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The Australia Council for the Arts has recognised three outstanding young community cultural development artists with Young Leaders Awards. Gemma Pepper (WA), Cicily Ponnor (NSW) and Kara Beavis (QLD) have each received $10,000 for their significant achievement and visionary approach to social justice and cultural development issues within their arts practice.

The Young Leaders Award recognises, promotes and encourages leadership among young CCD artists and artsworkers in Australia. The annual award, which is in its second year, is offered to up to three young Australian artists and artsworkers 30 years and under as nominated by their peers.

Kara Beavis says: ‘While this work is incredibly rewarding, it can be stressful, complex and invisible. It’s fantastic that the Australia Council recognises people working in all forms of arts and cultural practice, especially people whose work is long-term, local and addresses complex social justice issues within communities’.

Karilyn Brown, executive director of Community Partnerships and Market Development at the Australia Council, congratulated the three award recipients for their commitment and vision. ‘This award acknowledges the exceptional leadership skills of young Australians, and in this way we hope to encourage these emerging leaders to take even greater steps in their careers.’

Gemma, Cicily and Kara together have more than 20 years of commitment to CCD practice, bringing significant change in Australian communities, for example:

Cicily Ponnor (NSW) – developed the performance Walk in My Shoes, as part of an initiative to fight racism at a local community level. Cicily drew together young refugees from Africa, Afghanistan and youth from culturally diverse communities to share stories of community harmony.

Gemma Pepper (WA) – with the support of her host organisation Peace Links, Gemma worked with young people in Sierra Leone in drama and dance projects to create awareness in the community about HIV/AIDS and other major issues. As a result of Gemma’s work, Peace Links’ capacity to support creative projects within the community was increased. Gemma facilitated skills development, community engagement and cross-cultural exchanges during the production of Shishka-Car for the 2002 Adelaide Festival.

Kara Beavis (QLD) – has demonstrated outstanding leadership through her several international conference presentations, including the Earth Symposium 2004 in Vancouver, and her advocacy as a conference organiser, activist and convenor of professional development groups. Kara developed Safe Places: A Community Cultural Development Workers’ Guide to working with Young People from a Refugee Background, filling a gap in resource materials for CCD workers.

Community cultural development is a practice whereby communities and professional artists team up to design and implement arts projects that express a community’s concerns, aspirations, identity and needs.



Brianna Roberts


(02) 9215 9030


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