Dr Priya Srinivasan on Asia Pacific Arts Awards and Revive policy

The co-founder of Sangam and choreographer of The Durga Chronicles has received an Impact Award at the newly reinstated Asia Pacific Arts Awards.

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Dr Priya Srinivasan has received the inaugural Impact Award at the Asia Pacific Arts Awards, held by Creative Australia at the Parramatta Riverside Theatre in April.

A total of 51 entries were received for the awards, aimed at recognising Australian artists, organisations and collectives engaging in significant cross-cultural work across the Asia Pacific. Srinivasan was one of six shortlisted artists in her category, which also included critically acclaimed western Sydney playwright S.Shakthidharan.

Dr Srinivasan is thrilled to have been recognised for work exploring feminist decolonisation, rooted in her Bharatanatyam training.

Dr Srinivasan and S. Shakthidharan.
Dr Priya Srinivasan and S.Shakthidharan, both nominated for the Impact award. (Source: LinkedIn)

“All the hard work of South Asian artists, creatives and leaders who’ve been working in this space but not recognised for all their labour; this [award] to me is like a recognition of that,” she said.

“I feel really lucky and really grateful, but I share it with everybody who was nominated – so many Asian Australian diaspora artists, leaders and also First Nations artists and leaders that have been doing incredibly impactful work.”

After an 11-year hiatus, the Asia Pacific Arts Awards have returned as part of the Government’s landmark National Cultural Policy – Revive.

Dr Srinivasan welcomes the reinstatement of the awards after a decade of minimal cultural policy.

Dr Srinivasan makes a speech at the Asia Pacific Arts Awards.
Dr Priya Srinivasan addresses the audience at the Asia Pacific Arts Awards. (Source: Creative Australia)

“It was deeply meaningful to hear Minister Tony Burke say [at the awards] that he’d been wanting an arts portfolio, which he’d lost after the Gillard government, and then after that we had no arts policy in that sense,” she said.

“I think it is significant they’ve reinstated the awards, but in a very different way to what it was in 2013, with 51 Asian Australian diaspora and First Nations artists nominated. We were talking at the afterparty about how incredible it is to be seen [as diverse artists] and to see each other, and that hope to me is what this moment with Revive is – but we still have a long way to go before equity is achieved.”

Over the last decade, national arts policy has experienced tumultuous change; in 2015, Creative Australia (formerly the Australian Council for the Arts) lost over a third of its funding under George Brandis, and in 2020, the Morrison Governments dissolved the Department of Communications and Arts into the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.

Released in January 2023, the Revive strategy mentions “strengthen[ing] arts collaboration and exchange and cultural diplomacy,” as well as “continuing support for activities in Australia and around the world, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, that promote the Government’s international arts and cultural engagement and cultural diplomacy priorities.”

Minister for the Arts Tony Burke at the awards.
Minister for the Arts Tony Burke at the Asia Pacific Arts Awards. (Source: Creative Australia)

Minister for the Arts Tony Burke has echoed this sentiment when talking about the Asia Pacific Arts Awards.

“Engagement with our region isn’t only about the physical trade in goods. It’s also about sharing our creativity with the region, engaging with creators throughout the region, and most importantly creating new work together,” he said.

Dr Srinivasan hopes that culture will play a valuable role in the Government’s foreign affairs priorities in the coming years.

“With all of these exciting partnerships between Australia and India, how can we use that to leverage long term sustainability and change? We’re seeing this in trade and investment, but I want the arts to be at the centre of it, because otherwise we disappear, and we’re not treated as workers. [That’s] one of the things I’m really hoping [to do] with Sangam in the Australia-India Space, to make sure this cultural mandate enables diverse artistic practices to last through long term stability frameworks,” Dr Srinivasan said.

Dr Srinivasan hopes the visibility of diverse artists and their contributions is a direction that will also continue under Revive.

“There was a Multicultural Clause introduced by the Hawke/Keating Governments, which meant that about 12% of Creative Australia’s funding went to diverse artists, but that got defunded (in 2001) by the Howard Government. I would love to see that clause reinstated, we need it if we’re going to see equity in the space for diverse people,” she said.

In the meantime, she looks forward to more collaboration across the Indian ocean, planning to tour her award-winning dance piece The Durga Chronicles nationally, as well as working with partner organisations in Bangalore to take the piece overseas.

READ ALSO: New CAIR headquarters launched in Parramatta

Lakshmi Ganapathy
Lakshmi Ganapathy
Lakshmi Ganapathy is an emerging journalist and theatre-maker based in Melbourne.

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