I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation and I pay my respects to leaders past, present and emerging and all indigenous people present.
I particularly acknowledge the presence of Senator The Hon Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications and the Arts. Thank you, Minister, for being here tonight in the context of an extremely busy period. We greatly appreciate your prioritising this occasion and your support and enthusiasm for it.
I also acknowledge Wesley Enoch as MC and as Chair of the Australia Council’s ATSIA Panel whose contribution to the sector is incalculable and my co-host, Lee-Ann Buckskin, as a current fellow Australia Council Board member, a wonderful colleague whose energy and wisdom have been central to our most important discussions over the last four years.
In addition to it being a considerable responsibility, it is also a great privilege to chair the Australia Council. There are some occasions during each year when that privilege is highly evident. Tonight is one of those.
Not nearly often enough, I get the opportunity to speak on behalf of the whole Council, the board, the CEO, Tony Grybowski, executive and staff to emphasise the importance of acknowledging, congratulating and thanking Australian artists from all disciplines who devote their lives to creative expression.
Tonight, and in this great Sydney Opera House in a room that acknowledges its architect, especially, I want to acknowledge the central purpose of these National Indigenous Art Awards which is to celebrate the achievements and artistic creativity of exceptional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.
The Council Board on which Lee-Ann and I serve comprises twelve Australians who come together from lives spent living and working in all Australian States and Territories; in metropolitan centres and in regional communities; some of us were born overseas and some of us were born here; each of us is spending a decent part of a lifetime in some way deeply connected to the arts either as practitioners or facilitators; we are multi-faith and with surnames that reflect Indigenous, Polish, Vietnamese, Egyptian, English, French, German and many other backgrounds; we are fifty percent men and fifty percent women.
We are all charged with the responsibility of working together with the staff and executive of the Australia Council, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government and nation, to support and nurture the arts of this country.
It is on behalf of that group and in fulfilment of that responsibility that I am privileged to say thank you and congratulations to this evening’s award recipients.
Thank you for the generosity shown by all of you in sharing your cultural knowledge and experience, for the maintenance of cultural practice and custodial care for this land, your innovation in artistic expression and your demonstrated spirit of collaboration.
And congratulations on being acknowledged through a process of assessment by your peers, and for now joining an extraordinary group of artists who have previously been similarly recognised.
“We are all charged with the responsibility of working together with the staff and executive of the Australia Council, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government and nation, to support and nurture the arts of this country.”