The 2021 Joan & Betty Rayner ACTF Commission

The Trustees of the Australian Children’s Theatre Foundation (ACTF) and Regional Arts Victoria are delighted to announce the 2021 Joan and Betty Rayner ACTF Commission is awarded to artists Aseel Tayah and Jason Tamiru with their beautiful new production Ardna.


Aseel Tayah and Jason Tamiru

Ardna is an exciting collaboration between Aseel Tayah, a recent Palestinian migrant and Jason Tamiru, an indigenous Australian from Yorta Yorta country. Ardna (Arabic for “our land”) will use storytelling and dance to portray Australia’s diverse cultures as a continuum, finding a shared identity through connection to land.

“As a guest on this land, I am excited to be taking the journey of understanding connections of traditions between two first nations and the care for the land other guests practice,” recipient Aseel Tayah said. “Jason is a wise and genuine life mentor and an amazing heart-filling teacher, and his support to make this will be shared with many generations to come.”

Chair of the ACTF Rod Parnall commended the quality of applications and their support for Ardna.

“The Trustees were once again impressed by the calibre of work being made for children by theatre makers in Australia as evidenced in the submissions this year,” he said. We are thrilled to support Aseel and Jason with a collaboration that strongly identified with the ideals of the Australian Children’s Theatre Foundation, and we’re excited to watch their work develop.”

Using a physical connection with the land to make sense of our national story and provide children with a framework to understand their place within it, Ardna will also model a highly diverse and representative cast for primary school students.

Regional Arts Victoria’s Arts & Education Senior Manager Pippin Davies is delighted to be supporting the development of Ardna through the commission:

“The weaving of indigenous stories with those from recent arrivals to Australia is sure to inspire young people’s joy, wonder and cultural understanding, and will be a great addition to our 2022 Arts & Education program,” she said.

About the Rayner sisters

Joan Rayner AM and Betty Rayner AM were world-wide lifelong performers who left an enduring legacy on children’s theatre in Australia. They created work that celebrates diversity, encourages joy and an appreciation of theatre and live performance.

The Rayner sisters believed that high quality theatre should be accessible to young people, despite location, cultural or socio-economic differences. 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 2019-2020 the ACTF supported over 7,000 audience members to experience live theatre and performance through the subsidy program.

About the Commission

This unique opportunity provides artists with support to create with their own artistic license, contributing generously to the landscape of work produced in this niche field. Commission recipients will also gain experience in regional schools touring through working with Regional Arts Victoria’s Arts & Education 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

They also consider how the work will carry on the legacy and spirit of the Rayner sisters, by being lively, engaging and uplifting in its themes and delivery. Then there’s the educational relevance of the work, its links to the Victorian curriculum and the practical logistics of school touring.

“The biannual commission continues the legacy of the Rayner sisters by supporting the development of new and high-quality theatre performances for children and plays an important role in the eco-system that is the arts in education industry in Victoria,” says Arts & Education Senior Manager Pippin Davies.

The Australian Children’s Theatre Foundation is proudly supported by: