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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 14062


Mr MELHAM (Banks) (11:25): At the Seymour Centre in Sydney on Tuesday, 20 November I was a member of a privileged audience who witnessed an outstanding performance of young talent. This was the 2012 music theatre showcase presented by graduates of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, or WAAPA, at Edith Cowan University. At the outset, I will declare an interest. One of the talented young people performing was my cousin Ainsley Melham. Apart from performing Let it sing, from Violet, Ainsley created the choreography for that routine as well as two of the other performances. Ainsley has performed in many WAAPA productions since he commenced there in 2010. In 2011 he was awarded the prestigious Bill Warnock scholarship, which is presented to the most promising second year music theatre student.

While I obviously attended the showcase in support of my young cousin, I was impressed by the talent of his graduating colleagues in the music theatre showcase. These young people demonstrating their talents and skills in music theatre were Mia Donatelli, Benjamin Gillespie, Kerrie Anne Greenland, Timothy Grimes, Ben Hall, Nicholas Hedger, Emily Langridge, Antoinette Iesue, Rob Mallett, Diana Perini, Jessica Pesti, Karla Tonkich, James Traille, Matthew Verevis, Caleb Vines, Georgina Walker and Jessica White. In the audience for the acting showcase, which was done separately, were such luminaries as John Bell, obviously on the look-out for talent and obviously providing support for the next generation of Australian performing artists. Professor Julie Warn, AM, the director of WAAPA, described them as 'a very talented cohort who have enthusiastically embraced every opportunity and challenge throughout their time at WAAPA'.

One need only look at the depth of the various programs offered to realise that WAAPA has made an outstanding contribution to the performing arts. From Aboriginal theatre to stage management, WAAPA graduates are to be found nationally and internationally. Professor Warn advises new students commencing their studies at WAAPA: 'You are about to embark on a very rigorous but wonderfully exciting period of your life. Training at WAAPA is exacting and sometimes exhausting.' The graduates demonstrate that the exacting training pays off; we need only consider some of the well-known alumni to prove that. WAAPA graduates include Jacob Allen, Alex Papps, Tara Gower, Rachelle Durkin, Hugh Jackman, William McInnes, Marcus Graham, Tim Minchin, Eddie Perfect, Tom Woods, Meyne Wyatt and Lisa McCune. The wonderfully talented Lucy Durack, who graduated in 2002, is currently starring in Legally Blonde at Sydney's Lyric Theatre. WAAPA was established in 1980 and in its over 30-year history has produced a plethora of performers in all areas of the arts. This includes gifted and highly trained designers, producers, craftspeople and technicians. This year the Hollywood Reporter compiled an inaugural list of the top performing arts academies in the world. WAAPA was included in that list together with NIDA. This is a clear international recognition of WAAPA's 30-year history and the quality of its graduates.

With all my family, I am immensely proud of what Ainsley has already achieved in his studies. With his fellow graduates, I wish them all well in a precarious career. However, given the enthusiasm and talent displayed at the 2012 showcase, they have every ability to succeed.

What strikes me is that the inspiration for this nation can be gained from young people, enthusiastic people, at every level. In the old days, you looked at the elder statesmen to provide inspiration. From my point of view, every time I go to a performance by young people such as these, I walk away knowing we have a very secure and bright future. I wish them all well.