The winners of the 2021 Australia Council Awardswere announced on 19 April in an online ceremony. These peer-nominated awards honour creative practitioners in the fields of music, literature, community arts and cultural development, emerging and experimental arts, visual arts, theatre, and dance for their outstanding and sustained contributions.
Vivienne Binns OAM, whose career is already some six decades long, received the Australia Council Award for Visual Arts. She is known primarily as a painter and as a pioneer in fostering dialogue between Australian and international feminism, with a deep commitment to community focused art.
Binns insists that art is an integral part of being human. “It’s like breathing air. We don’t pay any attention to air. You know, we can forget about it because it’s there all the time, until it’s not there. And with art, it’s very similar. Art is everywhere for me,” she explains. “To me, art is not simply what the history books say it is…”
As well as the achievements of her own practice, Binns was recognised for her work as an educator contributing to the development of future generations of artists.
Past Australia Council Award for Visual Arts recipients include Brook Andrew (2020), Susan Norrie (2019), Pat Brassington (2018), Susan Cohn (2017), Richard Bell (2016), Judy Watson (2015), Fiona Foley (2014), and Tracey Moffatt (2012).
Cat Jones received the Australia Council Award for Emerging and Experimental Arts. Jones is known forwork that engages with neuroscience and the natural world through immersive experiences. She is a former CEO of PACT centre for emerging artists, and co-director of Electrofringe.
When asked how she started in the arts Jones said, “Growing up, we were often surrounded by art and performance, so it was a pretty natural progression. I mean, I’m insatiably curious. So the thing that I love most is finding new ways of thinking and to create a world where something different is possible.”
Past Emerging and Experimental Arts award recipients include r e a (2020), Joyce Hinterding (2019), Nigel Helyer (2018), Madeleine Flynn (2017), Kelli McCluskey (2016), and Stelarc (2015).
Marianne Wobcke, a Girrimay woman from North Queensland, received the Australia Council Ros Bower Award for Community Arts and Cultural Development for her work which combines her expertise in midwifery and art in a practice she calls“Perinatal Dreaming.”
Wobcke explained that her work seeks to heal the legacy of “The Stolen Generation and the trauma that our Mob have experienced.”
Past award recipients include Kath Duncan (2020), Rhoda Roberts (2019), Christian (Bong) Ramilo (2018), Steve Mayer-Miller (2017), Lily Shearer, Lockie McDonald, Steve Payne and Alissar Chidiac (2016).
In total, eight 2021 Australia Council Awards were handed out. The other recipients were: William Barton, Australia Council Don Banks Music Award; Arnold Zable, Australia Council Lifetime Achievement in Literature; Sue Healey, Australia Council Award for Dance; Mama Alto, Australia Council Kirk Robson Award for Community Arts and Cultural Development; and Chelsea McGuffin, Australia Council Award for Theatre.
All of the winners are showcased in a series of online presentations which can be streamed on the Australia Council website.
According to Adrian Collette AM, Australia Council CEO, the online format is a boon for accessibility.
“Everyone is invited to join us in celebrating the contributions of eight remarkable Australian artists, who each in their own way reflects the vibrancy of Australia’s diverse cultural life,” he said, “Arts and creativity reflect who we are as a nation, helping us to see different perspectives and understand and connect across different experiences and cultures. They are crucial in understanding and shaping our sense of national identity.”
Streamed on the Australia Council website.