Each year NIDA recognises those who are making a significant contribution to the performing arts industry, both in Australia and globally, by presenting an Honorary Master of Fine Arts degree, with previous recipients including Ursula Yovich and Brian Thomson AM.
At NIDA Graduation on Sunday 26 June, NIDA CEO Liz Hughes said: “Rhoda’s influence and guidance has helped develop and evolve so many across the arts and culture industries from individuals to large organisations,” she said.
“It is with great respect and admiration we acknowledge and honour Rhoda’s incredible contribution to the performing arts and to powerful storytelling in Australia,” said Ms Hughes.
“I am truly honoured and very humbled. Never in my little life would I have ever thought that this was possible,” said Rhoda. “Our traditional indigenous lands were never documented in writing, instead it was a living collective.
“A collective of memory that was created and personified in the old story, the songlines, the rituals, the ceremonies, the languages and the symbols that were carved across country on escarpments, in trees, painted in rock caves, on the sand, in the ground.”
“Wherever we walked, there was living, adapting country. Wherever we looked was art, it was part and parcel of us and it still is. And it is a living memory for all of us, we’re a very fortunate generation.”
“We are going to change the world in the way that we learn, and that learning comes through NIDA. I also want to thank everyone at NIDA for the commitment to making sure our narrative and our voice is heard,” said Rhoda.
A member of the Bundjalung nation, Widjabul/Wieybal clan of Northern NSW and Southeast QLD, Rhoda, is a force of nature in Australian arts and culture.
From founding the Festival of Dreaming to her long tenure as Head of Indigenous Programming at the Sydney Opera House, Rhoda’s phenomenal contribution to entertainment over the last thirty years is un-rivalled. Her passion, drive, creativity and boundless energy is revered by many of the arts and entertainment industry.
Over her extraordinary career Rhoda has worked across TV, film, screen, stage, live events and radio. She’s worked on Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, sporting World Cups, Vivid, World Youth Day and led creative direction for ceremonies both here and around the world.
Rhoda was the first Aboriginal reporter to host a national prime time current affairs program and continued range of hosting duties with SBS over 12 years and she spent 21 years on national radio with her Deadly Sounds program.
She has written, produced, commissioned, created, directed and featured in an enormous range of work across stage, screen and live performance which has made an indelible contribution to Australia’s cultural tapestry.
Rhoda is renowned for coining the term Welcome to Country “establishing a focus on protocol manuals and welcomes by local custodians for the arts and media industries.”
During her speech, Rhoda acknowledged the challenges faced by the students and the arts industry during the ongoing pandemic; “I thank all you amazing young people. You are teaching us so much about being flexible and open and coping and being resilient,” she said,
“What you’re doing here today, you know, we’ve faced something that we’ve never faced in the industry. It has been the most challenging time for the arts, but it’s been the most exciting time.”
“The progress that you have made in the last few years against every odd tells me the resilience we’ll see in our industry across the creative industries in the next few years is going to be dynamic,” said Rhoda.
Applications to study at NIDA in 2023 are now open. For more information, visit: www.nida.edu.au for details.
Image: NIDA Chair Noel Staunton, Rhoda Roberts AO and NIDA CEO Liz Hughes (supplied)