10 things we learned at the Australian Women in Music Awards and forums

Wednesday, 17 Oct 2018

Brisbane's Powerhouse served as the appropriately named venue for two days of inspiring forums, discussion and a special awards night for the inaugural Australian Women in Music Awards

For the first time in Australian music history the AWMA turned the spotlight on women, recognising First Nations performers, acknowledging and including multicultural performers, focusing on excellence in artistry, technical and production skills, cross-cultural development, songwriting, music education, music photography, humanitarian work and more. And APRA AMCOS was very proud to be a supporter of the awards, with Gordi being honored with the APRA AMCOS Songwriter's Award.

Our very own Queensland Writer Services Rep Kellie Lloyd was on ground to take it all in and to take a few notes, and shared some key insights and learnings.

1) The AWMAs have been years in the making

Founding director and executive producer Vicki Gordon has been working hard to bring the event to fruition. The AWMAs are designed to be inclusive, hold women up and highlight the contribution women and women of colour especially, make that often goes unnoticed in the Australian music industry and the broader community. The intent is to continue important conversations around what APRA Chair Jenny Morris described as "the mother of all paradigm shifts."

2) The awards topped it all off

The inaugural awards ceremony was the jewel in the crown of two days of panels and discussions centered around themes of visibility, inclusivity, access, mentoring, education and support - featuring speakers from host city Brisbane and beyond.

3) The 'Singing Our Stories, Our Place' panel discussed empowerment and voice

The panel with Shellie Morris, Emily Wurramara, Ancestress and hosted by ABC's Rhianna Patrick explored the role of music as cultural, social and political songbook. One panelist remarked: "It's about power and it's about being who I am despite colonialism." 

4) 'Music, makers and mentors' got real about pathways into the industry that start in the school years

Featuring SongMakers program director Tina Broad, the panel explored school to industry pathways, asking  what is the industry doing - and what more can it do - to create clearer, fairer pathways for young women?  Tina discussed how the SongMakers framework "didn't come out of a gender framework but was mirroring Sweden, which has a long commitment by government to music education, which is mainstreamed at an early age and based on sustainability."

5) "I thought I'm going to do this for the rest of my life."

Megan Christensen, a SongMakers participant while at school and member of band Pink Matter commented on her experience of receiving mentoring through the program, "It changed my mindset and showed me it's a hard industry to be part of and made me want to work harder. Having a woman come in, as music speaks quite loudly to me, I thought I'm going to do this for the rest of my life". 

6) The future is female and digital, part 1

The Future is Female and Digital panel was a standout, it examined how new and emerging digital platforms have democratised access to information, content sharing and music streaming. Alethea Beetson, founder of Digi Youth Arts and First Nations program manager for BIGSOUND commented, "The future is Indigenous because most First Nations cultures are predominantly matriarchal." Rhianna Patrick later tweeted a sentiment most of us shared, that we could listen to Alethea talk all day, she's a true leader and a important voice we need in our community. 

7) The future is female and digital, part 2

There is the need for a more collaborative and less competitive environment in universities and learning spaces allowing more access, empowerment to explore, teaching and role modelling to have more women taking up technology courses transitioning into working in technology professions.

8) Essential viewing of Her Sound, Her Story

The Brisbane Powerhouse was the perfect backdrop for the awards and associated events including the Brisbane premiere of the brilliant documentary film Her Sound, Her Story, by filmmakers Michelle Grace Hunder and Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore. The film is essential viewing and should be put into every high school in the country. The screening was followed by Kate Ceberano hosting a Q and A with the filmmakers.

9) Kate Ceberano's keynote, with piano

More keynotes should include the speaker at the piano. Kate Ceberano performed songs on piano and shared her life and experiences in music with an adoring audience lapping up her honesty, humour and candid insights. Stories about motherhood and of her own mother/manager was a prelude to the unintended theme of the awards ceremony with award recipients celebrating motherhood, mothers, grandmothers and matriarchs. 

10) From the stage to behind the scenes, women from all aspects of the music industry were celebrated

The awards themselves were a triumph celebrating women in the music industry, those behind the scenes in technical roles and those who are making major contributions but often overlooked.  Categories not only honoured the current work of nominees and winners but celebrated their body of work in music, film scoring, music photography, production, live sound, composing, teaching and more. Helen Reddy, Aunty Ruby Hunter and the late Chrissy Amphlette were honoured in song and induction into the Honour Role; Renée Geyer, Patricia 'Little Patty' Amphlett, Margret RoadKnight were all awarded Lifetime Achievement Awards. Gordi's performance was stunning, leaving everyone's jaws on the floor, and what could only be topped by the reunion of Do Re Mi after 30 years to play 'Man Overboard.' Brava!!!

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