Arts and Disability peers

Gayle Kennedy

Gayle Kennedy, NSW - Arts and Disability 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 is great.  You have to spend a lot of time reading the applications and considering each one carefully.  As artists, we understand just how important a grant is to many of us to continue our careers, so we owe each applicant a thorough and thoughtful assessment. You must also spend time reading the Peer Assessment Handbook in order to thoroughly understand the criteria for scoring. 

The assessment meetings are usually a day and a half and are intense, so be prepared for that as well.

You have learned about your sector?

Being a Peer has taught me a great deal about what is required in putting together an application.  It has shown me the difference between a good application and a great one.  It has also allowed me to meet other artists in different fields and get an idea about what is happening in the overall arts sector.

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

Interestingly enough, there always seems to be an initial consensus on what applications are eligible for funding.  It is in the final decision making that Peers must be prepared to fight for an application they truly believe in.  All peers, I have found, are willing to listen to your argument and sometimes, they can be swayed if that argument is strong enough. If you are unsuccessful you must accept that but it’s important that you make sure that the unsuccessful applicant gets some good feedback and encouragement to try again the following year.

What have you enjoyed most about being a peer?

Apart from meeting fellow artists, one of the things I have enjoyed most is being able to educate and inform my non-Indigenous peers about cultural issues they may not have previously been aware of.  It is also extremely rewarding knowing that you have played a part in the ongoing careers of other artists.

Joshua Pether


Joshua Pether, WA – Arts and Disability Peer

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

About the time commitment required?

The process of being a peer has allowed me to appreciate the diversity in our sector and the creativity that is abundant in our community.  When you are asked to be a peer you are given around a month to assess all the applications.  Depending on how many there are this can be quite a bit of work but at the end of the day it is rewarding.  I found that the process of assessing not only allowed you to experience the creativity of other artists but you also learn about other artist’s process and the articulation of their practice, which in itself is a rewarding and incredibly useful experience.

Through the assessment process, you are also able to gauge some of the current investigations that artists are undertaking as well as the creative capacity of your sector. I have found my appointment as a peer to be one of my career highlights and have become humbled by the experience as a result.

What you may have learnt about your sector?

I found my initial experience in the assessment meetings to be incredibly challenging at first due to my lack of knowledge in some fields of artistic practice. For this reason I became more interested in listening to others and to offer my opinions when needed. Overall the assessment meeting for me was an amicable experience where everyone can agree to disagree. 

Does everyone agree in the assessment meetings?

In situations where not everyone agreed I found the best way to resolve this was to listen to those that had reservations about supporting a particular application. By listening, I found I was able to understand a person’s objections better and that in many ways we shared more similarities rather than differences of opinion. In some instances, a person who had reservations about supporting an application had good reason to and pointed out certain anomalies in the application that the rest of us had overlooked. Through the process of assessment, you become more critical of your decisions and it forces you to validate your own decision-making in the process.

What should you be prepared to do?  

If I could give anyone advice about the peer assessment meeting is not to come in the room with an agenda. Often it does not work and you can end up bitterly disappointed in the end. It is always best to be partial and fair and try to distance yourself from having a bias about any particular application.  By doing this you can often remove the emotive response you have towards an application and instead can concentrate on the artistic merit of that particular applicant.

What have you enjoyed most about being a peer?

As mentioned before the experience of being a peer has been a humbling one. I have learnt a great deal about my sector and the creativity of my fellow artists.

Through the assessment meetings, I have learnt to become more critical in my assessment process. By listening to other peers, I have also learnt to appreciate and value their view points and to realize that we often have more similarities than differences when it comes to our opinions.

Overall, what I have loved about being a peer is learning about all the creativity, experimental processes, risk taking and vision of my fellow artists. This kind of information became invaluable to me as artist as it has allowed me to grow both artistically and has strengthened my critical discourse when it comes to discussing art and the processes involved. I would encourage anyone to become a peer for this reason. 

Lucy Hawthorne

Lucy Hawthorne, TAS - Arts and Disability 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 is significant, but if you assess a couple of applications a day, you avoid a crazy deadline rush. The days in Sydney are relatively short, but of course, there’s the travel time involved if you live elsewhere.

You have learned about your sector?

I’ve been introduced to individuals and organisations outside my state of Tasmania, and I’m more aware of the breadth of Ozco fundable projects. I was surprised at how few applications came from Tasmania, the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia. On a more personal note, I also have a better understanding of what makes a successful grant application, and feel more confident about writing future applications myself.

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

There were few applications with universal support, so deciding the fundable projects required a great deal of discussion and negotiation. Everyone on the panel had different areas of expertise and experience, which meant that we’d often pick up on different strengths and weaknesses in applications, which strengthened our decisions. It’s important to keep an open mind when attending the meetings and be prepared to change your assessment. You need to respect the opinion of others and accept opinions that might differ from your own. Sometimes that’s not easy – you might get emotionally invested and passionate about certain projects, and as a result, the discussions occasionally got quite heated. It’s also important to have confidence in your own expertise, even if you’re younger and/or less experienced than the others. Everyone brings something different to the table, and it’s important that everyone is equally involved. As a new peer, I was initially quite intimidated by the meeting, but I quickly learned that my opinion was just as welcome as everyone else’s.

What have you enjoyed most about being a peer?

As I mentioned before, I’ve learned a great deal about grant writing, but mostly I enjoyed meeting fellow peers and the Australia Council staff. I’m really looking forward to seeing the outcomes of a couple of the successful projects. 

Ruark Lewis

Ruark Lewis, NSW - Arts and Disability Peer

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

As an artist and curator, the best thing is having the opportunity of surveying a wide range of contemporary art. I found that there are so many worthy artists, but not all can be awarded their due recognition. Seeing how important it is as an applicant to keep information concise, the writing simple and the goals recognisable.

What should potential peers know before becoming an assessor?

You need to dedicate about one solid week to reading the applications with equal attention, and try to examine the unique contribution an applicant provides to the ongoing national story.

Esther Anatolitis

Esther Anatolitis, VIC - Arts and Disability Peer

Video: Peer Assessors Talk about their recent Experience 2016

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