Celebrating trailblazing Australian artists and leaders at the National Arts and Disability Awards

Three outstanding artists have been announced as recipients of the National Arts and Disability Awards, delivered by the Australia Council for the Arts and Arts Access Australia.

Melbourne-based performance artist Roya A (who performs as ‘Roya the Destroya’) is the recipient of the award for an Established Artist. Roya is internationally acclaimed for her work spanning physical theatre, circus and dance.

Madeleine Little, a Brisbane-based actor, theatre and festival director receives the award for an Early Career artist, recognising her work as an artist, advocate and mentor for artists with disability.

This year’s Arts Access Australia National Leadership Award goes to Rafeif Ismail, an award winning emerging multilingual writer based in WA.

The announcement comes on the eve of International Day of People with Disability (December 3, 2022).

Australia Council CEO Adrian Collette AM:

These national awards recognise artists and arts workers who have made an outstanding contribution to the creative and cultural life of the nation – artists who inspire us with their unique perspectives, forged through both their lived experience and their imaginative reckonings.

Arts Access Australia CEO Matthew Hall:

If we are to see more opportunities for artists with disability, we need more people with disability in positions of leadership. The National Leadership Award recognises, celebrates and supports artists and arts workers with disability who are emerging or potential leaders, and gives the recipient opportunities to promote their leadership experience and develop leadership skills and capabilities, and a platform to demonstrate their passion, and advocate to effect meaningful change.

The Australia Council is celebrating the award recipients with a series of videos, produced by Iron Bark Films in collaboration with Bus Stop Films two organisations that promote inclusive filmmaking for people with disability.

Reflecting on her award for an Early Career Artist, Madeleine Little:

If our stages are meant to represent our stories and tell authentic stories, there are so many stories that are being missed because disabled and d/Deaf artists aren’t included. As a disabled  artist, I still can’t quite see someone in the industry whose career I can aspire to emulate, so it makes it feel very lonely sometimes trying to figure out how I can chart my own course.

The most rewarding thing for me about acting is that moment when you can see the exchange of ideas and meaning between the performer and the audience. When you know that your performance has moved someone, that’s the most powerful thing in the world – knowing you’ve made an impact on someone.

Recipient of the Established Artist award Roya:

It’s important to represent people with diverse backgrounds and disability in the arts, (as well as) in every aspect of life. Movement has always brought me joy and realising how much joy and change it brings to others watching me – it makes my soul smile.

Arts Access National Leadership Award Recipient Rafeif Ismail:

Art is a medium for advocacy. It’s a way of life, a way of holding history and stories but also a way to forge change. I came to Australia as a refugee from a country that is still in civil war, and part of my early work was trying to raise of the issues faced by refugees from Northeastern African backgrounds. That’s how I started creating at the intersection of art, health and disability.  As a disabled black woman, it was really important for me to see works that represented people like me.

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