‘High Ground’, ‘The Newsreader’ lead early AACTA Award nominations

'High Ground'.

AACTA has revealed those in contention for the major film, television and short-form prizes at this year’s awards, with High Ground leading the charge in the film categories and The Newsreader ahead in television.

The nominations follow those revealed for feature documentary in July, with the technical craft categories still to come.

AACTA also announced today that this year’s awards will move from The Star to the Sydney Opera House, with the ceremony to be held December 8.

There has also been a change in broadcast partners from Seven to 10, where the ceremony will air first followed by an encore on FOX Arena on Foxtel, Binge, and AACTA TV.

High Ground has earned eight nominations, including Best Film. Also nominated for the night’s major prize are Nitram, which earned seven nods, The Dry, which has six, as well as The Furnace, Penguin Bloom and Rams.

The Best Indie Film Award, designed to honour independent and low budget filmmaking (under $2 million), will be a contest between Disclosure, Ellie and Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt), Lone Wolf, Moon Rock for Monday, My First Summer and Under My Skin.

While the previous two years have seen women triumph in the Best Direction category, with both Jennifer Kent and Shannon Murphy honoured for The Nightingale and Babyteeth respectively, this year is an all-male affair. The nominees include Robert Connolly for The Dry, Roderick MacKay for his debut feature The Furnace, Stephen Maxwell Johnson for High Ground, Justin Kurzel for Nitram and Glendyn Ivin for Penguin Bloom.

High Ground co-stars Simon Baker and Jacob Junior Nayinggul will each vie for the Best Actor Award alongside Eric Bana for The Dry, Ahmed Malek for The Furnace and Caleb Landry Jones for Nitram.

Nominated for Best Actress are Rose Byrne (Peter Rabbit 2), Judy Davis (Nitram), Noni Hazlehurst (June Again), Genevieve O’Reilly (The Dry) and Naomi Watts (Penguin Bloom).

The supporting actor category will also see High Ground co-stars spar, with both Jack Thompson and Sean Mununggurr nominated alongside Rams’ Michael Caton, Nitram’s Anthony LaPaglia and The Furnace‘s Baykali Ganambarr.

Vying for supporting actress are Nitram‘s Essie Davis, June Again‘s Claudia Karvan, High Ground‘s Esmerelda Marimowa, The Dry‘s Miranda Tapsell and Penguin Bloom’s Jacki Weaver.

Shaun Grant has the opportunity to take out both the original and adapted screenplay categories for Nitram and Penguin Bloom respectively, with Penguin Bloom co-writer Harry Cripps also double nominated for The Dry alongside Robert Connolly.

The original screenplay category also recognises Monica Zanetti for Ellie and Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt), MacKay for The Furnace, Chris Anastassiades for High Ground, and JJ Winlove for June Again, and the adapted category Will Gluck and Patrick Burleigh for Peter Rabbit 2 and Jules Duncan for Rams.

Anna Torv and Sam Reid in ‘The Newsreader’.

In television, The Newsreader is in the running for 10 awards, including Best Drama Series, with director Emma Freeman and actors Anna Torv, Sam Reid, William McInnes, Stephen Peacocke, Michelle Lim Davidson and Marg Downey among those to earn a nod.

Joining the ABC/Werner Film Production series in the best drama category are Clickbait, Jack Irish, Mr Inbetween, Total Control, Wakefield and Wentworth, while the best miniseries or telefeature category will see A Sunburnt Christmas, The End, Fires, New Gold Mountain and The Unusual Suspects duke it out.

Best narrative comedy is a competition between Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun, Fisk, Frayed, Preppers and Rosehaven, and comedy entertainment program between Dom and Adrian 2020, Hard Quiz, The Moth Effect, Spicks And Specks and The Weekly.

Deborah Mailman has the chance to back up her 2019 Best Lead Actress in a Drama win for Total Control, competing with Mandy McElhinney for Wakefield, Miranda Otto for Fires, Pamela Rabe for Wentworth (who previously won the award in 2013) and Torv for The Newsreader.

Vying against Reid for his turn as a rookie reporter in The Newsreader for Best Actor in a Drama are Guy Pearce for Jack Irish, Richard Roxburgh for Fires, and Scott Ryan for Mr Inbetween.

Hazlehurst is nominated again for Best Supporting Actress for her work in The End, squaring off with Lim Davidson and Downey, Rachel Griffiths for Total Control and Harriet Dyer for Wakefield. The male equivalent category is a battle between McInnes, Peacocke, Mr Inbetween‘s Matt Nable and Justin Rosniak and Wakefield‘s Harry Greenwood.

