A night to remember: 2012 VIPA Awards through the eyes of Rachael Maza

Jan Chandler catches up with Rachael Maza for a chat about Victoria’s Indigenous Performing Arts Awards…

Rachael Maza presenting at VIPA 2012
Rachael Maza presenting at VIPA Awards 2012. Image by Steve Rhall

Rachael Maza, Artistic Director of Ilbijerri Theatre Company (Ilbijerri) is on a high. She has been performing in Sydney in Beautiful One Day at Belvoir, a co-production with Ilbijerri and version 1.0, and has taken time out to come to Melbourne for the presentation of the 2012 Victorian Indigenous Performing Arts Awards (VIPA).

Maza is bubbly and enthusiastic when we catch up in the middle of rehearsals for the Award Presentation held at the Wonderland Speigeltent in Melbourne on Monday 26 November. Not only is her Sydney performance going well – “the community are happy and the reviewers are happy” – but in her absence members of the still-small Ilbijerri have organised the Melbourne Awards ceremony “beyond belief”! And here she was feeling guilty at having left them with such a big job.

[/pull_left]The ‘PA’ in VIPA always stood for the performing arts in general and Maza is pleased that they are able to address the inclusion of other performing arts…[/pull_left]

Ilbijerri has been presenting the VIPA awards for fifteen years and Maza is excited that in 2012 they are joined by some exciting new partners. Indigenous Radio Station 3KND (Kool ‘n Deadly) and Songlines Aboriginal Music Corporation presented Broadcast Awards and Music Awards respectively, while Circus Oz came on board as the venue partner and Arts Victoria is now supporting a new Professional Development Scholarship, presented in conjunction with the Uncle Jack Charles Award in the theatre category.

As Maza tells me, the ‘PA’ in VIPA always stood for the performing arts in general and she is pleased that they are able to begin to address the inclusion of other performing arts. A dance award is something she would like to see in the future, but that isn’t where her ambitions stop.

Rachael Maza announcing an award at VIPA 2012
Rachael Maza announcing an award at VIPA 2012. Image by Steve Rhall

With the expansion of organisations and financial bodies willing to support the awards, Maza would like to see VIPA become a National Award, independent of Ilbijerri, peer driven and highly valued within the performing arts industry by both the mainstream and Indigenous sectors. This would be a way of acknowledging and recognising the work that is happening in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander industries.

“I want it to be a fantastic night to go out, one of those sort of nights where if you don’t rsvp within the first couple of days you miss out on a night that is going to be one of the highlight events of the year”, she says.

Speaking of the winners of the Theatre Awards, Maza expressed her pleasure that someone of the calibre of Margaret Harvey had been acknowledged for her “incredible” contribution to the arts – mainstream and Black theatre. The fact that Harvey is moving from acting into producing and directing is what Maza describes as “a real sign of the growth and maturity in our industry“, and that enabling others to following a similar path is “a critical part of the next phase of our industry growth.”

Jason Tamiru (Uncle Jack Charles Award + Arts Victoria Professional Development Scholarship) is another example of this growth: an arts manager, producer and musician, he is currently, amongst other things, Audience Development Consultant for Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre.

Whilst it is important to acknowledge the growing body of really experienced, powerful artists, producers and directors stepping up and moving into positions of creative control, it is equally important to recognise emerging actors and performers such as Uraine Mastrosavas, winner of the Aunty Eleanor Harding Memorial Award, who graduated from the VCA in 2010 and who this year has toured nationally with Body Armour.

[pull_left]Modern Black Theatre as we know it birthed in the early 70s but as an industry it has never been able to build up a momentum. It’s been struggling on a shoe string budget all these years and it’s very hard for any artist to sustain a career[/pull_left]And what of Ilbijerri itself? Their 2013 Season will see four major works touring regionally and nationally. Body Armour will tour regional Victoria; Foley will have a season in Canberra, at the Street Theatre, as part of the celebration of the Centenary of Canberra in July; Jack Charles V The Crown will tour nationally for four months from May; and Coranderrk will have a season at Belvoir in Sydney in December.

Maza believes strongly that theatre works need the opportunity to grow, to reach the widest possible audience and, given the resources that go into creating the work, achieve the maximum returns. Whilst the first season of a work will be local, the second will hopefully involve a national tour and the third, depending on the buyers and the relevance of the work, will see the work travelling internationally.

Modern Black Theatre as we know it birthed in the early 70s but as an industry it has never been able to build up a momentum. It’s been struggling on a shoe string budget all these years and it’s very hard for any artist to sustain a career”, she explained, adding that consequently people move away from the industry because, like all of us, they need a living wage.

Lee Morgan VIPA winner 2012
Lee Morgan VIPA winner 2012. Image by Steve Rhall

Ilbijerri has recently been successful in securing key organisation status with the Australian Council which gives them triennial funding and the opportunity of employing additional staff to do what they do even better.

“It’s fantastic! It’s just been the most exciting time for this company there’ve been years of doing it really hard and we’re just getting into that next step up.”

With Ilbijerri on a more secure footing than ever before, growing support for the VIPA awards and the energies of leaders like Rachael Maza the future is looking brighter and brighter for Black Theatre in this country.

For the last 15 years, ILBIJERRI has presented the VIPA Awards to celebrate the outstanding achievements in the Indigenous performing arts across Victoria, which are open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who live and work in Victoria. A full list of 2012 VIPA Award recipients can be found below.

Recipients of the 2012 VIPA Awards include:

Margaret HarveyVIPA 2012 Uncle Bob Maza award presented by ILBIJERRI for significant contribution over a number of years.

Uraine MastrosavasVIPA 2012 Aunty Eleanor Harding memorial award presented by ILBIJERRI to encourage and support an emerging talent.

Jason TamiruVIPA 2012 Uncle Jack Charles award presented by ILBIJERRI for an outstanding achievement over the last 12 months and includes a $6,000 professional development scholarship supported by Arts Victoria.

Lee MorganVIPA 2012 contribution to the Victorian Indigenous music industry award presented by Songlines for lifetime achievement.

Benny WalkerVIPA 2012 most promising act of the year award presented by Songlines to encourage and support an emerging talent.

Yung WarriorsStanding Strong VIPA 2012 song of year award presented by Songlines for recognising significant artistic success in the last 12 months.

Gary ‘Gilla’ McGuinessVIPA 2012 services to broadcasting award presented by 3KND for lifetime achievement.

Janina Harding and Kim KrugerVIPA 2012 broadcaster of the year award presented by 3KND for recognising outstanding achievement over the last 12 months.

Dylan Clarke VIPA 2012 best new Victorian broadcaster award presented by 3KND to encourage and support an emerging talent.

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Jan has been working freelance in the arts industry for some 15+ years in a variety of roles including: arts management; journalism (print, radio and online); publicity; and media relations. Passionate about the arts in all their variety, Jan has worked in film (production assistant; reviewer); dance (publicity; producer and presenter of 'Dance Dialogues - 3CR) and Board Member of Ausdance (Victoria)); performing arts (company manager, performer, reviewer, online editor). Jan had the honour of being the General Manager of Ilbijerri Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre for some 18 months.

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