The Australian Women in Music Awards

Published: 29th of November 2018

In October, I attended the inaugural Australian Women in Music Awards (the AWMAs) and was so grateful to be able to do so.

Most of the publicity following the 2018 AWMAs has proclaimed that the awards were a long time coming. Finally, when everything came to fruition this year, the timing felt especially right, given the current industry push for line-up equality and diversity. Vicki Gordon was the mastermind behind the event, designing it as a platform to hold women up, highlighting their significant and often unnoticed contribution. Alongside the awards night itself, the AWMAs also co-hosted a series of relevant events surrounding the celebration: panels, keynotes and a premiere Brisbane screening of the documentary film, “Her Sound, Her Story”.

I feel that attending the AWMAs and associated events had a strong impact on me. Perhaps my most poignant takeaway was that; while the industry can so often feel like a despairing competition (where another’s success can mean your failure) we don’t need to see it this way. Each woman can consider herself as part of the force that is women in music, where we can work with each other, not against.

The first panel I attended was entitled “Singing Our Stories, Our Place”, where Shellie Morris, Emily Wurramara and Ancestress discussed empowerment and voice, as an eager audience watched on. The conversation explored how the women felt their identity as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was expressed through their music. Topics of colonialism, language preservation and cultural appreciation were also touched upon. I wish more people could have witnessed this conversation. Listening to Shellie, Emily and Ancestress talk about their experiences as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in music, I found myself amazed at how little I had heard their perspectives represented in the media before. The importance of diversity on music line-ups became even clearer to me during this panel, and I felt very lucky to be present.

Image: Sarah Marshall

That night, the AWMAs hosted the Brisbane premiere of the documentary film "Her Sound, Her Story" by filmmakers Michelle Grace Hunder and Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore. I had been eagerly awaiting the premiere of this film, and now having seen it, I deem it essential viewing! It shows interviews with dozens of iconic Australian female musicians like Tina Arena, Kate Ceberano, Clare Bowditch, Katie Noonan, Julia Stone and Jen Cloher. The interviews delve into a wide range of important subjects, many of which caused the women at the screening to yell out at the relatability of so many situations. Viewing this documentary made me feel connected to musicians that I idolize, through shared experience, and I think this is at the crux of “Her Sound, Her Story”. What a powerful thing for the community of women in music.

Now of course, the awards night! The awards themselves were a triumph, a celebration, and an emotional outpouring. I felt some of the most special awards were given to women in lesser publicised, extremely male dominated industry facets, like Studio Production, Live Production and Music Photography. All the nominees were so deserving, and all the live performances were wonderful. As this was the awards’ first year, there was no shortage of women to recognize, allowing for Margret Roadknight, Patricia ‘Little Patty’ Amphlett and Renée Geyer to each receive a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Attending the AWMAs this year was such an inspiring experience. It made me feel more connected to other women in the music industry than I did before, more informed about the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander women in music, and much more optimistic about the future of the industry. I would love to thank Noela O’Donnell and Kathy Cavanagh from the National Council of Women of Queensland, and Norah Pearson from the Office for Women, for providing me the opportunity to attend.

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