Following watershed moments in entertainment overseas, the Australian music industry has turned its focus on the underrepresentation of female artists on radio, in festival line-ups, as award recipients and in the boardrooms of the Australian music industry.
Having long recognised the need for a shift, industry veteran Vicki Gordon has announced the inaugural Australian Women in Music Awards (AWMA), to shine a light on empowering and recognising the value, achievements and contributions of women.
Set to be staged at Brisbane Powerhouse from October 9-10, 2018, the AWMAs will recognise first nations and multicultural performers, excellence in artistry, technical & production skills, cross-cultural development, songwriting, music education, music photography, management, humanitarian work and more.
“History is finally on our side. We need to grab this moment with an open and united heart,” AWMA Founding Director Vicki Gordon said.
Beyond the Awards, AWMA will establish an Honour Roll to acknowledge outstanding women who have made significant and lasting contributions in their chosen field.
The Awards will also host the QLD premiere of the Australian music documentary ‘Her Sound-Her Story’, and host a series of forums and keynote speeches to explore and promote gender and cultural equity within the Australian music industry.
Women from all corners of the industry have thrown their support behind AWMA, including Tina Arena, Deborah Conway, Kate Ceberano, Debra Byrne, Katie Noonan, Christine Anu, Clare Bowditch, Isabella Manfredi of The Preatures, Sophie Koh, Kween G, Patricia ‘Little Patti’ Amphlett, the late Chrissy Amphlett, the late Ruby Hunter (with kind permission of their families), and APRA Chair Jenny Morris.
Tina Arena said:
“I welcome this initiative to recognise and celebrate all the incredible contributions to music by Australian women.”
Isabella Manfredi said:
“The next positive step in creating a more equal playing field for all. What a momentous platform to shine a light on the amazing women in our industry.”
Clare Bowditch said:
“An awards night to celebrate exceptional Australian Music by exceptional Australian musicians who, for reasons of history and perhaps unconscious bias or worse, have been generally overlooked? Who wouldn’t want more of that kinda good thing?!? This is deeply exciting!!”
Christine Anu said:
“AWMA provides unprecedented opportunities for our Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander sisters. This is a change maker.”
AWMA Patron, and Chair of APRA, Jenny Morris said:
“I am very happy to be involved in this long overdue project. My feeling is that women and female minority groups have well and truly served their time as the under-valued, under-estimated and under-supported element of our music industry. I know there are vast numbers of men who support women and huge numbers of women who want more, so together let’s create the mother of all paradigm shifts.”
AWMA Advisor and Artistic Director of the Queensland Music Festival Katie Noonan said:
“As a fiercely proud Queensland artist, I am thrilled that my home state Government has shown the leadership to support this awesome initiative.”
MC Kween G said:
“AWMA ensures that we remain visible, celebrating women is everything. I feel excited for what’s to come from this important work and I am truly honoured to be involved”.
Speaking to TIO, AWMA Patron and ARIA winner Deborah Conway said:
“There is still a degree of reluctance to acknowledge the enormous breadth of genres that Australian woman have occupied. One of the big reasons for me in establishing the series of concerts called BROAD was to interrogate the monolithic category of Female Singer/Songwriter which record stores and radio stations had comfortably lumped together for decades,” said Conway. “Clearly there was so much more to it than that, and the exploration was rewarding for all who participated and those who attended.
“In establishing dedicated awards for female musicians this idea is furthered,” she added, “but takes nothing away from how we acknowledge our homegrown musicians whatever gender they are; it’s simply one more sandpit for us to climb into and play.
Conway told TIO that while “it’s almost impossible to earn a living from record sales or downloads” and that this obviously affects both genders, the Awards should be welcomed by the entirety of the local industry.
“Anything that throws the spotlight back on a musician and gives them a boost has to be one worth getting behind,” she said.
Deborah Conway made headlines in ’92 for an interview held straight after receiving her ARIA award. “I said that just because Kylie and I both had vaginas it was genre not gender that really mattered.”
Conway told TIO she’s “happy to stand by that comment.”
“In more a nuanced sense I also think if you are comfortable with the idea of awards generally then there is no harm being done to the status of female musicians in comparison to their male counterparts by participating in another awards sphere,” she added. “It provides whoever is given a gong another opportunity to reap some publicity for their creative enterprise and I’m struggling to see a downside there.”
AWMA ADVISORY COUNCIL Christine Anu, Artist (TI/NSW) Clare Bowditch, Artist (VIC) Johanna Campbell, CAAMA (NT) Kween G, Artist (NSW) Sophie Koh, Artist (VIC) Isabella Manfredi, Artist (NSW) Katie Noonan, Artist (QLD) Poppy Reid, Seventh Street Media (NSW)