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Celebrating exceptional artists at the inaugural national arts and disability awards

Three outstanding artists will be celebrated at the National Arts and Disability Awards to be held tonight, Tuesday 3 December, at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.

The Australia Council for the Arts and Arts Access Australia have partnered to present the prestigious awards for the first time in 2019, coinciding with the International Day of People with Disability.

The Australia Council’s two new national awards recognise the contribution of an emerging and an established artist.

Arts Access Australia will also present its inaugural Arts Access Australia National Leadership Award to recognise and support new and emerging leaders in the arts who identify as being d/Deaf or disabled.

Australia Council CEO Adrian Collette congratulated the recipients:

“At tonight’s National Arts and Disability Awards, we celebrate three excellent artists. Their work demonstrates the power of the arts to connect and transform us, awakening us to new perspectives and experiences through creative expression,” he said.

“As part of a three-year strategic funding commitment, these awards recognise and applaud the contribution of these trailblazing artists and arts leaders to contemporary Australian creativity.”


Dion Beasley – Australia Council National Arts and Disability Award (Emerging Artist) ($20,000)

The award-winning artist and illustrator behind ‘Cheeky Dogs’, Dion Beasley is a 28 year old Alywarr man who lives in Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. He uses his passion for drawing as a means of communicating with others.

Janice Florence – Australia Council National Arts and Disability Award (Established Artist) ($50,000)

Janice is the Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Weave Movement Theatre. Based in Melbourne, Janice has been a pioneering force in the field of inclusive dance and physical theatre for the past 30 years and in the wider arts sector.

Madeleine Little – Arts Access Australia’s National Leadership Award ($10,000)

Madeleine is a passionate theatremaker who is currently researching accessible theatre practice at the University of Southern Queensland. She is dedicated to a disability-led future, with a mission to pursue greater opportunities, resources, advocacy and recognition for all Deaf and disabled artists and arts workers in Australia


About the Australia Council’s National Arts and Disability Awards

The Australia Council National Arts and Disability Awards celebrate the work and achievements of established and emerging artists, and the significant contribution of artists with disability to the vibrancy of Australian arts. The inaugural presentation of these awards will occur in 2019, as part of a three-year strategic funding commitment by the Australia Council which was announced in 2018. Two awards will be presented annually – The National Arts and Disability Award (Established Artist) $50,000 and The National Arts and Disability Award (Emerging Artist) $20,000. The new program responds to the Council’s research, which highlights the importance of profiling, celebrating and acknowledging the achievements of trail blazers and leading lights at all stages of career development. These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by Australian artists in all areas of practice.

The award recipients were identified through an open peer nomination process. The Council received an overwhelming response from the sector to the inaugural awards and the depth of the nomination field to both categories was extraordinary.

About the work of the Australia Council with the arts and disability sector

The Australia Council believes that art is for everyone, and that Australians living with disability have the right to enjoy, benefit from and contribute to the arts and cultural life of Australia. Disability in the arts offers excellence and artistry, unique perspectives and lived experiences, and transformative experiences for audiences and communities. The Australia Council supports the arts and disability sector through all its activities, and for many years has also delivered strategic funding initiatives in this sector, designed to increase access to the Council’s support, build sector capacity and sustainability, and celebrate artistic excellence. The Council also produces research which highlights the barriers and disparities which still exist for people with disability across arts practice, employment, education, training, engagement and participation.

About the Arts Access Australia National Leadership Award

The new Arts Access Australia (AAA) National Leadership Award aims to recognise and support new and emerging leaders in the arts who identify as being d/Deaf or disabled. The AAA National Leadership Award has been established in response to AAA’s strategic commitment to improving employment and enterprise outcomes for artists and arts workers with disability. The $10,000 annual award will contribute to leadership training and/or professional development and includes a coaching or mentoring aspect and an opportunity to learn more about AAA’s change programs. The 2019 AAA National Leadership Award is supported by AAA donors and Creative Partnerships Australia through their Plus1 program.

About Arts Access Australia

Arts Access Australia (AAA) is the national peak body for arts and disability in Australia. AAA works to increase national and international opportunities and access to the arts for people with disability as artists, arts-workers, participants and audiences.

Established in 1992, AAA is a disability-led company limited by guarantee. The CEO and at least 50% of its Board Members identify as a person with disability. AAA is a non-profit, member-supported organisation. Its members include state-based arts and disability organisations, individual artists, arts-workers and arts leaders with disability, and others within the wider arts and cultural sector. Website:

Definition of disability

The Australia Council uses the social model of disability, which distinguishes between impairment of the person, and the barriers in society that are disabling. These can include attitudes, discrimination, or the physical environment.

This definition includes mental health. However, not all people who experience a mental health condition identify with disability.

The term ‘disability’ can also include people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. However, members of the Deaf community may not always identify with disability and may identify as part of a cultural and linguistic group with their first language being Auslan (Australian Sign Language) or another sign language.


Learn more about the National Arts and Disability Awards.



Brianna Roberts


(02) 9215 9030

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