Shaping identity

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.

16 August 2016