Australia's most valuable prize in any artform, a Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship recognises outstanding talent and exceptional courage in an Australian artist or cultural leader. Since their inception, the Fellowships have provided $17.8 million in funding to individuals. The Fellowships are not tied to any specific outcomes or projects. They provide the recipients with the time, space and resources to develop their practice in peace and to take risks without fear.

In 2023, the value of each Fellowship increased for the first time to $200,000 over two years. The number of nominations almost tripled and the field was more competitive than ever.

As a result, Sidney Myer Fund elected to award nine Fellowships in this round, rather than the eight that had been announced. That means a total of $1.8 million in tax-free, unrestricted funding has been awarded to these nine extraordinary artists, creatives and cultural leaders from across the country: Adena Jacobs, Christine Kenneally, Emma Jones, Freyja Wild, John Harvey, Matthias Schack-Arnott, Melanie Lane, Sara Mansour and S. Shakthidharan. 

Adena Jacobs
Adena Jacobs (Photo: David Paterson)

Adena Jacobs is a theatre director and the Artistic Director of independent company Fraught Outfit. Her genre-defying productions incorporate queer and feminist renderings of mythic texts, hallucinatory landscapes and rich sound scores. Adena’s work is an investigation of the body as an archive of history and culture, and a site of radical possibility and transformation.

In 2014-15, she was Resident Director at Belvoir, and in 2012 she was Female Director in Residence at Malthouse Theatre. In Australia, her work has been seen at Melbourne Festival, Carriageworks, Dark Mofo, Malthouse, Belvoir, Sydney Opera House, MTC, Theatre Works and La Mama. Internationally, she has directed for the Burgtheater in Vienna and the English National Opera in London. In 2022, her production of Trojan Women premiered at the Burgtheater to great acclaim, shortlisted for the prestigious Theatertreffen Festival. In January 2024, she premiered her production of Nosferatu at the Burgtheater, in collaboration with her Australian creative team.

Adena's company Fraught Outfit was founded in 2010, and is best known for its ‘Innocence Trilogy,’ a series of works exploring power and the body created with young people. The trilogy included Fraught Outfit’s production of The Bacchae for Melbourne Festival and Dark Mofo.

In recent years, Adena has been developing music driven performance works, most notably The Howling Girls composed by Damien Ricketson. The Howling Girls was a co-winner of the International Music Theatre NOW award, the APRA AMCO award for Best Choral/Vocal Work and selected for Tokyo Festival World Competition. Her work has been the recipient of numerous awards, including Green Room and Sydney Theatre Awards. Adena is an engaged member of the arts community as a dramaturg, teacher, advocate and mentor for young artists.

Christine Kenneally
Christine Kenneally

Christine Kenneally grew up in Melbourne, Australia, where she is currently based. She has lived in Cambridge, England, Iowa City, Iowa, and Brooklyn, New York. Before becoming a writer, Kenneally completed a Ph.D. in linguistics at Cambridge University on a Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Packer Australia Scholarship. She has a B.A. (Hons.) in English and Linguistics from Melbourne University. Kenneally launched her career as a narrative nonfiction writer in 2007 with her widely praised first book.

Kenneally’s first book, The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language, was a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her second book, The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures, was one of the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2014, winner of the Bragg UNSW Prize for Science Writing, shortlisted for the 2015 Stella Prize and the 2015 Queensland Premier's Literary Awards. It appeared on many "best of" lists.

Kenneally’s BuzzFeed News article, “Ghosts of the Orphanage'', was published in August 2018 and viewed more than six million times in six months. It won a Deadline Award and was a finalist for the Fetisov Prize, an Online Journalism Award, a Michael Kelly Award for “the fearless pursuit and expression of truth,” and a National Magazine Award. In response to the article, the US state of Vermont launched a criminal investigation and a restorative justice process. The article was also instrumental in the retroactive repeal of the state’s statute of limitations on child sexual abuse and physical abuse (a first for the USA).

Kenneally explored the untold story of the global orphanage system in her third book, Ghosts of the Orphanage: A Story of Mysterious Deaths, a Conspiracy of Silence, and a Search for Justice (March 2023), described by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes as a brave and important book that bears comparison to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. The book was shortlisted for the 2023 Walkley Book Award and a 2024 NSW Premiers Literary Award. Kenneally’s books have been published in Korean, Spanish, Mandarin, Italian, Indonesian, Romanian, and Polish.

Emma Jones
Emma Jones

Emma Jones is a writer whose work encompasses poetry, verse fiction, and libretti. 

Emma was born in Sydney. She has a BA from the University of Sydney and a PhD in English from the University of Cambridge. Jones has won the Newcastle Poetry Prize and the Cardiff International Poetry Prize, among others.

