When two people from the music industry – who are not gatekeepers, who are not on the boards of our industry bodies – win an award for change-making in music, something is seriously wrong.

Former Sony Music Australia staffer Tamara Georgopoulos and musician Jaguar Jonze stood before a broken industry that had failed them last night at the Australian Women in Music Awards. An industry that has time and time again convinced itself that real change is just too hard, that it ain’t that bad, really, and the most harrowing cover-up of all: that’s just showbiz baby!

Last night’s AWMAs at The Tivoli in Brisbane followed a day of crucial and uncomfortable discussions about the Australian music industry’s lack of gender parity, diversity and respect for those beneath the glass ceiling. The work of Tamara Georgopoulos and Jaguar Jonze came up a lot during the sold out conference, both on panels and with the attending delegates.

Tamara has been working in the music and arts industries since 2005, and is one of several former Sony Music Australia employees to speak out against toxic workplace culture and has been integral in pushing the #MeToo movement forward in the music industry. Tamara was sexually harassed while working at Sony and has experienced many of the core issues related to our music industry’s need for cultural change.

Jaguar Jonze, a multi-disciplinary artist and producer, is readying the release of her album, Bunny Mode (out June 3), which explores her journey as an assault survivor, and a figure on the frontline of Australia’s #MeToo movement. Her quest for accountability from our industry and those who perpetuate toxic culture is nothing short of remarkable, but it has come at a cost.

Jaguar Jonze

Tamara and Jaguar Jonze were awarded the inaugural Change Maker trophy last night, and while their public and private activism in this space needed to be recognised, both brought up a valid point in their acceptance speeches: It shouldn’t be them carrying this movement on their shoulders. It shouldn’t be these two young women with high ambitions outside of the #MeToo movement who are weighed down by the enormity of breaking down a system that protects abusers and criminals. It shouldn’t be them at the forefront of building a new industry where safety — the very basic expectation in the workplace — is considered. The anger, the frustration, and the trauma of all they have carried over the last few years was written on their faces as they took the stage together last night.

Tamara noted: “The man who took my career continues to work in the industry, supported by his artists and his industry peers.”

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Tamara Georgopoulos & Jaguar Jonze
Tamara Georgopoulos & Jaguar Jonze

Both Tamara Georgopoulos and Jaguar Jonze have generously shared their acceptance speeches with The Industry Observer, which you can read in full below.

Tamara Georgopoulos’ Change Maker acceptance speech at AWMAs 2022

I would like to thank Vicki Gordon, Patricia and AWMA for giving us this platform, for raising our voices and for very kindly honouring us with this award.

I am honoured to receive this award alongside the incredibly brave Jaguar Jonze.

I am a survivor of the toxic culture that exists within the music industry.

I stand here as one of the many survivors of Sony Music.

I never spoke out to receive recognition.

I spoke out because I couldn’t move forward without speaking my truth.

I spoke out because the culture of an entire industry shouldn’t be shaped by one man.

One man who was placed into a position of power that he intended to keep by ruling with fear and was able to for decades.

I spoke out because every person in this room has the right to be safe in their place of work.

The issues our industry faces are systemic.

It’s proven by the fact that despite all the work that’s been done there are still many, many perpetrators that continue to exist within our industry today.

These issues have never been exclusive to one organisation – they exist in every corner of our industry.

These issues exist within every industry.

Despite everything that’s happened in the past twelve months with the #metoo movement, we’ve seen no internal investigations or accountability from those at the top.

We’ve seen no accountability from one of the largest global music companies in the world – Sony Music.

The man who took my career continues to work in the industry, supported by his artists and his industry peers.

No apology, no remorse, no accountability.

We need to continue to be the moral compass for those leading this industry because without us, I can guarantee the vicious cycle of systemic abuse will continue.

To everyone in the room today in position of influence, we ask you to consider how you can create change and how YOU can be a change maker in our industry.

It’s an amazing award to receive but I will admit creating change does come at a cost and it has come at a great cost for both Jaguar Jonze and myself. I am definitely suffering imposter syndrome being here tonight, I feel like I have no presence in the industry at all since speaking out.

I love this industry, let’s work to make it safer for us all.

Jaguar Jonze’s Change Maker acceptance speech at AWMAs 2022

I didn’t want to accept this award. Because being given this Change Maker Award is a reminder that I had to push for change in the absence of our industry leaders. The leaders who have the resources and power to create meaningful change, to protect us and to ensure our workplace is safe and just. Where were they?

For so long the music industry has used the glitz and the glamour to hide its true ugliness. It is an industry diseased with a culture of abuse, discrimination and sexual harassment. It is riddled with exploitation.

With no platform, no power and less privilege, so many of us have risked everything to make sure we didn’t contribute to that culture of silence and actively pushed against the cycle of abuse. It came at a cost and I still feel it everyday. As a woman of colour those risks are magnified, and I am yet another example of a marginalised voice in the grassroots of their career, being left with no choice but to carry the burden and responsibility of our industry. 

I am grateful to have my voice amplified, and that platforms like these awards exist to elevate the work of women in our industry, but who is protecting us? Who is ensuring that our most vulnerable aren’t exposed? Who is actually contributing to create meaningful change?

We always stop at awareness of a problem, because it takes so much to push through to make people see that there is a problem. But all it is is a first step. We still have so much work ahead of us. 

This work won’t be achieved through giving me an award. If you ask me for what I really want, after all of my sacrifice, trauma and advocacy, it is opportunity, ongoing safety, freedom, equality and justice. I want the leaders, influencers and gatekeepers of our industry to fulfil their responsibilities and take accountability. I want to be an artist. 

I will accept this award on behalf of the survivors and allies who risked everything to fight before me, and beside me, both in public and behind the scenes.

As members of the music industry, both here in this room and outside, we each have the power to decide what we will choose to be quiet and complicit in, and what we will actively push to change. I want you to consider every decision and ask yourself every single day –  what are YOU going to do with YOUR power? Will YOU take the challenge and be part of the change?

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