form and not separately.

In addition to the required support material, applicants are welcome to also provide additional material they feel will support their application. This can include further letters of endorsement, clippings/reviews of past work, or showreels.

Applicants are welcome to submit a draft application to receive feedback before submitting their final application. Draft applications must be received in word format by Friday 6 November. Send to [email protected]

Final applications must be lodged via the Helpmann Academy website and be submitted by 9.00am ACDT, Monday 23 November 2020. 


The successful applicant will clearly demonstrate how undertaking further study or an internship program with the support of the Neil Curnow Award will contribute to their professional development.

A panel facilitated by the Helpmann Academy will assess applications based on:

  • The impact the study or internship program will have on the artistic practice of the applicant.
  • The provision of a clear outline of why the chosen program is beneficial to the applicant’s career development at this point.
  • How the applicant will maximise their time interstate.
  • A demonstrated commitment to learning.
  • A clear outline of the expected outcomes and how they intend to use the obtained knowledge and experience when returning to South Australia.
  • The personal and professional qualities the applicant is able to contribute.

Shortlisted applicants may be required to attend an interview during week commencing 7 December 2020.


  • The applicant must not have any outstanding Helpmann Academy acquittals.
  • The recipient must undertake the coursework/internship or other studies between 1 January 2021 and 31 December 2021.
  • The recipient will be required to provide the Helpmann Academy and Independent Arts Foundation with at least two email updates throughout the duration of the program and provide a final acquittal report within two months of completion of the program.
  • If there are any changes to the proposed program or budget, the recipient must notify the Helpmann Academy immediately for approval before proceeding.
  • Following the recipients return to Adelaide, they may be asked to speak at a public forum about the benefits, experiences and outcomes of receiving the Neil Curnow Award.

For more information contact the Helpmann Academy on (08) 7089 0720 or email [email protected]

Presented in partnership with The Independent Arts Foundation SA