About our National Search Panel

Industry professionals have been invited to watch and evaluate our Wakakirri Performance shows in search for the STORY OF THE YEAR!

Introducing the National Search Panel Members

Emma Watkins

Emma Watkins is best known for her role as the yellow Wiggle and the first female in The Wiggles, the world’s favourite children’s entertainment group. The effervescent singing, dancing, drum playing, French speaking, bow wearing Wiggle has charmed audiences across the globe and is a passionate advocate for sign language.

Justine Clarke

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 1.38.58 pmOne of the most recognised and trusted faces on the Australian entertainment landscape. She is a best-selling children’s music artist and author, stage and screen actor in some of the most iconic productions -Justine is undoubtedly known as the Queen of children’s entertainment!

Andrew McFarlane

A graduate from NIDA, Andrew has had an extensive career in film & television. He has starred in some of Australia’s most successful TV dramas including The Sullivans, Patrol Boat, The Flying Doctors, Water Rats, Blue Heelers, Home & Away, Neighbours, The Alice, and Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities and numerous telemovies and miniseries for the Australian and the US market. Andrew is also a regular presenter on PlaySchool for the ABC.  In theatre, Andrew has worked for every state theatre company in Australia and for numerous independent and commercial theatre companies. He has run both “Acting for the Camera” and “Introduction to Stage Acting” courses for the NIDA Open Program and is a course director at the Darlinghurst Theatre School.

Alex Papps

Alex was trained as an actor, graduating from WAAPA in 1995, and as a director from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2007.  As an actor his television credits include Time of Our Lives, Australia On Trial, City Homicide, MDA, Blue Heelers, Stingers, Home & Away, The Henderson Kids II, Neighbours, The Flying Doctors, Prisoner, State Coroner and The Saddle Club. He was also the co-host of the music/variety program, The Factory. Film credits include the role of Peter in Ana Kokkinos’ Head On, and Anthony, in Five Moments of Infidelity.  Alex has been a regular presenter on ABC TV’s Play School since 2005.

Caroline Kaspar

Caroline maintains a busy creative and performing career in dance, theatre, film and television. As a movement director/choreographer, Caroline’s work has been seen around the world from theatre works and television commercials here in Australia. Her credits include countless mainstage musicals. On the screen she is known for her work on Moulin Rouge!, Happy Feet and A Place to Call Home. Caroline is involved in Performing Arts Education as a tutor and choreographer/director for a variety of performing arts institutions – most notably NIDA and ED5 International.

Joshua Horner

Australian born Joshua Horner is a star of stage and TV. Starting out as a professional dancer he spent 5 years with the Australian Ballet then crossed over to a career in Musical Theatre which lead him to star in ‘A Chorus Line’, ‘Billy Elliot The Musical’ on Broadway and played ‘Tony’ in ‘Movin’ Out’ on London’s West End. Other shows include Dirty Dancing, Guys and Dolls and Tivoli. After moving to Los Angeles in 2009 he became a choreographic consultant for the Walt Disney Resort, choreographing their hit parade “Soundsational’. He then inspired and choreographed water for the award winning night time spectacular ‘World of Color’. He’s been a ‘Judge’ on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ in Australia, created the hit website ‘Dance Upon a Dream’ which is a worldwide database for competitive dancers (www.danceuponadream.com) and is currently the STAR of FREEFORM’S fabulous new comedic digital series ‘Oh My JOSH!’

Michala Banas

Michala Banas is a multi award winning film, television and theatre actor. Born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, Michala splits her time working between Melbourne and Los Angeles. Michala’s career began very early with her first film credit at the age of 5. Since then, she has forged a remarkable career, starring in over 40 film, television and theatre productions. She quickly became the go-to girl for drama in Australia and more recently has been in high demand for comedy after the huge international success of Upper Middle Bogan (Bess of Both Worlds), in which she played the much loved and feisty Amber Wheeler. Michala is also a writer, a founding member and co-artistic director of Green room nominated theatre company, The KIN Collective, and is also story producer on the ground breaking documentary, The Show Must Go On.