The best comedy performer category recognises Rosehaven duo Celia Pacquola and Luke McGregor, Nakkiah Lui for Preppers, Sarah Kendall for Frayed, Tom Gleeson for Hard Quiz, Kitty Flanagan for Fisk, and both Samual Bonnano and Broden Kelly for Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun.

Best Documentary Program is a contest between Brazen Hussies, EXPOSED: The Ghost Train Fire, Life in Colour with David Attenborough, Ms Represented with Annabel Crabb, Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds and The School That Tried to End Racism.

Bluey will seek its third consecutive win in the Best Children’s Program category, against 100% Wolf: Legend of the Moonstone, The Bureau of Magical Things, Dive Club, Hardball, and Kangaroo Beach.

“AACTA is proud to be able to host and honour the work of Australia’s established and emerging talent; whose work kept us entertained and connected for the past year. 2021 has been a challenging year for many Australian industries and ours is no exception,” AACTA CEO Damian Trewhella said.

“We are privileged to be able to host an event that brings together some of Australia’s most talented and creative practitioners and allows us to recognise the people who have kept us entertained over the past year. Being able to do this at the iconic Sydney Opera House is icing on the cake.”   

AACTA members can see all 97 nominated films, TV shows, and short form content on AACTA TV.

Round 2 voting to determine the winner opens today and closes at 5pm AEDT Monday, November 8.

AACTA also announced today the return of its audience choice awards, spanning favourite australian actor, TV drama, film, competition reality show, entertainment show, digital comedy creator and TV host. Voting will run online until November 7, with the top five nominees in each category announced in early December ahead of the awards.

The full list of nominees:

Best Drama Series

  • Clickbait
  • Jack Irish
  • Mr Inbetween
  • The Newsreader
  • Total Control
  • Wakefield
  • Wentworth

Best Lead Actress in a Drama Presented by Foxtel

  • Deborah Mailman – Total Control
  • Mandy McElhinney – Wakefield
  • Miranda Otto – Fires
  • Pamela Rabe – Wentworth
  • Anna Torv – The Newsreader

Best Lead Actor in a Drama Presented by Foxtel

  • Rudi Dharmaligam – Wakefield
  • Guy Pearce – Jack Irish
  • Sam Reid – The Newsreader
  • Richard Roxburgh – Fires
  • Scott Ryan – Mr Inbetween

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama

  • Michelle Lim Davidson – The Newsreader
  • Marg Downey – The Newsreader
  • Harriet Dyer – Wakefield
  • Rachel Griffiths – Total Control
  • Noni Hazlehurst – The End

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama

  • Harry Greenwood – Wakefield
  • William McInnes – The Newsreader
  • Matt Nable – Mr Inbetween
  • Stephen Peacocke – The Newsreader
  • Justin Rosniak – Mr Inbetween

Best Miniseries or Telefeature

  • A Sunburnt Christmas
  • The End
  • Fires
  • New Gold Mountain
  • The Unusual Suspects

Best Direction in Drama or Comedy

  • Fires (Episode 2) – Ana Kokkinos
  • Mr Inbetween (Episode 6) – Nash Edgerton
  • The Newsreader (Episode 1) – Emma Freeman
  • Wakefield (Episode 5) – Kim Mordaunt
  • Wakefield (Episode 8) – Jocelyn Moorhouse

Best Narrative Comedy Series

  • Aftertaste
  • Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun
  • Fisk
  • Frayed
  • Preppers
  • Rosehaven

Best Stand-Up Special

  • Anne Edmonds and Lloyd Langford – Business with Pleasure
  • Celia Pacquola – Let Me Know How It All Works Out
  • Hannah Gadsby – Douglas
  • Lano and Woodley in Lano and Woodley
  • Rhys Nicholson Live at the Athenaeum
  • Tom Gleeson – Lighten Up

Best Comedy Performer

  • Mark Samual Bonanno – Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun
  • Kitty Flanagan – Fisk
  • Tom Gleeson – Hard Quiz
  • Broden Kelly – Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun
  • Sarah Kendall – Frayed
  • Nakkiah Lui – Preppers
  • Luke McGregor – Rosehaven
  • Celia Pacquola – Rosehaven

Best Comedy Entertainment Program

  • Dom and Adrian 2020
  • Hard Quiz
  • The Moth Effect
  • Spicks And Specks
  • The Weekly

Best Children’s Program

  • 100% Wolf: Legend of the Moonstone
  • Bluey
  • The Bureau of Magical Things
  • Dive Club
  • Hardball
  • Kangaroo Beach

