Features September 24, 2018

“The problem is the culture of the industry” – Event founder Vicki Gordon on why the AWMAs are essential right now

Former Staff Writer
“The problem is the culture of the industry” – Event founder Vicki Gordon on why the AWMAs are essential right now

“Aww-mahs, think of awesome.” This is founder describing how to properly pronounce the abbreviation of her baby 25 years in the making, the Australian Women In Music Awards (AWMAs).

Looking through the finalists list, the spirit that the awards embody and the work that Gordon has put in to make her dream a reality, there are few other ways you could describe this auspicious event.

Forgoing usual “Best” award categories, the instead highlight excellence in the likes of photography, education, leadership and more.

It was an intentional choice, made by Gordon and her 26-strong council of jurors to give recognition to a legion of voices that have previously gone unheard.

“So many great women, who work behind the scenes, who are technicians, or who are working in a lot of those areas that we’ve created categories for, are never recognised or acknowledged for their contribution,” says Gordon.

“I wanted to create a celebration that was also a catalyst to be able to put a much broader conversation on the table.

“I think the music industry across a lot of our peak bodies has been really lacking leadership, in terms of change and creating a much broader, more inclusive diverse industry and I saw an opportunity to do that with the AWMAs.”

The furthest from a tokenistic ceremony possible, Gordon sees the AWMAs as a way to shake an industry that too often takes one step forward and two steps backwards, into real action.

“The industry hasn’t progressed at all. What we need to really talk about, really, is how do we create systemic change, not just a workshop for women over here, and a workshop for women over here. How do we actually create systemic change?” questions Gordon.

“There’s a genuine hunger for inclusivity and diversity. We’re sitting on the frontline, providing and offering something up to the music industry that is actually going to address a lot of those concerns. And it’s long overdue.”

In a climate where it seems like the issue of gender and racial parity is ever looming, Gordon maintains that while change isn’t easy, it is necessary.

“We’re constantly being told by the industry, and constantly being told in our entire lives, that we’re just not good enough but women are not the problem,” says Gordon with conviction.

“The problem is the culture of the industry and that culture has been allowed to get away with things for a very, very long time.”

Gordon maintains that what she’s found most interesting during this project is the level of support it’s received from both women and men. Indicating an industry that is primed for progress.

“This whole idea that women are not profitable, it’s the same bullshit that we’ve been hearing for years about the fact that we’re going to give the best job to the best person for the job. That is basically a lie around merit. That’s why education is so important.”

In the pursuit of education, the AWMAs will also include two days of free workshops at the Brisbane Powerhouse, hosted by trailblazers like Kate Ceberano, forums on mentorship and women’s place in digital media as well as an exclusive screening of Michelle Grace Hunder and Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore‘s Her Sound, Her Story.

“A really important process for the industry to move forward is around education areas like diversity and inclusivity,” says Gordon.

“We are creating a platform for broader conversation and engagement, and to really, challenge the way things are currently conducted.”

Of course, Gordon has been challenging the status quo long before the AMWAs came about.

In the ’90s she established the Australian Women’s Rock Institute, she produced Australia’s first Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Women’s music festival, With Open Eyes; Australia’s first all-girl rock festival, Fast Forward and Australia’s first training program for female DJs, SCRATCH.

She is one of two women that have ever been voted on the ARIA board as a director; a board that today remains devoid of any female voices.

For her lifetime of work, Gordon has been given a Human Rights Award Commendation yet she feels the AWMAs will be the real jewel in her crown.

“The AWMAs are a culmination of my life’s work. So whilst my main focus in the last three years has been to get this off the ground, what it really represents, for me personally, is my life’s work.”

Gordon maintains that the AWMAs are not born out of a refusal of men and their contributions to the industry, but rather a love for the industry itself and a desire to allow it to live up to its full potential.

“I don’t believe that the music industry can actually progress or actually have the sort of international impact that it should be having until the issue of gender and culture is addressed,” asserts Gordon.

“That is actually where it begins and ends. And until that is done, it doesn’t matter what else is going on in the industry, we’re always going to be seen to be behind the rest of the world.”

Gordon and the AWMAs are not the first lunge at equality in the music industry, nor will the be the last, but one thing’s for sure – they will be awesome.

And – as Gordon points out –  all you have to do is turn up.

“Just be there and engage with it, because on October 10, 2018, we are making Australian music history.”

The Australian Women In Music Awards will take place from October 9-10 at the Brisbane Powerhouse. For more information and to purchase tickets, head over to the official website.

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