James Elmer

UntitledJames Elmer is an accomplished Actor, singer, dancer and has been a TV host on ABC3 for the last 5 years, where he’s written, produced and edited much of his own content. James studied at Jason Coleman’s ministry of dance and went on to compete in popular TV shows such as  “So you think you can dance” and “Australia’s got talent”. Over the last couple of years James has been writing and recording his original music  and is Itching to release it to the world.

Rachael Beck

smallheadshotOne of Australia’s leading performers, Rachael Beck most recently won acclaim for her performance of ‘Diana’ in Black Swans production of Next to Normal in 2015, she also played ‘The Bakers Wife’ in Harvest Rain’s Into The Woods at QPAC in 2015. Rachael is a proud Ambassador for The Australian Childrens’ Music Foundation.

Jason Coleman

jamesJason Coleman, best known for his role as judge on the hit dance show So You Think You Can Dance, came to dance prominence when he was the Choreographer for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Jason has also worked on many well known musicals including Chicago, Hair, A Chorus Line and Hairspray just to name a few. Please visit www.theministryofdance.com.au to view Jason’s full biography.

Todd McKenney

ToddTodd has been in the entertainment industry for years. He has represented Australia in ballroom and Latin American dancing, winning many international dancing titles – perfect training for his role as Nathan Starkey in Baz Luhrmann’s internationally acclaimed film Strictly Ballroom. Since 2004, Todd has enjoyed his role as a judge on Channel 7’s immensely popular Dancing with the Stars. He has also hosted Channel 7’s National Spelling Bee and been a guest presenter on The Morning Show with Kylie Gillies.  In addition, for the past four years he has been studying Auslan sign language and works within the deaf community all around Australia. He has also recently joined The Diamond Ball Committee for the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia and hopes to help the CCIA to raise much needed funds to help research and fight childhood cancer.

Wayne Scott Kermond

At the age of eleven Wayne was introduced to Musical Theatre when Betty Pounder cast him as a Tap dancing sailor in Gypsy at Sydney’s Her Majesty’s Theatre, with Gloria Dawn and Toni Lamond. Wayne then kick started his career by co-starring in the musical Barnum – playing the part of the smallest man in the world, Tom Thumb. Wayne’s early Musical Theatre credits also include Westside Story playing the role of Baby John, the Sydney Theatre Company’s Jonah Jones, Guys & Dolls, HMS Pinafore and the Sydney production of Seven Little Australians

Mark Wilson

MarkMark Wilson is a professional Australian ballroom dancer and dance teacher. He is best known for being a judge on the reality TV show Dancing with the Stars. Mark Wilson has been crowned Australian Dancesport Champion on five occasions. Mark has also appeared in popular ABC TV show That’s Dancin’, winning the professional series. Mark coaches new judges and acts as a junior development officer for Dancesport Victoria and its school dance programs. He teaches students of all ages at his own studio, from beginners to medalists and competition couples.

Casey Burgess

‘It Girl’ Casey Burgess, is an established actress, musician and television presenter with over a decade of experience in the entertainment industry. Casey has also been nominated for numerous ARIA & TV Week Logie Awards for her work with the internationally successful children’s group, Hi-5.  Her presence within the entertainment industry is growing rapidly with now over seventy thousand followers across her social media channels.

Katie Kermond

With over 25 years experience in the Entertainment Industry Katie’s diverse and comprehensive skills have kept her in demand as a Producer, Director, Chorographer, Production Coordinator, Performer and sometimes Stand-up Comedian:)

Cara Dinley

caraCara has enjoyed the invaluable experience of working with some of the world’s finest, internationally renowned, theatrical creative teams during her continued, constant employment as a professional performer for over 15 years throughout; Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Notably she performed the roles of ‘Demeter’ in Cats and ‘Liz’ in Chicago, while part of the ensemble in: Beauty & the Beast, My Fair Lady, Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Showboat, Merry Widow, Singin in the Rain, The Wizard of Oz, Mack and Mabel and The Producers. Inspired by such, she made a conscious move to the creation of arts and events in the form of casting, choreography, direction, event management, lecturing and the programming of shows and events.

