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Screen star leads drive for WAAPA
Screen star leads drive for WAAPA

Australian screen legend Jack Thompson is leading an international fundraising push to help Perth's cash-strapped fame school maintain standards in the face of stalled funding and rocketing costs.

Thompson, whose son Bill, 23, is a second-year student at the WA Academy of Performing Arts, has called on WA Education Minister Peter Collier to match any donations dollar-for-dollar.

Backers of the proposed WAAPA Foundation include WAAPA's most famous alumni Hugh Jackman, filmmaker Bruce Beresford and mining boss Andrew Forrest.

"People are standing up and recognising that WAAPA is one of the top 25 performing arts schools in the English-speaking world," Thompson said yesterday.

The star of Sunday Too far Away, Breaker Morant and The Man from Snowy River said he and Jackman had hatched the plan to support WAAPA in 2007 while filming Australia in the Kimberley.

Thompson hoped the foundation could raise $500,000 a year to plug the gap between what WAAPA received from the Federal and State governments and what it needed to train its music, drama, dance and design students.

In a bid to trim a deficit in its $14 million budget, WAAPA is considering removing a teacher from the acting course and has increased singing-lesson fees for musical theatre students.

In June, an Edith Cowan University-commissioned report said WAAPA needed an urgent overhaul and $3.75 million extra in government funding to stop it bleeding money.

ECU vice-chancellor Professor Kerry Cox yesterday welcomed Thompson's intervention and said philanthropy and corporate sponsorship would be the key to WAAPA's future.

Mr Collier said he would consider Thompson's idea.