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Industry: Why We Need The Australian Women’s Music Awards

Here’s the new buzzword getting traction in the post-Weinstein world, “damechanger”. The Australian music, screen and live sector have come up with their own initiatives to combat gender inequality.

The latest is the Australian Women’s Music Awards, unveiled in Brisbane last week and set to be staged in that city over two days in October as part of a larger conference on gender and cultural inequality.
 
Tina Arena, Kate Ceberano, Katie Noonan, Christine Anu, Deborah Conway, Clare Bowditch, Jenny Morris, Sophie Koh  Debra Byrne and The Preatures' Isabella Manfredi are among those supporting the initiative.
 
The awards’ founder, Sydney-based artist manager and executive Vicki Gordon, has been wanting to do them for 30 years, with one of the biggest supporters of the idea being Chrissie Amphlett. Things only began to move three years ago.
 
“The problem is that women are essentially invisible,” Gordon says. “Their contributions to the music industry have been sidelined in far too many areas. They’re under-represented on festival bills and they’re under-represented on the boards of music associations and they’re under-represented in the major awards. If you don’t have women participating, ultimately what you’re going to reflect is who’s around the table.
 
“The aim of the awards is to celebrate the achievements of not just the performers and the singer-songwriters, but also the women who work behind the scenes, and those whom we can’t see. We’re honouring those elders who have come before us. They won’t be sales driven but based around the humanitarian.
 
“I stress the need to make these women visible. We can only hold up their achievements if people can see them and can offer hope to the future. You can’t be what you can’t see. If you only see men in positions of power and positions of decision-making then you’re not confident you’re capable of making those decisions yourself.”
 
Gordon is amazed at the amount of positive support the awards are getting from the music industry across-the-board, from women and men to push the idea forward. An Advisory Council headed by Melbourne-based broadcaster and educator Tracee Hutchinson has been set up. The families of Chrissie Amphlett and Ruby Hunter have given permission for them to be honoured. A roll of renown is being set up.
 
It’s not surprising that when Gordon took the idea to the Queensland Government – whose Premier, Deputy Premier and Arts Minister are women – they immediately said they would fund and market the project. The Women’s Music Awards have also reached out to Indigenous women in remote rural communities to be involved.
 
Gordon agrees the timing is impeccable with movements such as Me Too and Time’s Up. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Without sounding spooky, we’re going through something that is greater than any of us. History’s on our side. Suddenly, women are being believed, not just in music but in all sectors of life, and that is a powerful universal movement.”