David Harris

davidOften described as Australia’s leading man, David Harris has wowed audiences all over the world with his portrayal of roles such as Fiyero in Wicked and Chris in Miss Saigon. David recently played the role of Emmett Forrest in the national tour of Legally Blonde The Musical. In addition to this he is also a successful recording artist, having released two albums, ‘Til The Night Has Gone and At This Stage.

James Lee

jamesLeeJames Lee has been performing for over a quarter of a century in some of the greatest musicals in the world. His credits include Les Miserables, Wizard of the Oz, 42nd Street, The Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, Eureka The Musical, Bye Bye Birdie, High Society, Annie the Musical & Jerry Springer the Opera. James spent three years understudying Topol in Fiddler on the Roof . He was nominated for a Sydney Theatre Award in 2011 for best actor in a musical. In 1998 James co created Hats Off, now in its 14th year, with Oz Showbiz Cares and directed & co-produced the first two concerts with Margi De Ferranti.

Michael Cormick

Michael Cormick-webMichael Cormick is an accomplished actor and singer of international standing.  Mo Award winning Michael’s Australian Theatre credits include, The Narrator in Blood Brothers, the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera, Daddy Warlocks in Annie, the Australian tour of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Mamma Mia, The Rocky Horror Show, Cats, Joseph, Falsettos, Eureka, Jo Gillies in Sunset Boulevard, Kinky opposite Dannii Minogue in Grease the Arena Spectacular.

Petra Glieson

PetraA professional actor in film, television and theatre for over 20 years. With leading guest roles in television dramas such as the ABC series Dr. Blake Mysteries & Its A Date, City Homicide, Neighbour’s, Blue Heelers, Stingers, State Coroner and the AFI nominated episode of Janus. She has performed with Machination Theatre Ensemble and works on Independent films with Impromptu Films and at the UBUD International Writer’s festival. In 2011 she continued her professional training at Ward Acting Studio in Melbourne and the U.S  where she performed in two productions I Wish You a Boat and Almost Home. She produced and starred in the Ward Theatre Company’s Australian premiere of I Wish You a Boat in 2012 and the company’s highly acclaimed theatre adaptation of James Agee’s novel A Death in the Family in 2013. Petra is an Associate Head of Drama and Director for Stage School Australia and holds a degree in Performance Studies (B.A, V.U.T) and a degree in drama and education (B. Ed Deakin University).

Christopher Horsey

ChristopherHorseyChristopher is an actor, vocalist, dancer, choreographer and presenter on stage, screen and radio. His recent performing roles include Marty in The Tap Pack (TheatrcHals Prod), Rooster in Annie (Packemin Prod) and Benny Southstreet in Guys & Dolls (The Production Co). He is the featured hero actor in 2 current TV advertising campaigns – Allianz and Toyota Camry. As a choreographer, Chris created the opening sequence of the Helpmann Awards (Sydney Opera House), the Rob Guest Endowment (Capitol Theatre) and Ruthless! (Seymour Centre). He has performed on the West End in the original Hot Shoe Shuffle and on Broadway as a founding member of Tap Dogs. His film credits include the role of Angus in Bootmen (Fox Searchlight). 

Chelsea Williamson

Chelsea Williamson is an Australian performer of Stage and Screen. Her training includes The Hub Studio as well as the Beverly Hills Playhouse and The Acting Centre in LA. Her most recent theatre role was with the BBC Dr Who Symphonic Spectacular stage production.  Film roles include The Reckoning directed by John V Soto and independent film Shan and Kate which was recognized at the Palm Springs Film Festival.

Dale Pengelly

Dale began his professional career as ballet/ contemporary dancer. He performed with The Australian Ballet, The Queensland Ballet, The Royal New Zealand Ballet and Sydney Dance Company. ’92 saw a crossover for Dale to Music Theatre.   Hot Shoe Shuffle(original cast), Crazy For You, Boy From Oz(original cast), Chicago, Singin’ In The Rain and Saturday Night Fever are just a few professional productions Dale has starred in.   Dale is very excited to be part of the Wakakirri Family.

