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Media Releases

Courageous, visionary projects supported by Arts and Disability Initiative

Creative Australia is pleased to announce the 10 recipients of the 2023 Arts and Disability Initiative. This program is designed to advance the careers of d/Deaf artists or arts workers and artists or arts workers with a disability. 

The Arts and Disability Initiative provides financial support of $30,000 for up to two years for artists to undertake significant projects that advance their skills, practice or networks. 

The initiative is part of Creative Australia’s broader investment in arts and disability in response to research showing the need to create pathways and address barriers to access and inclusion in the arts. 

Creative Australia’s Executive Director for Arts Investment Alice Nash said: 

“Creative Australia has a longstanding and strong commitment to supporting arts and culture that reflects the diversity of this country. We acknowledge the difficulties and inequality in society that impact participation in culture, which is a basic human right. 

This investment will support an impressive group of artists and arts workers to pursue courageous, innovative, and visionary projects and new work. We look forward to seeing what’s on the horizon for them all in coming years.” 

Meret Hassanen was granted funding for her new theatre work INFLUENCE, which will be developed through participation in two artistic residencies. Meret said: 

“I am thrilled to be a recipient of the Arts and Disability Initiative. The grant is allowing me to explore storytelling through theatre, a medium which I haven’t worked in before, and develop my craft through residencies with two renowned theatre companies. Whilst I have been fortunate to work on some fantastic productions, this grant means I can finally author a creative work and explore the themes and challenge the issues that are important to me.” 

Other recipients include Debra Keenahan, whose work Disability Pride – ‘All Ways A Pleasure’ – is a collaborative mentorship in Devised Theatre. Debra said: 

“All Ways A Pleasure” is an ambitious innovative and insightful devised theatre work addressing the subject of disability and sexuality from our perspective – disability-led and disability focused. Working in a collaborative mentorship with the internationally renowned theatre maker Julie McNamara, I will learn to embed access in the script writing and design of this work to develop my unique aesthetic of access, so in my future works I can collaborate with people across a broad range of disabilities.”  

Cara-Ann Simpson was also successful with her production and presentation of a multisensory exhibition: Furari Flores (Stealing Flowers). Kim Bowers was granted funding for her work on the research and development of ‘Confessions of the Brutally Blessed – A Survival Handbook’. 

Read more about the arts and disability initiatives on the Creative Australia website. 

2023 Recipients 

Cara-Ann Simpson, Queensland 

Debra Keenahan, New South Wales 

Meret Hassanen, New South Wales 

• Alexandra Hudson, New South Wales 

Bon Mott, Victoria 

Kim Bowers, Queensland 

Luke Campbell, Tasmania 

Chelle Destefano, Victoria 

Ella Coddington, New South Wales 

• Lewis Major, South Australia 

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

Creative Australia 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. 

Creative Australia supports disability and accessibility in the arts through its delivery of strategic initiatives designed to: 

  • increase access to support 
  • build sector capacity and sustainability 
  • expand opportunities for artists and arts leaders with disability, and  
  • celebrate artistic excellence. 

Creative Australia also produces research which highlights the barriers and disparities which still exist for people with disability across arts practice, employment, leadership, education, training, engagement, and participation. 

Definition of disability 

People with a disability are diverse and are not defined by their disability. There is no single definition or way of capturing such complex and multidimensional experiences. 

Creative Australia embraces 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 d/Deaf or hard of hearing. However, members of the d/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. 

Creative Australia recognises the term people with disability is widely used in Australia, including by disability advocates and peak bodies. We also recognise that the term is contested and evolving, with increasing use of self-identifying terms such as disabled, including in advocacy for change. We recognise that some choose to identify with a specific community such as d/Deaf or Autistic and may prefer not to refer to themselves as disabled or as having disability. We will continue to recognise self-identification and engage in dialogue as the terminology evolves.

Sean Brogan, Media Manager, Creative Australia
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