The Australia Council for the Arts celebrates the achievements of two outstanding artists with the announcement of the 2011 Australia Council Community Arts and Cultural Development Awards.
Victorian Based artist, Kharen Harper, receives the prestigious Ros Bower Award, worth $50,000, for an outstanding, life-long contribution to community arts and cultural development.
In a career spanning over 20 years, Kharen has worked extensively with women in correctional institutions, elderly survivors of Melbourne orphanages, children in foster care, marginalised young people from the City of Geelong as well as organisations including The AIDS Council, Moreland City Council and Comcare.
She is well known for her work with Somebody’s Daughter Theatre Company, which works inside womens’ prisons, as well as with ‘at risk’ youth in rural areas.
A gifted writer, director and performer, Kharen’s plays are respectful of the people and the issues they depict, but are known for delicately mixing the tragic with light hearted moments, making for memorable theatre experiences which create an understanding of the significant issues faced by some of society’s most isolated members
Since 2001 through the Highwater Theatre program, she has worked with young people in Albury/Wadonga who have been physically or emotionally damaged to a point where they are unable to attend school. Kharen’s infectious energy, compassion and artistic skills have led to remarkable results, with 80 percent of these young people returning to school and commencing their VCE or taking up apprenticeships
“Kharen’s work has pushed artistic boundaries and transformed the lives of many who have been a part of it,” says Deputy Chair of the Australia Council’s Community Partnerships Committee, Jeremy Smith. “Her ability to connect with people, to understand their background and encourage them to tell their story is nothing short of remarkable.”
Shakthi Sivanathan will also receive the Kirk Robson Award for the achievements of young Australian artists working with communities to produce art about social issues.
Shakthi is a founding director of CuriousWorks which he has since led to deliver a series of creative initiatives that have had sustainable and innovative outcomes for all Australians.
From 2005-2007 Shakthi lead The Migrant Project, which brought together 40 Sydneysiders with cultural and artistic ancestries from across the globe, in a series of live performances and forums. Garnering an audience of over 2,000 people, the project concluded in a feature film.
Shakthi developed a best-practice model for using digital media in a simple, positive, lasting manner in marginalised communities, which has led to long-term community projects in Western Sydney and remote Western Australia
More recently he has worked on The Stories Project, a program which provides a pathway for potential cultural leaders to become employed, professional, influential media makers on behalf of their community; and The Lanka Project, a multi-platform initiative of theatre, audiovisual and community projects bringing the lives of Sri Lankan – Australians to the fore
“Shakthi’s work has focused on respectful collaboration with some of Australia’s most marginalised communities,” says Jeremy Smith. “He’s also continually provided artistically innovative examples of the use of traditional and digital distribution methods for the ongoing sharing of contemporary, untold, Australian stories.”