Tia Jordan

Director, choreographer, career coach. Her educational techniques have revolutionised auditioning, and changed thousands of performers’ lives.  Collaborators: ATYP, NIDA, ABC, DISNEY, Justine Clarke, Toni Pearon, Delta Goodrem. Onstage:  Go-To-Hell Kitty, CHICAGO; Teresita WEST SIDE STORY with Caroline O’Connor and Marina Prior; My Fair Lady with Anthony Warlow.  Screen: Dein Perry’s film Bootmen; TV’s All Saints; Presenter/mentor Disney’s My Camp Rock II;  7’s All For Kids; Saturday Disney.  Follow auditionguru.com

Mike Smith

After graduating from NIDA in 2005, Mike has gone on to a successful career on stage and screen.  He was nominated for a Green Room award for his portrayal of Tony in the Australian production of Billy Elliot – The Musical.   Most recently Mike played the lead role of Richard Hannay in the Australian tour of The 39 Steps.  On screen Mike has starred in All Saints and played the much loved Callum Gilbert in Network Seven’s Winners & Losers.  His other credits include Neighbours, City Homicide as well as many other guest roles.  Mike also works as a successful voice over artist. He says he is “proud and deeply honoured to be invited into the Wakakirri Family”.

Kristin Agnoli

KristinAgnoliKristin entered the entertainment Industry with a role in Les Miserable’s at a young age and has continued working professionally within the industry both in Australia and internationally ever since.  Some of her performance credits include, Creative Director of Classrooms Around the World – International dance tour, Princess and Carnival Cruise Lines, NIDA Arts Theatre, Home and Away, Cartoon Network Kids.  Most recently Kristin was the Education and Special Events Manager at Jason Coleman’s Ministry of Dance in Melbourne – Directing the Junior Dance School, Managing Education and Training within Schools and communities, Facilitating workshops, Creating dance programs, choreographing VET/VCE dance and assisting in moving dance forward within the education system to ensure everyone is touched by the arts.

Laura Hamilton

LauraHamiltonLaura’s greatest passion in life is artistic and creative expression and she is dedicated to facilitating this in the hearts and spirits of our young.  Laura is the Artistic Producer of www.vocal alchemy.com.au, online singing lessons and live vocal workshops as well as the Company Director of Promptside Productions specializing in the creation and production of new and innovate theatrical productions. Her career as a performer spans some twenty five years.  She has been an original cast member in over fifteen Australian productions, during which she not only performed but also assisted either the Choreographer or the Director and on several occasions both.

Ian Knowles

IanKnowlesAfter training in Perth in Jazz, Tap & Acrobatics, and Classical, Ian has been fortunate enough to spend 28 years in the entertainment industry as a professional dancer, choreographer, director and teacher. Starting his career on a weekly variety program “Teamworkz” gave Ian a great introduction to the world of dance and entertainment. He is proud to say that he has worked in every medium of entertainment. Ian is honoured to have been able to help mould the lives and careers of Australias up and coming talent.

Luke Carroll

lukeLuke Carroll has gathered a remarkable range of credits and is a 3 time nominee for the AACTA Awards, most recently this year for ‘Best Guest or Supporting Actor in a TV Drama’ for Redfern Now. Luke’s other career highlights include the films Australian Rules, Stone Bros and Needle his television work on R.A.N, The Alice, Home and Away, Heartbeat and hosting the Deadly Awards and currently presenting on Playschool.

Valerie Harrold

Valerie Harrold-webValerie has taught in South Australia for over 40 years. She is a specialist Performing Arts teacher with a strong focus on Drama, Dance and Music, Reception –Year 7. She was the State Coordinator for Wakakirri National Storytelling Festival for 12 years, and is still currently a member of the Wakakirri Committee. In 2008 she was awarded the Education and Arts Ministers’ Award for Demonstrated Excellence in Arts, teaching and leadership at a Primary level. She now undertakes a variety of roles, as a tutor in Drama at the University of SA, and as a member of the team writing Arts resources for the 2017 dreamBIG, Children’s Festival in Adelaide.