Celebrating outstanding achievement at the 2020 National Arts and Disability Awards

Emily Crockford, Gaelle Mellis and Abbie Madden have been named recipients of the 2020 National Arts and Disability Awards, presented by the Australia Council for the Arts and Arts Access Australia.

On the International Day of People with Disability, the national awards recognised artists who have made an outstanding contribution to the artistic and cultural life of the nation.

Emily Crockford, Gaelle Mellis, and Abbie Madden

Emily Crockford receives the 2020 Australia Council National Arts and Disability Award for an Emerging Artist, capping off an extraordinary year of achievement that includes being a finalist in the 2020 Archibald Prize. Emily is an artist with Studio A and her large-scale public artworks can be seen across Sydney.

Two South Australian-based recipients also received awards:

Gaelle Mellis receives the 2020 Australia Council National Arts and Disability Award for an Established Artist, recognising heroutstanding and sustained contribution to arts and culture for more than 30 years. Her extensive career spans theatre, dance, circus, opera, disability arts, visual arts, installation,digital engagement and more.

Abbie Madden, recipient of the 2020 Access Australia’s National Leadership Award is recognised for her leadership as a dancer, performer and choreographer, and founder andartistic director of Blindful, an inclusive dance and circus company.

This is the second consecutive year of the National Arts and Disability Awards. Previous recipients include Dion Beasley, Janice Florence and Madeleine Little.

Australia Council CEO Adrian Collette AM congratulated the recipients.

Today we are thrilled to celebrate three outstanding artists and arts leaders, and acknowledge their contribution to the cultural life of our nation.

Our research continues to show that Australians with disability are strongly engaged as creators and audiences of arts and culture. Participation in arts and culture is a human right. An arts and cultural sector that celebrates and reflects all Australians will drive many positive outcomes, including a more inclusive, cohesive and just nation and great art.

Arts Access Australia CEO Matthew Hall said:

The National Arts and Disability Awards recognise and celebrate the talents of Australian d/Deaf and disabled artists and arts workers, and the vibrant and critically important contribution we make to the fabric of Australian culture.

Arts Access Australia is delighted and honoured to present this year’s National Leadership Award. The Award emphasises the importance of disability-leadership in long-term changemaking. It provides $10,000 and other support to the recipient to develop leadership skills to realise their leadership ambitions.


Emily Crockford (NSW) – Australia Council National Arts and Disability Award (Emerging Artist) ($20,000)

Emily Crockford’s broad creative practice encompasses painting, textiles and soft sculpture. Her work can be seen in large scale across Sydney and in high profile institutions. Emily was a finalist in the 2020 Archibald Prize, and has been awarded high profile public art commissions, including a 39metre mural for Westpac’s Concord offices, two works for the City of Sydney’s Creative Hoardings Project (Midnight Zoo, 2019 & Sydney Opera House at Night, 2017), a 175 squaremetre collaborative mural for the University of Technology Sydney (Bird Life Jungle Disco, 2019) and a major hoarding for Lendlease at Barangaroo titled Garden Pop Bird Bop(2020). Recently she unveiled Oysters Eating Rainbows(2020), an 81.5 metre mural commissioned by Cultural Capital for the new WestConnex M5 motorway. Emily is an artist with Studio A, a supported studio based in Sydney that tackles the barriers that artists living with intellectual disability face in accessing conventional education, professional development pathways and opportunities needed to be successful and renowned visual artists.

Gaelle Mellis (SA) – Australia Council National Arts and Disability Award (Established Artist) ($50,000)

For more than 30 years, Gaelle has made an outstanding and sustained contribution to the vibrancy of Australian arts. Gaelle’s work traverses theatre, dance, circus, opera, disability arts, visual arts, installation, digital engagement and more. Her award winning designs have toured Australia, the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia, New Zealand and the United States to critical acclaim. Gaelle has received numerous awards throughout her career including the Adelaide Critics Circle Individual Award, South Australian Screen Award, Creative Australia Fellowship, Adelaide Fringe Festival Award for Design, Adelaide Theatre Guild Award for Best Show, Drama for ‘Take Up Thy Bed and Walk’, Creative Partnerships Australia & Arts Access Award Arts Award at the National Disability Leadership Awards.As one of Australia’s most critical cultural thinkers, Gaelle is a respected role model who continues to make significant cross-generational impact in the arts and disability sector. Her outstanding and sustained contributions as a designer, maker, disability advocate and arts manager have also received significant national and international recognition.

Abbie Madden (SA) – Arts Access Australia’s National Leadership Award ($10,000)

Abbie Madden is a dancer, performer and choreographer and founder and artistic director of Blindful, an inclusive dance and circus company. Abbie has been a member of the Australian Dance Theatre’s Youth Ensemble, worked with Belfast comedy dance theatre company ponydance, and is a founding member of the highly successful YUCK Circus. Abbie considers community arts the home of professional artists. She believes that focusing on accessibility and inclusion at the grass roots where most people interact with the arts will normalise accessibility and increase representation of d/Deaf and disabled professional artists. In receiving this award, Abbie will lead by example as she works to take Blindful to new artists, new stages and new audiences.

More information about the awards is available on the Australian Council for the Arts website.

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of AussieTheatre.com. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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