Two: Access & Inclusion

Women as Role Models

“You gotta see it to be it” was echoed constantly through the consultations, with all groups and many individual respondents commenting that it is imperative for girls and women to have skilled, approachable and honest role models to aspire to and learn from. Support for women as role models, along with the fundamental concept of “no decision made about us without us” underpins these strategic directions, especially initiatives to increase women’s access to and participation across all areas of the NT music industry, including leadership and empowerment programs.

Women’s subject matter when writing lyrics reflect their experiences of the world and participants and MusicNT are keen that women’s stories are heard, along with their music.

Francesca Valence’s I Heart Songwriting Club was cited as an outstanding national example of a program providing positive role modelling and supporting gender diversity. It has around 60% female membership whereas APRA AMCOS membership is around 20%. When asked why, Francesca responded saying its positive role modelling, leadership by example and being an inspiration for other women and girls that they can do it too. https://www.iheartsongwritingclub.com/

A number of female participants observed that women’s own socialising around not putting themselves forward or being almost apologetic when receiving an award or compliment also holds them back and cited Her Sound, Her Story as being a powerful documentary about women’s experiences in the Australian music industry and the need for change. http://www.hersoundherstory.com Its ok if you are more extroverted, confident and skilled. Too many women don’t have a voice, are vulnerable and fear repercussions if they speak out. Not surprisingly, one way forward is by providing leadership workshops – building confidence, overcoming limiting beliefs and stage nerves to help cultivate empowerment and resilience in women.

Leah Flanagan | Photograph by Steve Kelk for Foldback Media
Leah Flanagan | Photograph by Steve Kelk for Foldback Media

Availability of Venues

All regions noted that there were relatively few venues that supported original music. In smaller centres like Tennant Creek and Katherine options reduce even further. Regardless of the genre of music, concern was expressed that overall opportunities were decreasing in smaller regions and that a change in venue owners or managers often led to changes in the way live music was managed. 15 years ago there were band nights here that attracted audiences of around 500. This doesn’t happen now.

In some cases, publicly funded community arts spaces were seen as underutilised resources which could be activated. Participants also commented on more support being provided by some regional or local Councils than others and there was occasionally confusion or inaccurate information provided by participants about various programs or auspicing groups. For instance, the perception that the City of Darwin had banned buskers, rather than putting it on hold whilst they reviewed their policy on busking and reissued all permit holders with photographic ID.

On the flip side, other participants noted stronger support from initiatives such as the NTGs Activate Darwin program including Lunch on the Lawns, the City of Darwin’s and Alice Springs Town Council’s support to local musicians through festivals, music programs, subsidies, in kind sponsorship and grant rounds, and, Alice Springs Town Council’s Eleven2one series, all of which provide employment and exposure for a gender diverse group of musicians and other industry personnel, along with activating CBDs and enabling audiences to enjoy local, original music.

It was also noted that funding streams such as Live Music Australia could be promoted more widely and eligible groups encouraged to take advantage of this.

Jams and Open Mics

I see jam spaces as a great potential stepping-stone between lounge-room and solo gig! So I feel like the overall diversity of the music scene here would increase if jam spaces held better room for it.

Without a musically confident person actively doing the "invisible labour" of creating some safe "room" in a jam space, I've experienced women having their mics turned off, being spoken or sung over, not being able to get access to microphones, being hustled off stage, having the key and rhythm changed on them as soon as they get up the courage to sing, and even having men yell "Shame!" at them because they dared to join in on a song that men were already singing in.

It seems to require a degree of effort, courage, defiance, emotional labour and a mild degree of commitment to what might even be called anarchy...

It would be amazing to have jam spaces where safety and diversity are core elements, and where those facilitating understand how to do the labour needed to make musical expression safe for more types of people, who are each navigating their own layers of "invisible risk" when they take a deep breath and actually get on the stage. I wonder if there's a kind of "invisible risks" awareness training that could happen one day? (I am sure there's a better title out there!).

Three of four regions noted that open mic and jam sessions can be intimidating, aren’t that family friendly, in most regions have all male performers or house bands and that we can be skilled and confident in what we’re doing but easily dismissed or ignored by males organising or MCing events. Given the critical role these events play in enabling musicians to network with one another, try out new material and increase their confidence and competence performing live, open mic and jam sessions need to be as welcoming as possible. From an outsider’s point of view it doesn’t look inclusive.

Time and location of gigs

Venues are businesses which are run around serving alcohol and food. Live music is secondary to this yet ironically people are often there for the music. This can be difficult if people don’t want to be around alcohol and problematic for those women who are ready to perform at bigger events or whose music is not suited to the café style environment that most “dry” gigs are held in. Concern was expressed around venues needing training in making them safer spaces for women, especially at late night gigs. Something along the lines of the Vic Governments training for venues and awareness campaign to stamp out harassment at venues is really needed.

