Grant gives ability for arts sector to flourish in Canberra

Michael Weaver 9 December 2020
Canberra musician Ruth O'Brien

Canberra musician Ruth O’Brien will form a disability arts advisory group. Photo: Supplied.

Singer and advocate for people with a disability Ruth O’Brien hopes the ACT Government’s announcement of $125,000 in grants for community-driven events and projects will provide more opportunities for artists with a disability in Canberra.

Ruth was given a grant to form an Arts Disability Advisory Group that will support community events and activities that celebrate diversity and inclusion.

She said people with a disability are more likely to attend dance, visual arts and literature events than respondents who do not identify as having a disability.

“More people with a disability are now engaging with the arts and there’s been no organisation in Canberra so we really want to get more representation for people with a disability in the arts,” Ruth tells Region Media.

“We see this as a great way to remove the physical and unconscious barriers that exist for artists. Sometimes it’s just about people’s attitudes, so the priority of the advisory group will be to connect people with a disability with arts groups and remove those barriers.”

Emma Davidson

Emma Davidson says the grants will help to remove attitudinal, communication and physical barriers. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

A recent research project by the Australia Council for the Arts found that professional artists with a disability earn 42 per cent less in total annual income than artists without a disability.

It also found that 51 per cent of people with a disability are more likely to attend festivals compared with 44 per cent of those who do not identify as having a disability. This is the case across most types of festivals including music, visual arts and craft, theatre and dance, First Nations festivals and literature festivals.

Respondents with a disability also engaged with the arts online at the same rate as respondents without a disability, meaning that access to arts events outside the home was still an issue for people with a disability.


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Minister for Disability Emma Davidson said the activities funded by the $125,000 in grants will help to remove attitudinal, communication and physical barriers.

“A more inclusive community has never been more important, with so many people experiencing isolation over the past year,” Ms Davidson said.

“These grants will help Canberrans create greater awareness and more opportunities for people with disability, ensuring they are supported to participate fully in the life of this city.”

A number of events for people with a disability are already being funded by the grants and Ruth hopes this is just the beginning.

“Receiving this funding is a fantastic opportunity to increase accessibility in the arts in the ACT via better communication between people with disability and arts organisations,” she said.

“To me, the emphasis is on what opportunities people with a disability can provide to the community and not the other way around. So often we word things like, what opportunities can you give to a person with disabilities, but people with disabilities have so many skills and such a rich, deep experience of some of the things they’ve faced.

“There’s a huge creative outlet that is missed if we don’t provide these opportunities in the first place.

“This will enable a lot of voices to be heard that might not have been part of these conversations.”

The recipients of the 2020 I-Day grants in Canberra include:

  • Maria and Peter Rosini – to create the short film Disability Inclusion in the Workplace
  • Epilepsy ACT – to offer online seated yoga classes
  • Torrens Primary School P&C Association – to host Torrens Primary Para Sports Day
  • Australian Talented Youth Project – to host the I Dance Festival
  • Women with Disabilities ACT – to support Disabled Voices: Arts and Performances
  • Gungahlin Jets Australian Football Club – to support a Jets Netball Exhibition Match.

A further 14 local community groups, not-for-profit organisations and small businesses also received a share of $100,000 in disability inclusion grants.


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