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First recipients of Netflix Indigenous Scholarship Fund

[by Sue Dayes]


L-R: Dylan Marcus Nicholls, Samantha Alexis Laughton, Nazareth Manar Alfred. Image: supplied

The Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) and Netflix announced the first three recipients to be supported by the Netflix Indigenous Scholarship Fund. 

The Netflix Indigenous Scholarship Fund provides $515,000 from Netflix for a range of initiatives to elevate Indigenous creatives and voices in the Australian screen and broadcast industries, and support Australia’s First Nations communities and storytellers.
These first three AFTRS Netflix First Nations Scholarships were awarded on the basis of creative excellence to:

  • Nazareth Manar Alfred (Master of Arts Screen: Directing)      

  • Dylan Marcus Nicholls (Master of Arts Screen: Documentary) and;

  • Samantha Alexis Laughton (Master of Arts Screen: Business)


The Scholarships will assist these three First Nations students with the full cost of course fees, plus a contribution towards travel, accommodation and living expenses.

The Scholarships’ selection panel was chaired by AFTRS Council member Tanya Hosch and included representatives from AFTRS, Netflix, Screen West and Create Victoria as well as community advisors.  

Nazareth Manar Alfred is a Torres Strait Islander. She was born on Thursday Island and grew up in Queensland. Nazareth has written and directed her own short films while completing her Bachelor of Arts Screen: Production at AFTRS.  Her second-year student film Pills & Powder Milk is currently screening on SBS OnDemand. Nazareth is currently completing her MA in Directing at AFTRS.

“The Netflix scholarship means a lot to me. It enables opportunities such as acquiring resources and to attend conferences, workshops and master classes to expand my skills and knowledge to be an effective director.  These opportunities can only bring me closer to being the best that I possibly can be,” Nazareth says.

Dylan Nicholls is a proud Yuwaalaraay man who grew up in Dubbo, NSW, before moving to the Far North Coast and then Brisbane.  He has been a practicing psychologist while also working as a videographer and making his own short documentary films.  He is passionate about telling stories that explore themes around identity, culture, social issues, mental health, and First Nations perspectives.

Dylan says: “I was quite a creative kid growing up, telling stories, drawing, and making short films. But after graduating high school, I didn’t have the confidence to pursue anything creative as a career. Instead, I followed a more conventional path, training in the health professions to become a psychologist. I found psychology fascinating, but deep down, all I ever wanted to be was a filmmaker. To receive the First Nations Netflix Scholarship to study a Master of Arts Screen: Documentary at AFTRS is unreal. I still can’t believe it. It’s always been a dream of mine to study at AFTRS. To study at the same film school as great First Nations filmmakers like Ivan Sen and Warwick Thornton means so much to me. Without this scholarship, it wouldn’t have been possible to move from Brisbane to Sydney. I’m looking forward to starting there this year, to be in a creative environment where I can make new connections and develop my skills and craft as a storyteller.”
Samantha Alexis Laughton, (Eastern Arrernte) of Honey Ant Productions, has recent credits including 3rd Assistant Director and VFX Coordinator on Jon Bell's The Moogai (2023), VFX Coordinator on Warwick Thornton's The New Boy and Kitty Green's The Royal Hotel (2023) and 3rd Assistant Director on television crime-drama series True Colours (2021). Laughton was shortlisted for the SBS Emerging Writers Incubator (2022), AACTA/AFI Pitch: Regional Landscapes (2020) and Sundance Merata Mita Fellowship for Indigenous Artists (2019) for screenplay The Boundary Rider. Laughton is also a representative for the Screen Australia Gender Matters Taskforce.

“As an emerging Eastern Arrernte filmmaker who comes from an artistic family of poets, novelists and visual artists, receiving the Netflix Scholarship to study a Masters of Arts Screen: Business this break out point in my career as a screenwriter and the creative producer is an invaluable opportunity to enhance my skill set at the business and financial end of the film industry to further solidify the long-term film career that I have envisioned over the past decade. Thank you Netflix and AFTRS for supporting my next steps forward!”, Samantha says.

Dr Romaine Moreton, Director of First Nations & Outreach at AFTRS, says: “The Netflix Indigenous Scholarship Fund presented an opportunity for AFTRS to further support First Nations media makers in cultivating expertise in their selected discipline. The scholarship fund as framed by AFTRS First Nations Strategic Plan recognises the important role community plays in the personal, familial, cultural, and professional lives of First Nations students. The fund also gave us scope to centre First Nations values in the designing of pathways into industry; be they local, national, and international.”


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