Music Australia News

Gender Representation in the Arts: Matt Okine, Tina Arena and Screen Australia

Matt Okine wins the ARIA for Best Comedy Release during the 2015 ARIA Awards in Sydney. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)
Maeve Marsden
| December 8, 2015

Though Courtney Barnett and Tame Impala cleaned up at the ARIAs, the big news the next day was about the previously barely heard of ‘Best Comedy Release’ award, and the speech its recipient, Matt Okine, made about gender inequality.

“I’d feel bad if I didn’t make a point of something I feel a little bit weird about,” he said. “I don’t think there were any women in the comedy category at all just then, I don’t think there are female featured artists on tonight’s show — I mean Tina Arena obviously … but other than that, there’s no one.”

“I’d feel stupid if I didn’t use this opportunity to say something about that.”

While Okine’s comments were largely targeted at the Australian Comedy community, gender inequity is without doubt an issue in contemporary music, as we reported in September. Tina Arena (who Okine mistakenly referred to as Tina Turner) called attention to sexism in the industry in her own way, by focusing on ageism directed at older women.

“I want to still acknowledge that ladies over 40 are still in the game,” she said. “Keep doing what you’re doing, ladies, because we will decide when it’s time for us to stop.”

She spoke further on the issue after receiving her award, stating “A woman in hers 20s is in the middle of creating that journey, and that’s not to say for one second that she doesn’t have anything interesting to say, the contrary. Women and men of ALL ages have something interesting to say, but what I have struggled with is the complete ostracisation of a woman at a certain age going, ‘well, no, we don’t really find you interesting anymore.’”

The conversation about gender in the arts keeps rearing its head, whether it’s due to speeches by prominent figures, social media campaigns or industry announcements. This week Screen Australia announced Gender Matters, a $5 million plan over three years to address the Australian screen industry’s gender imbalance.

According to Screen Australia, “The five point plan includes an immediate $3 million allocation of ‘jump start’ funding to get female-led projects production-ready within two years, and a further $2 million of support for placements, distribution incentives, marketing and industry networking.”

Screen Australia Deputy Chair Deanne Weir is leading a taskforce including actor Miranda Tapsell, screenwriter and TV producer Imogen Banks, producer Sue Maslin and President of the Australian Directors Guild Samantha Lang. Music Australia would like to commend Screen Australia on the announcement of the initiative and looks forwards to the results.

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