How a supportive environment encourages students to learn and grow

Applications are now open for the 2019 intake at Melbourne’s prestigious National Theatre Drama School.
How a supportive environment encourages students to learn and grow

Actor Harvey Zielinski is a graduate of the National Theatre Drama School. Photo credit: Jodie Hutchinson.

The National Theatre Drama School is the oldest drama school in Victoria and ranks as one of the leading theatre schools in Australia.  But while its courses are in high demand, so too is its committed approach to learning, with students offered support and guidance in their professional and personal lives alongside quality learning experiences.

Actor Harvey Zielinski is a graduate of the Advanced Diploma of Acting at The National. ‘I had been studying and pursuing acting since I was eight but I wanted the rigour, time and diverse training of a full-time course to really focus on and develop my craft,’ he said. 


Zielinski is increasingly recognised as an important voice in the representation of transgender characters and stories, and is a public advocate for the recognition of transgender people.

He was a second-year student at the National Theatre Drama School when he made the decision to ‘come out’ as a transgender person. 

‘Coming out at The Nash, I was met with total and complete support,’ he told ArtsHub.

Based in the Melbourne beachside suburb of St Kilda, the National offers both full-time and part-time courses that are open to students with a range of backgrounds, ages, and abilities.  Courses include acting for stage, film, and television, along with tuition in directing, producing, design, and writing for stage and screen. 

Alongside Zielinski, its impressive list of graduates includes many well-known actors including the award-winning Kat Stewart; Neighbours star Bella Heathcote, now working in Hollywood; cabaret artist Geraldine Quinn; and Richard Cawthorne, who was appointed Ambassador to the School in 2015. Esther Hannaford, who starred as Audrey in the latest run of Little Shop of Horrors and as Carole King in the recent Australian production of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, is another National graduate.

The three-year Advanced Diploma is a nationally-accredited, full-time course that prepares students for professional careers as actors and performance-makers in theatre, film, television and new media.  Students benefit from the school’s strong professional links with the entertainment industry in Australia. 

Director of Drama Trent Baker leads a team of dedicated teaching staff who all have strong industry and professional experience.  This gives students the opportunity to work closely with industry professionals and gain valuable real-world skills. 

‘Performing Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses in third year was a real highlight,’ said Zielinski. ‘Getting to perform in the National Theatre with a huge pool of water onstage was pretty amazing, if technically challenging!’

Another highlight for Zielinski was working with actor Danielle Carter in the screen classes. ‘She's an incredible teacher and we got to film multiple scenes a week and get used to working really quickly and thoroughly.’ 

Harvey Zielinski; photo credit: Jodie Hutchinson.

This hands-on practice-led style of learning is at the centre of the student experience at the National where students undertake a rigorous and highly-integrated program of skills training while also working autonomously to further nurture and develop their talent.

Students are expected to continuously maintain and refine their professional goals; demonstrate a strong commitment to themselves and their chosen art-form; and work with passion and engagement to realise their full potential. 

Zielinski’s time at the National Theatre Drama School has allowed him to focus his passion as well as hone his professional skills.

‘There's a major shift happening right now towards prioritising diversity, and it's a really exciting and vital thing. Diverse voices and stories need and deserve to be heard and I want to help make that happen,’ he said. 

Aspiring actors are encouraged to apply now for the 2019 intake at The National. Entry to the Advanced Diploma of Acting course is by audition and applicants must prepare two monologues for the first audition.  Go to  to apply online. There is a $60 audition fee payable on application.

Zielinski says studying at The National was a very special experience.  ‘I think it's an amazing privilege to get to study acting full time for three years; three years working on what you love most.’  

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Diana Carroll

Wednesday 7 November, 2018

About the author

Dr Diana Carroll is a writer, speaker, and reviewer based in Adelaide. Her work has been published in newspapers and magazines including the SMH, the Oz, Woman's Day, and B&T. Writing about the arts is one of her great passions.