The Best Drama Schools in Australia

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Australia has an excellent reputation when it comes to acting talent, and that all begins with solid training. A top drama school can give you the foundation you need to build your career and can create a ready-made network of friends and contacts to help you along the way. 

Hugh Jackman, Sarah Snook, Cate Blanchett, and Tim Minchin all trained in Oz and speak highly of their early acting education. You don’t need to leave the country to get top drama teaching—in fact, you don’t necessarily need to leave your home state. It’s not all about Sydney and Melbourne! 

So, where are the best drama schools in Australia? Let’s take a look.


The National Institute of Dramatic Art, Sydney (NIDA)

NIDAUndoubtedly top of the pile when it comes to reputation is the National Institute of Dramatic Art, or NIDA. Based in Sydney, NIDA offers courses in acting, production, design, directing, and playwriting. Basically, it does what it says on the tin, teaching the full range of dramatic arts at an incredibly high level. 

NIDA’s Acting Bachelor of Fine Arts course is full-time, five days a week, and lasts for three years. The Institute has stellar facilities offering rehearsal spaces and theatres, and it is generally very well funded. They say their ethos is learning through doing, and NIDA actors work with other students focusing on different disciplines like directing and design to create full-scale productions.

If you want proof that NIDA’s training works, just look at its alumni list: Cate Blanchett, Mel Gibson, Baz Luhrmann, and Judy Davis are just some of the big names who’ve studied there, and there are plenty more. 

If NIDA sounds like a bit of you, then check out this helpful video packed with info on how to audition straight from the course leaders or read this in-depth guide on the application process.

The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Perth (WAAPA)

WAAPAIf you think you have to move to Sydney or Melbourne to get world-class arts training, think again. The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts is based in a quiet suburb of Perth and boasts starry alumni such as Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger, Frances O’Connor, and Jai Courtney.  

Managed by Edith Cowan University, the acting course has been running for over 40 years and has a good reputation and strong industry links. Students speak highly of the teaching and how being away from the hubbub of Sydney enables a sense of community and focus. 

WAAPA offers a three-year acting course (BA) with courses in performing arts, costumes, dance, lighting, props and scenery, Aboriginal performance, and stage management, among many others. Students work together on various productions throughout the year on a rotating schedule so everyone can get show experience. 

Acting applicants must audition and/or interview to be admitted, and competition is tight. In the first round of auditions, actors must perform two monologues—one Shakespearean and one contemporary—and if you get through that, there are two more rounds to complete.

When it comes to fees, the WAAPA says an indicative charge for year one is AU $8,950. As with all the training listed here, it’s important to ask yourself, Can I afford it? Remember, there are plenty of actors who made it big without formal training, so take your time in deciding what is best for you.

Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne (VCA)

VCABased in Melbourne, the Victorian College of the Arts has been part of Melbourne University since 2006. Some have seen this as having a negative effect on VCA’s reputation for conservatoire training and hands-on teaching, but the college has been actively trying and succeeding to turn that impression around.    

VCA has new world-class theatres and is based slap-bang in the city’s lively arts district. The acting department’s building is right next door to Melbourne Theatre Company’s Southbank Theatre, the recital hall, and the State Theatre. Its alumni include top new talents such as Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Clarke, Patrick Brammall, and Ashley Zuckerman. The College offers a three-year full-time BA in Acting led by Head of Theatre Chris Mead, who says he’s looking for “brave and ambitious people who have something to say about now.” 

Acting students work and collaborate with other arts students who are studying related disciplines such as dance, directing, design, lighting, and screenwriting. To get into the school, you have to audition. Actors must prepare three monologues and a song following these detailed guidelines. If you’re interested in VCA, a good place to start is their info-packed YouTube channel.

Actors Centre Australia, Sydney (ACA)

ACAThe Actors Centre was founded 30 years ago by actor and educator Dean Carey and has been going from strength to strength ever since. Its patron is also its star alumnus, Hugh Jackman, who says the centre is “unparalleled in delivering excellence in acting talent.” 

Based in Leichhardt, in Sydney’s inner west, ACA benefits from impressive facilities, including a 250-seat performance space, an AU $12 million purpose-built facility, a black box theatre, rehearsal rooms, and a dedicated dance studio. One of the program’s more recent alumni is Harriet Dyer, the writer and star of Colin From Accounts

The Bachelor of Performing Arts degree, accredited by Torrens University Australia, is taught three days a weekover three years. The BA aims to be very industry-focused and practical. In the third year, students have an extra half-day of teaching, concentrating on their careers after graduation. 

As for auditions, ACA requires students to prepare two contrasting monologues, one Shakespearean and one contemporary. Auditions are in Sydney, but the Centre also accepts video submissions.