The recipients of the second annual Australia Council Awards have been revealed, with eight of Australia’s leading artists from various fields honoured. David Malouf will receive the Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature, recognising his four decades of writing novels (including Johnno, An Imaginary Life, Remembering Babylon and Fly Away Peter), poetry, short stories, libretti and non-fiction.
Malouf said: “Winning the award is a great honour of course. Writing is a very solitary business, we don’t meet the majority of our readers face to face, so any form of recognition that the writing out there has been received, and even more, valued, is a confirmation that what you have devoted so much of your life to has reached its goal and was worth doing.”
The Don Banks Music Award goes to composer, musician and conductor Brett Dean, who is best known for his concertos, orchestral, and chamber music, but also composed Bliss for Opera Australia, and will premiere his new opera based on Hamlet next year at Glyndebourne.
Dean has lived overseas for most of his career, but says that his music remains quite Australian.
“People in Europe often comment on the ‘otherness’ and ‘Australian-ness’ of my music,” he said. “It’s hard to define what that might be, but it often seems linked to their visual images of our landscape with its distinctive natural environments that are so different from Europe. I find that response sometimes rather ironic given that I’m very much a city dweller and have been for most of my life, much of it in Europe in fact!”
Queensland-based artist Richard Bell wins the Australia Council Visual Arts Award before his work Embassy appears at this year’s Sydney Biennale. The Ros Bower Award for Community Arts and Cultural Development goes to Lily Shearer, and the Kirk Robson Award, which recognises young people working in Community Arts and Cultural Development, goes to Nathan Stoneham.
Australia Council Awards for Emerging & Experimental Arts, Dance and Theatre were introduced in 2015. This year the Award for Emerging and Experimental Arts goes to Kelli McCluskey of tactical media art group, pvi collective, and the Theatre Award goes to Yaron Lifschitz, the artistic director of internationally acclaimed circus arts company Circa. Lucy Guerin, who has been one of Australia’s most acclaimed and diverse choreographers of the last two decades, wins the dance award.
She said: “It’s an important moment to reflect on all those people who have influenced and inspired me; the dancers, producers, collaborators, presenters, board members, teachers, fellow choreographers, it’s a long list. And the amazing community of artists that I have been a part of over the last 30 years.”
The awards, which recognise both lifetime and outstanding achievement, will be presented at a Sydney ceremony next week.