NAISDA graduates celebrate the end of a very difficult year

Peta-Louise Rixom with other NAISDA graduates

Celebrations for the NAISDA Graduating Class of 2020 on June 23 was expected to be full of emotion, following a year of learning unlike any other in the College’s 45-year history.

As one of Australia’s leading arts training organisations, NAISDA’s annual Graduation Ceremony honours the accomplishments of our country’s latest cohort of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduates, creative leaders and innovators.

One of those graduates is Lake Haven resident, Peta-Louise Rixom, a proud Eora citizen, who is graduating with a Certificate III in Dance Practice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

“It feels great to be graduating, it’s like all of the stress of the last year has finally lifted.

“I got my certificate on Wednesday after completing my residency on Country which happened in May this year,” Rixom said.

NAISDA CEO, Kim Walker, acknowledged that while graduation was always an important milestone in the endeavour, it would be impossible not to recognise the exceptional circumstances that graduates had overcome in the past year and a half.

“This has been a time of change and adjustments for all of us.

“Our graduates have shown great determination navigating the many challenges that lockdown, social distancing and remote learning have thrown at them.

“Our shared experience has taught us many valuable life lessons, which in itself is something to acknowledge and celebrate,” Walker said.

Rixom said: “We were learning at home for nine to 12 weeks, roughly.

“I don’t have any facilities at my house to be able to train from home, so I had to camp out with my sister at her house.

“We had to Zoom in everyday for our physical classes, and lots of us really struggled to find space, with everyone working from home we all had to co-ordinate having the living room at certain times when people were away.

“It really put a grey cloud over studying, and a lot of us weren’t even sure we’d be able to go back, but thankfully we were able to come back within a term.

“It got hard to study sometimes, but I know that I want to dance professionally so that kept me motivated.

“I knew that if I stopped training, I would lose my strength, flexibility and I would lose everything that I need to be able to achieve that,” Rixom said.

She also explained that it was tough for her classmates as well, and some of them couldn’t come back to study.

“One of the girls in my class was living in Queensland and they couldn’t come back into NSW for a long time.

“Some students from the Northern Territory couldn’t come back because they live in such a remote community, they couldn’t jeopardise their community by travelling here and back for holidays due to the health risks,” Rixom said.

NAISDA will be welcoming the support of Keynote Speaker, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Moongahlin Performing Arts, Lily Shearer, to honour graduates’ achievements and inspire their future journeys.

Her professional insight comes at a judicious time, with the creative and performing arts industries adapting to new ways of making, sharing and funding work.

“NAISDA training responded quickly to the unique set of circumstance brought on by COVID-19.

“Now more than ever, we need to equip our students with resilience, wellbeing and innovation skills for careers across a lifetime.” Walker said.

2020 graduates, Daniel Mateo and Chandler Connell, are perfect illustrations.

Mateo is currently performing on a national tour with Bangarra Dance Theatre, whilst Chandler has joined Marrugeku, Australia’s renowned intercultural dance theatre company.

“NAISDA proudly celebrates and congratulates all Class of 2020 Graduates.

Rixom said that she has re-enrolled to do a Certificate IV in Dance Practice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and is planning to do a diploma in 2022.

“It really feels like all the hard work we put in last year, in and out of the studio has finally paid off.

“I really want to be a commercial dancer and would love to perform in musicals,” Rixom said.

Harry Mulholland