Her first collection of poetry, The Striped World, was published by Faber & Faber, and won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Queensland Premier’s Prize for Best Collection, among other honours. She has been named a ‘Next Generation Poet’ by the Poetry Book Society, and her poetry has been taught on high school curricula in the UK, Australia, India and Malaysia. Among many fellowships, she has been Poet-in-Residence at The Wordsworth Trust in the Lake District (UK), held the Gould Lectorship in Writing at Trinity College, Cambridge, held a Varuna Flagship Fellowship, and been awarded a residency at the B.R. Whiting Studio in Rome by the Australia Council for the Arts.

In 2013, Emma wrote the story and libretto for City Songs, an oratorio for five choirs and a soloist with music by Eriks Esenvalds and additional music by Imogen Heap. City Songs premiered at The Roundhouse in London, and is performed and broadcast regularly in Europe, the UK and the US. A new collection, Fool Says, is forthcoming.

Freyja Wild
Freyja Wild (Photo: Gabriel Comerford)

Freyja Wild is a life-long contemporary circus artist.

She has toured the world with some of the biggest names in the business, including C!RCA, Circus Oz, and Les 7 Doigts de la Main, subtly subverting gender roles and embodying feminine strength. You can still see echoes of her style and innovation in hula hooping and group acrobatics throughout the circus sector.

She is a founding member, and the Artistic Director and CEO of ROOKE, Tasmania's leading contemporary circus company. She cares deeply about community and creating meaningful, stable work for circus artists as they move away from full-time touring to settle down.

John Harvey
John Harvey

John Harvey is an acclaimed writer, director and producer across theatre and film and the Creative Director of Brown Cabs.

His theatre writing credits include The Return (2023 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Drama, nominated for 2024 AWG AWGIE Award), Heart is a Wasteland and Black Ties. John received an ACMI (Australian Centre for Moving Image) Commission to create multi-channel video installation Canopy.

In film, he has written and directed: Still We Rise (2023 AIDC Best Documentary / Factual Single, 2023 ADG Award for Best Direction); Off Country (2022 ADG Award for Best Direction, MIFF); Kutcha’s Koorioke (NITV); Katele (2023 Flickerfest - Best Australian Short Film, Melbourne International Film Festival – Best Australian Short Film), Water (Adelaide FF), Out of Range (MIFF). He produced Spear (TIFF) and the chapter 'Sand' for The Turning (MIFF, Berlinale) and The Warriors (ABC).

John is also a Board Director of Bangarra Dance Theatre.

Matthias Schack-Arnott
Matthias Schack-Arnott

Matthias Schack-Arnott is an Australian artist, composer and percussionist, whose works span live performance, public art and installation. Over the last decade he has been building unique kinetic systems to create visceral and visually compelling sound worlds.

Matthias’ works have been presented by major festivals and contemporary art spaces including the Venice Biennale, Chaillot Theatre (Paris), Noordezon (Netherlands), Spring Festival (Utrecht), Brighton Festival (UK), National Museum of Australia, Sydney Festival, Adelaide Festival, Perth Festival, Dark Mofo, Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, Melbourne Festival, RISING Festival (Melbourne), Arts House (Melbourne), The Unconformity (Tasmania), La Comete (France), Spor Festival (Denmark), The Substation (Melbourne) and the National Gallery of Victoria.

From 2010-2018 Matthias was the Artistic Associate of Australia’s leading percussive arts organisation, Speak Percussion. During his time with the company he worked closely with Artistic Director Eugene Ughetti in shaping the artistic program, including more than 60 commissions, many critically acclaimed interdisciplinary projects and performances in the world’s leading arts festivals.

Matthias’ work Everywhen won ‘Work of Year: Electro- Acoustic/Sound Art’ at the 2020 Australian Art Music Awards. He has also been awarded the MTNow Prize (Rotterdam) for Pendulum, the 2016 Melbourne Prize for Music (Development Award), the 2014 Green Room Award for ‘Outstanding Work by an Emerging Artist’ for his work Fluvial as well as four Australian Art Music Awards for his work with Speak Percussion, including the 2019 Performance of the Year.

Matthias has also created new works with some of Australia’s most celebrated choreographers. He co-created They Want New Language with Antony Hamilton in 2017 for La Comete (France) and collaborated with Lucy Guerin to create a large-scale interdisciplinary work commissioned by RISING Festival in association with National Gallery of Victoria.

As a musician, Matthias has been a soloist and collaborator with many of Australia’s leading arts organisations, including Australian Art Orchestra, Chamber Made, Liquid Architecture, Topology, Clocked Out, Elision and Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

Melanie Lane
Melanie Lane (Photo: Barbara Dietl)

Melanie Lane is an Australian choreographer and performer of Javanese/European cultural heritage. She works across visual arts, theatre, music and film. Her work interrogates physical and cultural histories to explore current social mythologies and extrapolates these into surreal futures that are confounded, broken and reconfigured. These independent works have been presented globally at festivals and theatres in Europe, Indonesia, United States and Australia. Drawing on her European and Indonesian heritage Lane moves between cultural landscapes and influences.

