Mama Alto is the recipient of an Australia Council Award

Mama Alto is the 2021 recipient of the Australia Council Kirk Robson Award for Community Arts and Cultural Development.

She’s just one of the eight recipients of this year’s awards which have also recognised the achievements of musician William Barton, author Arnold Zable and visual artist Vivienne Binns OAM.

The peer-nominated awards recognise outstanding and sustained contributions in music, literature, community arts and cultural development, emerging and experimental arts, visual arts, theatre and dance.

Community arts and cultural development leader Marianne Wobcke was honoured as an established leader, while Mama Alto was recognised as an emerging leader. They are joined by leading artists Sue Healey (Dance), Chelsea McGuffin (Theatre) and Cat Jones (Emerging and Experimental Arts).

Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts the Hon Paul Fletcher MP congratulated the recipients saying they all added a lot to Australians lives.

“Cultural and creative expression add to the richness and diversity of our national life, something which has been reinforced through the COVID-19 pandemic as Australians have turned to arts and culture for inspiration, connection and well-being,” Minister Fletcher said.

“The Australia Council Awards are a fitting recognition of the distinguished contribution the recipients have made to cultural, economic and social well-being through their art forms and practice.”

In lieu of a physical awards event, this year’s recipients will be showcased in a series of online presentations which will be streamed on the Australia Council website from 19 April at

Australia Council CEO Adrian Collette AM said the online format of this year’s awards allowed for everyone to share in the celebration.

“Everyone is invited to join us in celebrating the contributions of eight remarkable Australian artists, who each in their own way reflects the vibrancy of Australia’s diverse cultural life,” Collette said.

“Arts and creativity reflect who we are as a nation, helping us to see different perspectives and understand and connect across different experiences and cultures. They are crucial in understanding and shaping our sense of national identity.”

The recipients of the 2021 Australia Council Awards are:

William Barton (NSW) – Australia Council Don Banks Music Award
Arnold Zable (VIC) – Australia Council Lifetime Achievement in Literature
Sue Healey (NSW) – Australia Council Award for Dance
Vivienne Binns OAM (ACT) – Australia Council Award for Visual Arts
Cat Jones (NSW) – Australia Council Award for Emerging and Experimental Arts
Mama Alto (VIC) – Australia Council Kirk Robson Award for Community Arts and Cultural Development
Marianne Wobcke (QLD) – Australia Council Ros Bower Award for Community Arts and Cultural Development
Chelsea McGuffin (QLD) – Australia Council Award for Theatre

Mama Alto describes herself as a jazz singer, cabaret artiste & gender transcendent diva. She is a transgender & queer person of colour who works with the radical potential of storytelling.

Mama Alto provides space for trans people to tell their unique stories, with a focus on providing support and nurturing artists in her community. The Australia Council applauded her approach saying she amplifies, celebrates and advocates for artists of colour to ensure the stages she works on are truly reflective.

“There is strength in her softness and power in her vulnerability. Her prowess in community dynamics, language usage and navigating institutional barriers is known throughout Melbourne. Her work creates stories in which people can see themselves and explore their varied experiences both on stage and as audience members.” the citation for the award’s reads.

Her work – from her writing, her solo cabaret works such as Torch Songs and Queerly Beloved, the ensemble piece Gender Euphoria, numerous community and capacity building arts projects and individual mentorships, and her work as Midsumma Festival’s artist development coordinator – uplifts and platforms artists, and addresses the traumas and inequities experienced by marginalised people.

From sitting on panels and committees and shaping the landscape behind the scenes, to performing and hosting in front of audiences with her wonderful voice, Mama Alto continually uses her voice to better the lives of others.

Source: Media Release

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