Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts peers

Thomas Molyneux, VIC– Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Peer


"You should be prepared to be open-minded enough to change your initial assessment."

If you were to encourage a colleague to become a peer of the Australia Council – what wisdom would you share?

Being a peer is an amazing way to broaden your perspectives on how much incredible art is being created across the length and breadth of our country, and in so many different art forms! It is a real privilege to play a part in helping to ensure that the principle of arms-length funding is adhered to, even though it can often be quite difficult to rank proposals that are all meritorious in their own way.

It's really important to take the time to do justice in ranking the applications - artists have poured a lot of time and resources into coming up with their proposal and shaping their application, so be prepared to set aside enough of your time to thoroughly read and understand each application.

Does everyone agree in the assessment meetings? 

No, an essential part of the process is the respectful discussion and debate around the table during peer meetings. Sometimes, your particular expertise may be vital in helping other peers with different backgrounds to appreciate the merits of an application. Similarly, you should be prepared to be open-minded enough to change your initial assessment - the panel discussions can be a fantastic learning experience, both in terms of understanding art forms outside of your own practice, as well as sector-wide issues and cultural differences in different parts of the country.  

Joshua Pether, WA– Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Peer


"The process of being a peer assessor has been both insightful and rewarding."

If you were to encourage a colleague to become a peer- what would you tell them? 

Being a peer assessor allows you to have a pulse on what is happening now in the Australian Arts community. You get an insight into the artist’s ideas and practice, hopes and failures and what is currently on their mind. In short you get a glimpse of the future of the Australian contemporary arts scene. 

The opportunity to be part of this process has been an immense privilege for me, as it not only allows me to gain insight into the sector but also to grow my abilities as a peer. 

For all potential peers, I would give the following advice. 

·  Allow yourself ample time to go through the applications. Treat it like a job and dedicate a part of your day to this process. 

·  Be critical but not biased. Read the application in front of you and try not to be influenced by who has written it and perhaps their reputation. Everyone has to write the same application, which is the beauty of the process. Your job then is to use your expertise and experience to critique the ideas, thoughts, argument and rationale against certain criteria. The criteria are the same for everyone and this should make the process fair and equitable. 

·  Have fun and learn. While it is a job, the process of being a peer assessor is beneficial for not only your practice but yourself as well. Through the meetings, you get to engage with other peers through the country as well as the opportunity to create relationships and learn from your fellow peers practice and experience is a reward in itself. 

Does everyone agree in the assessment meetings? What should you be prepared to do?

Like everything in life, there are often differences of opinions and not everything will end up being in your favour. As someone who has sat on three different panels since starting this process a year ago, I would give the following advice: 

Be prepared to argue your case. While it may seem scary and intimidating, particularly for emerging artists, your experience and opinions are valid. On the flipside be prepared to listen to experience, and perhaps those who may have more expertise in certain areas. The panel is made up of diverse voices and experiences, which makes for a rich and nuanced conversation. On reflection I have found that sometimes your own experiences and expertise have been able to sway peers to your way of thinking and vice versa. Remember your voice is valid and use it to advocate for the applications you feel strongly about. At the end of the day though we must all come to a unified decision, so be prepared to agree to disagree. 

What have you enjoyed most about being a peer? 

The process of being a peer assessor has been both insightful and rewarding. I have found that over time through each different panel my confidence has grown and my knowledge of the sector has broadened. I would encourage anyone who wishes to step outside their comfort zone to take on board the challenge of becoming a peer assessor. You will not only gain insight into the sector but also assist in its growth and development.  

Karla Hart

Karla Hart, WA  – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Peer

If you were to encourage a colleague to become a Peer – what would you tell them…

About the time commitment required?

The time commitment being a peer is very important that it is not rushed.  Allow yourself around 20 minutes to go through each application, as it is very important you assess everybody fairly by reading the whole application and studying the supportive material.  Sometimes if things do not make sense you will find yourself spending more time looking over in finer detail for clarification.

You have learned about your sector?

I have learned that my sector is underfunded.  There are amazing individuals, projects and organisations that are creating such a beautiful spaces in the community. It is so inspiring, but there is just not enough funding to go around, which as a peer can be quite emotional when things are ranked on the other side of the coin. On the other hand many projects become a reality, which is very exciting to see. 

Does everyone agree in the assessment meetings? What should you be prepared to do? 

Not everyone agrees in the assessment meeting and sometimes we will fight for applications we really feel deserve to move up in the rank, (by talking in detail about why you value that application). Sometimes you have to let it go by trusting and respecting your peers and going with the majority as we all bring different skills and experience to the table.

What have you enjoyed most about being a peer?

I have enjoyed being a peer as it is wonderful to see so much talent, inspiration and drive in our arts community Australia wide.  I have also enjoyed meeting new people on the peer panel who are also contributing on major levels in our communities.  

Fred Gesha

Fred Gesha, VIC - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Peer

If you were to encourage a colleague to become a Peer – what would you tell them…

About the time commitment required?

You need to consider the amount of time needed to assess the amount of applications you are required to read.

Are you prepared to make the time available to give a fair and impartial assessment.

It is a lot of work but it’s worth it in the end.

You have learned about your sector?

I have learnt the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts practices and the depth of ingenuity and brilliance.

Being a peer assessor opens your eyes up to what is happening at a local, state, national and international level.  

Does everyone agree in the assessment meetings? What should you be prepared to do?  

Be prepared to listen to everyone’s opinions and expertise on the panel, as we are not experts in all artistic fields.

What have you enjoyed most about being a peer?

Getting to meet other artists and arts workers from round the country. Being able to support the best young, emerging and established artists to further their careers.

Murray Saylor

Murray Saylor, QLD - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Peer

What is the best and worst thing about being an assessor?

The best thing about being an assessor was the opportunity to learn from peers and assist in the peer review process. The worst thing about being an assessor is the realisation that there is only limited funds to support and enhance our arts sector.

What should potential peers know before becoming an assessor?

That the position comes with great responsibility and should not be taken lightly.

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