What with late gigs and grog, it’s a hard industry for women, especially Mums. Regardless of venue safety, this makes many events difficult to balance with family responsibilities or inappropriate to bring children to.

Family groups gather to support women’s AFL. There’s no grog and it makes for a great afternoon where families can come together. It would be great to have afternoon tea style events which also include live music.

Once again, initiatives like Eleven2one staged by Alice Springs Town Council and the NTGs Lunch on the Lawns, along with cafes offering live music are great examples of family friendly events which open up CBDs and community spaces, showcase a gender diverse range of local musicians and support the ongoing creation and performance of original work.

Navigating Your Way Into and Through the NT Music Scene

The music industry has become a complex organism which requires knowledge and confidence to navigate, especially for those with the skills and aptitude to aspire to forming a career in music.

Proper pathways for women would include:

• school based music programs

• external workshops and/or tuition

• informal sessions – e.g. guitar roundtable idea where a guitar is passed around the room and women share songs and feedback with each other; setting up a group to practice together or to support one another at open mic sessions or gigs

• support from Council, peaks and venues

• a variety of places to gig – different genres, times • opportunities to record and release original music

• more programs, including Indigenous and nonIndigenous working together

• support in knowing what is around and how to access it at different stages of career and life

Divas was established in 2010 as a music development program in Alice Springs by female Indigenous singer songwriters for female Indigenous singer songwriters to provide the support they were NOT getting from broader industry. Divas has aimed to provide the following, which was recommended by one respondent as what a supportive pathway would look like:

Working with strong Indigenous female role model musicians to develop their skills around; performance, stagecraft, live performance, putting a gig together, promoting the gig, press releases, bios, providing opportunities to showcase their music and talent, more advanced songwriting workshops, recording. Bringing in experienced performers to help these artists will foster skill sets that are valuable not only to their present work but also to their future careers and through the creation of symbiotic relationships that will be beneficial to both parties. Then give them platforms to where aspiring emerging female artists can take note.

Divas only has capacity to offer relatively short annual seasons (currently around 10 weeks) in two locations and we are investigating how best to support participants in between these. And many respondents were keen that a similar program or opportunities be available to women in general. The NT also needs more development programs to support both Indigenous and nonIndigenous mentors and balance providing work for local mentors with bringing in specialist support from interstate. Some participants from Tennant Creek and Katherine commented that in smaller communities such as theirs, it made better sense to offer “open” programs in their community. This needs to be researched properly - and directly with these communities - least the few gains made by Indigenous women and girls are lost.

We need more support for organizing, recording, gigs and tours - even just having someone who knows contacts that can help NT women network with those contacts. The issues facing women who are navigating the music industry are essentially the same as for anyone else – knowing who to approach around putting on events, what to expect from a venue, how to negotiate reasonable pay or run a small business, being a manager and so on. All this takes away from creative and rehearsal time and much of it requires a different skill set to being a musician or performer. HOWEVER, these impact on women more in that so many are already time poor and not being taken seriously or being treated professionally within industry itself.

MusicNT currently has two part time roles which primarily focus on artist support – an Artist Support position located in Darwin (male) and an Indigenous Music Development Officer located in Alice Springs (female). Other positions across MusicNT also provide varying amounts of artist support and it is concerning if these services are either not known by industry or seen as inaccessible for women. It was recommended that MusicNT’s artist support position and services be promoted more widely or regularly and that MusicNT needs a major shift and active promotions so people can see the changes.

Another stated that there’s a need for a more permanent MusicNT physical presence in Tennant Creek. This is currently outside our capacity. We will however continue to explore opportunities to work more within smaller regions, particularly through regional partnerships.

Micha Jackson| Photograph by Steve Kelk for Foldback Media
Micha Jackson| Photograph by Steve Kelk for Foldback Media

Mums in Music

Although there were no direct questions in any of the consultation platforms about parenting, many women stated that their biggest issue in maintaining their creativity and musical development was actually being a Mother.

The biggest issue for me as a working mum is finding time/ space to be creative while maintaining my parenting responsibilities.

As a full time working mum it is simply so hard to be able to contribute creatively. I find myself completely exhausted from my responsibilities and it feels like I have to push myself so hard to be able to keep my creative dreams alive. At this stage in my life being creative comes at a cost to my energy levels and my family, but it is also the thing that keeps me going, and helps me rise above the monotony of working life and keeping a family afloat.

In a small remote and regional town, very few people can make a living out of being a musician. Most of us have to work, and then find moments where we can to still fulfil our creative dreams. Most of us never get paid, and often have to self fund our work. Grant writing takes hours and it's hard to find the energy and time, to get the quotes and letters of support, after working a full day and then getting kids organised and into bed.

