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The Australia Council for the Arts will today present four inspirational arts leaders with the nation’s most prestigious awards in community arts.

Steve Payne, founder and previous leader of The Torch Project in Victoria, will win the $50,000 Ros Bower Award – Australia’s most valuable community arts prize – for his lifetime of achievement in using the arts to transform communities.

As part of The Torch Project, Mr Payne ran workshops and performances that confront social issues such as domestic violence, drug addiction, racism and youth poverty. The workshops help promote community well-being and build stronger, more active neighbourhoods.

Mr Payne has devoted more than 30 years to community arts. In 1987 he co-founded the Melbourne Workers Theatre.

At tonight’s awards ceremony, three young arts workers will each receive a $10,000 Kirk Robson Award in recognition of their outstanding leadership in the arts.

Amy Hardingham is the artistic director of the Outback Theatre for Young People in NSW; she is devoted to giving young people in rural and regional NSW access to the arts.

Alexandra Crosby is an artist and communicator; she works connecting emerging Australian artists with their Indonesian counterparts.

Angela Frost was arts centre manager at the remote Djilpin Arts at Wugularr in the Northern Territory; the arts centre supports more than 200 Indigenous artists.

Australia Council chief executive officer Kathy Keele paid tribute to the spirit and commitment of all four award winners.

‘These annual awards highlight the work of these inspirational artists and arts workers, who are doing so much to share the arts with their communities and using creativity to build bridges of understanding,’ Kathy said.

‘Steve has quite literally carried a torch for many of the issues that often find their way into the too hard basket. He is living proof of the power of the arts to change lives.

‘Amy, Alexandra and Angela have each shown an unswerving commitment to helping Australians of vastly different background connect with the arts – and each other – in myriad ways,’ she said.

The awards presentation will take place at the Australia Council for the Arts in Surry Hills on Tuesday 3 March 2009, commencing at 6pm.

The awards will coincide with the opening of an exhibition featuring work of 11 key producers in community arts.

Media contact: Victoria Haschka, communication adviser, on 0410 322 431 or email:



Brianna Roberts


(02) 9215 9030


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