Hall of Fame Logie for drama queen

Flinders Drama Centre graduate Noni Hazlehurst received an honorary doctorate in 2007 – for her outstanding contribution to arts and media in Australia – and the Flinders alumni Convocation Medal in 2002.

Australian TV legend and Flinders graduate Noni Hazlehurst AM used her Hall of Fame Logie acceptance speech to call for a new kind of television that “counters bad news with good”.

The long-running ABC TV Play School presenter appealed for more television that “encourages optimism, not pessimism (and that) restores our empathy, our love for our fellow human beings and the Earth. That redefines reality. That heals our hearts”.

“I’d love a channel that features nothing but stories that inspire us and reassure us and our children that there are good things happening and good things in the world,” she said at this year’s Logie Awards.

“I know it’s a lot to ask for, but at the very least a show that tries to address this overwhelming imbalance that counters bad news with good.

“I suspect that almost none of us here watching is immune from the growing incidents of depression, anxiety and suicide. We all know people who are struggling, we may be ourselves, and too many of our kids are.”

She highlights her years with Play School (1978-2002) as one of her favourite jobs.

“I started to see the world through a pre-schooler’s eyes to see how free and unafraid they are to just be – they haven’t yet been conditioned – but also how frightened and overwhelmed they are, how easily abused, and particularly how empathetic they are. No child is born a bigot.”

As only the second women to be inducted into the Logies Hall of Fame in its 32-year history (the other was Ruth Cracknell in 2001), Hazlehurst described the honour as “the most wonderful Mother’s Day present”, calling out the “odious” critics of Gold Logie nominees Waleed Aly and Lee Lin Chin, as well as all forms of bigotry.

“The fact that I’m only the second woman to be given this honour is merely a reflection of the prevailing zeitgeist,” she said. “Things are clearly changing … but they’re changing glacially slowly.”

Hazlehurst’s outstanding 40-year career in show business was feted by the likes of John Waters, Jack Thompson and Cate Blanchett, who called her “powerful and uncompromising”, before she took to the podium herself.

“The TV landscape when I started Play School in ’78 is very different: four channels, no 24/7 news, no 24/7 anything.

“It was much easier to protect children from images and information that they couldn’t assimilate.

“With the explosion of technology and the proliferation of screens, we can’t escape the exposure to bad news and violent images – they’re everywhere, at the dentist, on buses.”

The highly acclaimed actor, writer, producer and director came to study drama at Flinders in 1971. She graduated with a BA in Drama and English in 1975.

“Much of my success is directly attributable to the time I spent at Flinders and I realise how fortunate I was to have had the opportunity to study there at that time,” her Flinders Prominent Alumni webpage says.

“I was lucky enough to spend the next three years under the guidance of Professor Wal Cherry and his remarkable team. Amongst my peer group were Scott Hicks and Kerry Heysen, Gale Edwards, Martin Armiger and (Angels singer-songwriter) Bernard “Doc” Neeson.

“My career since has had some wonderful highlights, including four AFI awards for acting and a nomination for directing, Critic’s Choice and Variety Club awards, Logies, Best Actress from the San Sebastian Film Festival, working for Robyn Archer in a political cabaret in London, and an Order of Australia for services to children and children’s television.

“I’ve served on a number of Boards (including Belvoir Street and Film Australia), and have been Patron or Ambassador for several children’s welfare organisations (including Barnardo’s, the National Playgroup Association, Jannawi Family Centre).

“Most of my theatre work has been for the Sydney Theatre Company and Belvoir Street Theatre, and memorable film and TV projects include Monkey Grip, Fran, The Shiralee, Nancy Wake, Waterfront, Little Fish, and Candy.”

On the small screen, Noni Hazlehurst has become a household name with television series including Play School, The Sullivans, Better Homes and Gardens and A Place to Call Home.

She joins Scott Hicks, Kerry Heysen, Gale Edwards and Martin Armiger as prominent Flinders alumni featured in the free Flinders 50 Creatives exhibition at the Adelaide Festival Centre this month. The exhibition in the Adelaide Festival Theatre and Dunstan Playhouse foyers is part of the University’s 50 Anniversary year in 2016.

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