Alongside commissions with WA Ballet, Sydney Dance Company, Australasian Dance Collective, DanceNorth, Chunky Move, Schauspiel Leipzig and HAU Berlin, her collaborations extend to artists Marrugeku/Bhenji Ra, Clark, Adena Jacobs, Amos Gebhardt, Leyla Stevens, Monica Lim and Rianto.

Her choreographic work for theatre and opera includes English National Opera's Salome (London, 2018), Burgtheater's Trojan Women (Vienna, 2022) and Nosferatu (Vienna, 2024) directed by Adena Jacobs.

Melanie won the prestigious Keir Choreographic Award in 2018 and the 2017 Leipziger Bewegungskunstpreis in Germany, and has been nominated for both Green Room and Helpmann awards as both a choreographer and a dancer including the Shirley McKechnie Award for Choreography (2020).

Melanie is 2023/24 Choreographer in Residence at Chunky Move, Resident Artist at The Substation, 2015 resident director at Lucy Guerin Inc., Associate Artist at QL2 and is a current 2023/24 Australia Council for the Arts Fellow.

In 2024, Melanie launched her project Corps Conspirators. This initiative, supported by Creative Victoria and led by Melanie Lane, is a project exploring collaborative choreographic practices, multi-artform experimentation and transcultural experience.

Sara Mansour
Sara Mansour (Photo: Merima Salihbegovic)

Sara Mansour has founded, directed and led significant Australian cultural institutions and events for more than ten years. In 2013, at just 19 years of age, Sara began performing her own poetry and, identifying a gap, co-founded Bankstown Poetry Slam (BPS). This was the first poetry slam in Western Sydney and under Mansour’s leadership, has grown significantly and is now regarded as the largest regular live poetry event in Australia.

BPS is a volunteer-run organisation attracting crowds of up to 2000 people at key events, such as the Grand Slam which has in the past been held at Sydney Town Hall and the Art Gallery of NSW. In addition to the 150+ events that Mansour has curated and hosted, she has programmed and coordinated high school programs for young people in over 20 schools, established Australia’s first ever annual National Youth Poetry Slam and directed multiple festivals.

Her decade of contributions have built communities, created lasting connections and uplifted the voices of marginalised communities that now reverberate across Australia. Her leadership has been recognised with her 2023 appointment as Chair of the Artist Advisory Panel by Create NSW, where she assisted in the development of NSW’s first Arts, Culture and Creative Industries Policy. Also in 2023, she was the youngest person to be appointed as a trustee of the Sydney Opera House and is serving her first three-year term.

Her artistic and community leadership has also driven BPS to be granted the Special Award at the 2023 Premier’s Literary Awards (the first artistic organisation ever to receive the award) and the Pemulwuy Prize by Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue in 2016 for fearless regional advocacy.

Aside from her creative leadership, Sara is a writer and performing poet in her own right. In 2023, she was commissioned to write and perform a poem to launch Creative Australia alongside Federal Arts Minister, Tony Burke. She has performed on stages for Prime Ministers and to open for international musicians and is regarded as one of the best contemporary Australian spoken word poets.

S. Shakthidharan
S. Shakthidharan (Photo: Alex Vaughan)

S. Shakthidharan is a western Sydney storyteller with Sri Lankan heritage and Tamil ancestry. He’s a writer, director and producer of theatre and film, and composer of original music.

Shakthi's debut play Counting and Cracking (Belvoir and Co-Curious, Associate Writer Eamon Flack), received critical, commercial and community acclaim at the 2019 Sydney and Adelaide Festivals. Shakthi was also a Producer and Associate Director on the work. The script won the Victorian Premier’s Literature Prize and the NSW Premier’s Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting; the production won 7 Helpmann and 3 Sydney Theatre Awards. It toured in 2022 to Edinburgh Festival and Birmingham Rep to similar acclaim, and is returning to Australia in 2024 before a season at New York's Public Theater.

Shakthi’s most recent play The Jungle and the Sea with Belvoir (co-written and directed with Eamon Flack), again met with rave reviews and had a profound impact on the Sri Lankan community. It won 4 Sydney Theatre Awards in January 2023 including Best Mainstage Production. Shakthi wrote and directed 宿(stay) for Sydney Festival 2022; wrote an adaptation of Zana Fraillon’s The Bone Sparrow which toured the UK with Pilot Theatre; and has in development his first novel, new plays with Belvoir, STC and MTC, a feature film with Felix Media and a new TV project.

He's the Director of Kurinji and previous to this was Founder/Artistic Lead of Co-Curious (2018-2022), sister to community arts company CuriousWorks where he was Founder and Artistic Director (2003-2018). Shakthi was the Carriageworks inaugural Associate Artist and is a recipient of both the Phillip Parson’s and Kirk Robson awards.