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18 August 2016

2016 Art Music Awards - Genevieve Lacey's speech

Genevieve Lacey at the Art Music Awards ceremony Image: Genevieve Lacey at the Art Music Awards ceremony  

'We in this room have the collective capacity to imagine identity: Australian music and musicians have a huge part to play in shaping who we are as a nation.' Read in full the speech given by the Chair of the AMC Board, Genevieve Lacey, at the Art Music Awards ceremony in Melbourne on Tuesday 16 August 2016.

Good evening and welcome. It is so good to see you - thank you for coming. As Brett [Cottle, APRA AMCOS CEO] mentioned, I'm the new Chair of the Australian Music Centre board, humbled and thrilled to be standing in the shoes of some of our most distinguished Australian musicians.

It's my pleasure to begin tonight with a litany of thanks.

First, I'd also like to acknowledge that we gather here on lands of the Wurundjeri people, that we follow in the footsteps of the people of the Kulin nation, who have been gathering here for tens of thousands of years. For Indigenous people, life and art are not separate: story, song, land, ritual, family, spirit, ancestors, all are inextricably linked. We have a great deal to learn from this. So we acknowledge our many debts to elders past and present, our gratitude, and our deep desire as AMC and a community to continue to learn from and work alongside our Indigenous friends.

AMC's heartfelt thanks go to APRA AMCOS - such great friends and supporters to our community, without whose partnership our capacity would be greatly reduced. Thanks to the APRA board members who have joined us tonight, to the passionate staff, lead by the inspiring Brett Cottle, all of whom, like each one of us in the room, have wrapped their lives around a love for contemporary Australian music. To brilliant, lovely Narelle Butterworth, the amazing GPJ team, and all those who have worked so hard for tonight's awards, thank you. To Gabriella Smart for her curation of the live music, and to everyone performing this evening: you are at the heart of what tonight is about, and we can't wait to hear you.

Our sincere thanks also to the Australia Council for their essential, ongoing support, without which we simply could not do our work.

To all those who volunteered their time and skill to be a part of our judging panels, so ably and generously convened by Siobhan Lenihan - thank you. We are so grateful for your ears and sensibilities, and very excited to hear your decisions.

Most of all, thanks to the remarkable John Davis and the staff at the AMC, all of whom have dedicated years of their lives to Australian music. A couple of months ago, John celebrated 21 years as CEO of the AMC, and earlier this year, 27 years with the organisation - an astonishing service to the cultural life of this country.

All of you are here tonight because you make a significant contribution to music in Australia.

You are here because you are fearless champions of the new, because you embrace and lead change, because yours are the minds and hearts that can shape our understanding of ourselves. Tonight we celebrate milestones and outstanding achievements from the past year. It's a rare and beautiful opportunity to come together to honour and support one another, and to consider our potential as a community.

It's a time of great change and fragility in the world, not just in the arts.

Over the last weeks, we've heard, read, and seen stories of young people in juvenile detention in the Northern Territory, and children on Manus Island, their human dignity assaulted. Our responses to these children are as many as there are people in this room, but one thing is clear - these children, in our care, remind us that our lives are unbelievably privileged.

Musicians, and those generous people who work behind the scenes to facilitate our work, have extraordinary power. The collection of people in this room have remarkable gifts: the kinds of gifts that can imagine and make different stories for our country, different ways of thinking about what it is to be human, and how we might live together.

We in this room have the collective capacity to imagine identity: Australian music and musicians have a huge part to play in shaping who we are as a nation.

In the words of poet and essayist Adrienne Rich:

There is no simple formula for the relationship of art to justice. …

In the end, I don't think we can separate art from overall human dignity and hope. …

Art is both tough and fragile. It speaks of what we long to hear and what we dread to find. …

Art is our human birthright, our most powerful means of access to our own and another's experience and imaginative life. In continually rediscovering and recording the humanity of human beings, art is crucial to the democratic vision.

Tonight, we celebrate and honour you, all of you, and your essential contributions to our society. Your work is important and urgent, now, as ever. Together, let's imagine and make possibilities that embody our most beautiful, radical, generous human potential.

Thank you for coming.

Thank you for your work.

> See also: 2016 Art Music Awards - winners (Resonate 16 August 2016); image gallery and other resources about this year's Awards on the APRA AMCOS website.


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