Thank you, Uncle Allen, for your warm welcome and Matthew Doyle
for the yidaki sweep and thank you Lee-Ann for guiding us through this evening!
I would like to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation,
on whose land we meet. I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging,
and to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples here today.
We are honoured to be in good company tonight. I welcome our
distinguished award recipients, the Federal Minister for the Arts, Senator the
Hon Mitch Fifield, Shadow Minister for the Arts Tony Burke and NSW Minister for
the Arts Don Harwin, as well as an impressive group of Australian artists, arts
leaders, and arts supporters. I am very
pleased to welcome you on behalf of the Board and staff of the Australia
Last year we celebrated the recipients of the 2017 Australia
Council Awards individually at arts events throughout the year, but I would
like the acknowledge them as a group - Kate Grenville, Lyn Williams, Stephen
Page, Madeline Flynn, Susan Cohn, Rosemary Myers, Steve Mayer-Miller and Ali
As we are able to bring the awards together again this year, I am
reminded how fortunate Australia is to have such breadth and diversity of
artistic talent and cultural depth, led by the unique arts and cultures of our
First Nations communities and enriched by the diverse peoples who have made
background of vibrant new performances across the country, arts and writers
festivals, biennials, triennials and biennales and contemporary exhibitions
everywhere, new spaces for contemporary art, everyday work in communities, tonight
we celebrate 8 exceptional Australians. 8 colleagues, friends and luminaries who
have each, in their own inimitable ways, contributed so significantly to their
area of practice and to enriching our creative and cultural life.
Helyer, Pat Brassington, Phillip Adams, Edwin Kemp Attrill, Christian Ramillo,
Liza Lim, Bruce Pascoe and Liz Jones…what a privilege to have this line up of
artists in one place, being celebrated for their contribution to their art
forms and to the way Australian arts and culture is appreciated
internationally. And we honour and
recognise the training and education, time, skill, devotion, persistence,
resilience, tenacity, triumph, failure, rebuilding, energy expended,
Individually and collectively they epitomise what we aspire to in
the arts. Each has pushed the boundaries of their practice, broken down
disciplines, thinking and borders in their collaborations, and found new ways
to tell stories and engage audiences. When we talk about cultural ambition,
this is what it looks like. Artists who are not content with the status quo in
any dimension of their practice and beyond. They are makers, advocates,
disrupters and influencers.
But, there is something more.
My friend Juliet Darling expressed in beautifully when we met recently:
Great art shows us
how to feel; how to face our feelings and our actions. It is both passionate and objective. The artist struggles in solitude with
something to say. Art is not an escape
from life, but a plunge into life, into reality. It is always the voice of an individual,
never the voice of a country
However, their impact is universal. The Australia Council’s research has reminded
us in the past year that Australians benefit from the arts in powerful ways,
and it is individual artists who are always at the centre. Artists’ minds, talent and
creativity give us different perspectives and other glimpses of the human
condition, our environment, our culture, our belonging. Their work enables us to lead our lives more
fully, with greater empathy, with richer and more intense experiences. More broadly, the arts contribute to more creative and connected
communities, they can improve the outcomes across almost every part of life,
and they strengthen our position as a diverse, inclusive and innovative nation.
I am conscious that there might be some who’d say, “Well he would
say that, he’s the Chair of the Australia Council for the Arts. What else could he say?” So why do I feel so
confident that what I am asserting is reliable?
That research that we publish shows some remarkable numbers and proves
up that almost all Australians participate in the arts in some manner either
through live events, reading books, creatively participating ourselves and in
attending First Nation Arts.
We are drowning in data
that positions the arts as central to our lives which so summarily debunks any
nonsense about arts and culture being for the privileged few. Widespread, engaged, inclusive, arts and
culture are experienced and valued in some measure by all of us and that
experience is as relevant in our everyday as it is in the nation’s ballot
boxes. The issues that appeal to
electorates are ones that are often defined in our cultural experiences and
memories. And this is as true in regional Australia as it is in the big cities.
As we gather here tonight to celebrate strong independent
voices from across geography and art form, we do so recognising the different
artistic and cultural languages and
expressions, their generosity, freshness, insightfulness.
The Australia Council
awards are an important way that we can champion the achievement and
contribution of our leading artists. I am delighted to be celebrating the extraordinary contributions of our
2018 award recipients and look forward hearing from each of them.
It is now my
great pleasure to introduce Minister for the Arts, Senator the Hon Mitch
Fifield. Senator Fifield is a constant
presence in the sector, visible at arts events across the nation, encouraging
his parliamentary colleagues to participate more fully in the cultural life of
the nation and deeply appreciative of and knowledgeable about the benefits of
the arts across communities. Would you join me in welcoming Senator Fifield.
Rupert Myer AO, Chair, Australia Council
for the Arts
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