Best Reality Program

  • The Amazing Race Australia
  • Australian Survivor: Brains v Brawn
  • The Block
  • Luxe Listings Sydney
  • MasterChef Australia
  • The Real Housewives of Melbourne

Best Entertainment Program

  • Australian Ninja Warrior
  • LEGO® Masters Australia
  • The Masked Singer
  • Mastermind
  • Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2021
  • The Voice

Best Lifestyle Program

  • Adam and Poh’s Malaysia in Australia
  • The Cook Up with Adam Liaw
  • Gardening Australia
  • Grand Designs Australia
  • The Living Room
  • Love it or List it Australia

Best Documentary or Factual Program

  • Brazen Hussies
  • EXPOSED: The Ghost Train Fire
  • Life in Colour with David Attenborough
  • Ms Represented with Annabel Crabb
  • Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds
  • The School That Tried to End Racism

Best Factual Entertainment Program

  • Australia Talks
  • Courtney Act’s One Plus One
  • Gogglebox Australia
  • Love on the Spectrum
  • The Project
  • You Can’t Ask That

Best Direction in Non-Fiction Television

  • Brazen Hussies – Catherine Dwyer
  • Hannah Gadsby – Douglas – Madeleine Parry
  • Love on the Spectrum (Episode 4) – Cian O’Clery
  • Ms Represented with Annabel Crabb (Episode 1) – Stamatia Maroupas
  • You Can’t Ask That (Episode 1) – Kirk Docker

Best Screenplay in Television

  • Mr Inbetween (Episode 6) – Scott Ryan
  • The Newsreader (Episode 1) – Michael Lucas
  • The Newsreader (Episode 5) – Kim Ho & Michael Lucas
  • Wakefield (Episode 5) – Kristen Dunphy & Sam Meikle
  • Total Control (Episode 1) – Stuart Page


Best Film

  • The Dry
  • The Furnace
  • High Ground
  • Nitram
  • Penguin Bloom
  • Rams

Best Lead Actress in Film

  • Rose Byrne – Peter Rabbit 2
  • Judy Davis – Nitram
  • Noni Hazlehurst – June Again
  • Genevieve O’Reilly – The Dry
  • Naomi Watts – Penguin Bloom

Best Lead Actor in Film

  • Simon Baker – High Ground
  • Eric Bana – The Dry
  • Caleb Landry Jones – Nitram
  • Ahmed Malek – The Furnace
  • Jacob Junior Nayinggul – High Ground

Best Indie Film

  • Disclosure
  • Ellie and Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)
  • Lone Wolf
  • Moon Rock For Monday
  • My First Summer
  • Under My Skin

Best Direction in Film

  • The Dry – Rob Connolly
  • The Furnace – Roderick MacKay
  • High Ground – Stephen Maxwell Johnson
  • Nitram – Justin Kurzel
  • Penguin Bloom – Glendyn Ivin

Best Supporting Actress in Film

  • Essie Davis – Nitram
  • Claudia Karvan – June Again
  • Esmerelda Marimowa – High Ground
  • Miranda Tapsell – The Dry
  • Jacki Weaver – Penguin Bloom

Best Supporting Actor in Film

  • Michael Caton – Rams
  • Baykali Ganambarr – The Furnace
  • Anthony LaPaglia – Nitram
  • Sean Mununggurr – High Ground
  • Jack Thompson – High Ground

Best Original Screenplay in Film

  • Ellie and Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) – Monica Zanetti
  • The Furnace – Roderick MacKay
  • High Ground – Chris Anastassiades
  • June Again – JJ Winlove
  • Nitram – Shaun Grant

Best Adapted Screenplay in Film

  • The Dry – Rob Connolly & Harry Cripps
  • Penguin Bloom – Shaun Grant & Harry Cripps
  • Peter Rabbit 2 – Will Gluck & Patrick Burleigh
  • Rams – Jules Duncan


Best Short Form Comedy Presented by Facebook

  • A Life in Questions: Wisdom School with Aaron Chen
  • All My Friends Are Racist
  • Celebration Nation
  • Hug the Sun
  • Jimmy Rees
  • Samantha Andrew

Best Short Form Drama

  • Beautiful They
  • The Bends
  • Dwarf Planet
  • Grace
  • The Tailings
  • You and Me, Before and After

Best Short Form Entertainment

  • Chopsticks or Fork?
  • Gourmet Lazy
  • Nat’s What I Reckon
  • Ozzy Man Reviews
  • Strong Women
  • Woven Threads – Stories from Within