Australian Children's Theatre Foundation Commission

Holly Austin in Dr AudiYOs Giant Adventure - Image by Pippa Samaya.

The Trustees of the Australian Children’s Theatre Foundation (ACTF) and Regional Arts Victoria are delighted to announce the inaugural 2020 Joan and Betty Rayner ACTF Fellowship, which has been awarded to theatre-maker and musician Holly Austin.

A multi-disciplinary performer working across theatre, music and screen, Holly’s previous theatre work for young audiences includes co-writing and creating Ruby’s Wish, which has played return seasons at Belvoir and toured to venues such as the Sydney Opera House and Arts Centre Melbourne, and her latest work, Dr AudiYO’s Giant Adventure, a sound-led ‘choose your own adventure’ which premiered at the 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Holly’s fellowship activities originally included presentation of a workshop on the creation of innovative technology at the 20th ASSITEJ World Theatre Congress and International Theatre Festival for Children and Young Audiences in Tokyo, Japan and attendance at the 2020 Imaginate Edinburgh International Children’s Festival.

Despite those plans being placed on hold due to the restrictions around COVID-19, ACTF Trustee Rod Parnall said they were committed to supporting Holly and are currently working on an updated plan that will remain in line with the guidelines of the Fellowship and the ideals of the Foundation.

“It's been a wonderful privilege to be part of the team of ACTF Trustees that has enabled support to Holly. Her Fellowship follows in the legacy of the Rayner sisters in providing joy, merriment and fun to children and will enrich children's theatre and hopefully inspire and provide support to her peers.” – ACTF Trustee Rod Parnall.

Fellow Trustee David Weil OAM said the Trustees were delighted to award the inaugural Fellowship to such an exceptionally talented artist.

“Known for her Dr AudioYO performances, Holly is an energetic and engaging performer whose exciting plans for artistic development and career growth make her the ideal Fellowship recipient.  Her plans include sharing the art of Australian childrens’ theatre with other performance artists at international symposia. We look forward to the exciting ideas and innovative stage craft that Holly will integrate into her practice following the Fellowship.” – ACTF Trustee David Weil OAM

"Regional Arts Victoria are thrilled to administer the Fellowship and so pleased with the scale of opportunities available to Holly, and the potential impact these will have on her artistic practice and career development. Holly’s work resonates so well with the goals of the ACTF and will continue to further the legacy of the Rayner sisters. The opportunity to research and develop in her field will allow her to further hone her craft, keep abreast of sector developments and establish herself on an international level at this pivotal point in her career.” - Pippin Davies, Arts & Education Manager, Regional Arts Victoria.

About the Fellowship

Building on ACTF’s history as strong supporters of theatre for primary school age children across Victoria, the Joan and Betty Rayner ACTF Fellowship supports the artistic development of an artists’ practice to the amount of $20,000 and is open to emerging or established artists working in children’s theatre and to those wishing to diversify their practice into and across the field of theatre for young audiences.

This biennial Fellowship continues the legacy of the Rayner sisters, who believed that high quality theatre should be accessible to young people, despite location, cultural or socio-economic differences.

The Rayner sisters established the Australian Childrens Theatre in 1948 after decades performing throughout Britain, Europe and the United States as strolling players.  Through their Theatre, Joan and Betty trained many emerging local performance artists, provided support for established childrens’ theatre performers and brought to Australia many highly talented international children’s theatre artists.

Joan & Betty themselves spent their early years developing their stage craft under the tutelage of renowned overseas performers and by travelling extensively to meet with local storytellers to observe the folk stories and customs of many cultures worldwide.  This in turn inspired them to train others through the Australian Children’s Theatre.

It is in this spirit that the Foundation initiated this Fellowship.

The Foundation partners with Regional Arts Victoria to bring theatre and live performance opportunities to disadvantaged communities through a subsidy program which offers up to 75% subsidy off the cost of performances. In 2019 the ACTF supported 5,847 audience members to experience live theatre and performance through the subsidy program.

The trustees assess how each work will align with the philosophies of the foundation.

  • to foster in children a widening interest in the arts and humanity
  • to foster understanding between people of different countries and cultures, including the telling of Indigenous stories
  • to use theatre to explore and present stories from around the world including those of recent arrivals to Australia

“The Joan and Betty Rayner ACTF Fellowship is an incredible opportunity for artists to develop their practice, and for the ACTF to play a role in ensuring we continue to thrive in the global sector of Theatre for Young Audiences by supporting Australian artists to create work of the highest calibre." - Pippin Davies, Arts & Education Manager, Regional Arts Victoria.