Clockwise from top left: Jennifer Peedom, Rachel Okine, Kyas Hepworth and Sue Maslin.

The Natalie Miller Fellowship (NMF) organisers have appealed for more Indigenous female screen practitioners to apply for the fellowship that provides an annual $20,000 grant for leadership advancement.

NMF president Sue Maslin lamented the small number of applicants from the Indigenous cohort in a Facebook Live session on Monday with director and NMF ambassador Jennifer Peedom, Aquarius Films MD Rachel Okine and NITV acting head Kyas Hepworth.

Established in 2011 to recognise the unique contribution of screen industry pioneer Natalie Miller, the NMF is open to women with at least five years experience in any screen sector to help them reach their full leadership potential through attachments, internships, secondments and other means.

“We have not had a high level of applications yet from Indigenous women. We really want to make a focus on having Indigenous women applying,” Maslin said.

Noting that applicants need two referees, Hepworth said: “I’m going to do an open shout-out to any Indigenous women or women of colour, if you don’t have a champion, contact the Natalie Miller Foundation and they will pass you over to me.

“I will highlight all the champions in your lives who will be able to help you. It can be a barrier for some creatives that they don’t realise how many people are supporting them in the wings.”

Asked by Maslin about her role as NMF ambassador, Peedom said: “I believe in the sisterhood. There are so many barriers to entry for women in this industry. We need to look out and look after each other.”

The director of Sherpa and Mountain, who is partnered with Jo-anne McGowan in Stranger Than Fiction Films, continued: “I have been the recipient of a lot of luck in my career and often that has been women opening a door or pushing it through.”

Okine, who was the first recipient of the fellowship, said the grant had an enormous impact on her career and gave her the confidence to believe she was doing a good job, then at Entertainment One.

Maslin welcomed the marked increase in women occupying senior roles in exhibition and distribution, citing such execs as Event Cinemas’ Claire Gandy, Hoyts Cinemas’ Stephanie Mills and Studiocanal’s Elizabeth Trotman. “That broadens the diversity of what ends up on our screens,” she said.

To that list Hepworth added the ABC’s Sally Riley, Erica Glynn and Brindle Films’ Trisha Morton-Thomas.

Hepworth, who was AFTRS head of Indigenous before joining SBS, said that, nine times out of 10, the people who had opened doors or started conversations with her were women.

Maslin encouraged women who in the past had applied unsuccessfully to try again and said she is willing to provide feedback on how to strengthen their applications.

Previous recipients include Harriet Pike, Rebecca Hammond, Courtney Botfield, Sasha Close, Kristy Matheson, Miriam Katsambis and Anna Kaplan.

The deadline for applications this year is midnight on Monday September 21. The NMF committee will then compile a shortlist of 5-7 applications. The recipient, determined by a judging panel consisting of Miller, Maslin and three invitees from the screen industry, will be announced before the end of the year.

For more information, Fellowship guidelines and to apply, visit the website: www.nataliemillerfellowship.com.

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