There were numerous comments around how difficult it is to get back into gigging and so on after having children and the additional costs involved in maintaining a musical career if you are a mum, especially as a sole parent. A telling example of this was an older creative who said that music education through school was invaluable and helped her develop skills. She went on to be a performer in her own right, had children and stopped. She now supports her own children with their music and arts careers. This is a common story.

You have to be organised at home before you even get to go out – even if you have a gig you have to sort your family and kids and everything else.

It was also noted that living in remote locations can make childcare difficult to find, especially when children are no longer eligible for daycare, there are no Outside School Hours Care programs running and private childcare or babysitting services are expensive and hard to find. This often impacts on nonIndigenous female musicians who have moved to the NT and do not have extended family networks able to assist, and on Indigenous females in there generally being higher expectations that they provide primary care, having bigger family groups but fewer individuals who are in a position to actively support mums in music and having less overall resources to go round.

Even where male partners are fully supportive, the reality is often that they earn the bulk of the family income and the bills need to be paid so their work is automatically prioritised within the family unit. As observed by one participant, there are lots of events and workshops which are promoted at the last minute across the music scene. Given families often need time to coordinate everyone’s activities, this can prevent Mums or primary caregivers from participating.


AIM 2.1

Increased opportunities for women to perform, including more women’s music events (see also Aims 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 3.1, 4.1, 4.2, 5.1, 5.2)


2.1.1 Ensure input from women in music is included in the ongoing roll out of the Live Music Strategy across the NT

2.1.2 Continue consulting with women in music from key urban areas around establishing informal practice groups or other ways to support more women to perform

2.1.3 Advocate with TourismNT and local councils for tourism or comparable stimulus to include live music events, equipment or tuition

2.1.4 Advocate for continued and increased diversity in locations and times of live music events including activating different community spaces and providing more all ages and family friendly events and gigs


22. MusicNT to ensure strategies which support women’s participation in the live music scene are factored into the roll out of the Live Music Strategy and other related measures – e.g., activating community spaces, increasing diversity in time and location of gigs including all ages/family friendly live gigs

23. Ongoing consultation around the best ways to support women in different geographical locations engaging with music

24. Advocate with Tourism, Local Government and other relevant bodies for stimulus vouchers to include live music events, tuition and equipment or instrument purchases

AIM 2.2

Inclusive jams and open mic style events (see also Aims 2.6, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 4.1)


2.2.1 Develop and promote inclusive guidelines for running open mic and jam sessions which encourage diversity

2.2.2 Hold discussion panels or workshops around making NT music scenes more inclusive for all marginalised groups (see also 4.2, 4.7, 4.8, 4.9)


25. MusicNT to consult, develop and promote the uptake of guidelines or protocols which encourage gender equity and diversity when running or participating in jams and open mic style events

26. MusicNT to host a discussion panel and/or workshop style event at least annually canvassing the benefits of a gender diverse industry and strategies for promoting

AIM 2.3

Safer venues (see also Aim 3.3)


2.3.1 Ensure relevant findings from this consultation are integrated within MusicNTs Safe Venues project

2.3.2 Continue consulting and developing safety guidelines for NT musicians, venues and audiences


27. MusicNT to ensure relevant findings from this consultation are integrated within the Safe Venues Project

28. Develop and promote guidelines and provide customised training for venue operators and staff as part of MusicNTs Safe Venues Project

29. Broader industry takes up messaging around safe venues and ways of constructively addressing sexist attitudes and behaviours

30. Venue owners and managers implement guidelines and take up opportunities for staff training

AIM 2.4

Support for women in navigating the music scene and industry (see also Aims 2.1, 3.1, 4.1, 4.2, 5.2)


2.4.1 Hold regular “introduction to the music scene” online panel discussions or workshops for women and older girls including who is who across industry, negotiating with venues, self promotion, being ready to record, etc

2.4.2 Promote and support location specific strategies to enable women to navigate through the music industry (e.g., organise a practice group, go to “open mics” with a support group, organise own events)

2.4.3 Regularly promote who to go to for artist support and the role and scope of relevant positions within MusicNT in providing this


31. MusicNT to continue providing regular “introduction to the music scene” workshops and/or online panel discussions and to ensure these are promoted to female identifying artists

32. Promote location specific effective strategies which support female identifying artists to navigate through the music industry

33. MusicNT to increase promotion of its artist support services and personnel

AIM 2.5

More support for Mums in music (see also Aims 2.1, 2.6, 5.2)


2.5.1 Advocate with funding bodies for additional resources for women’s applications to cover extra costs such as childcare, cots, prams, etc

2.5.2 Advocate for support from festivals for childcare and other additional amenities for touring mothers

2.5.3 Encourage more family friendly and other events at times and in locations which suit musicians who are mothers


34. Lobby key funding and sponsorship organisations to acknowledge and factor in additional costs for Mums in music

35. See also initiatives around diversifying locations and times of live music gigs and providing more all ages events

AIM 2.6

Funding criteria reflects additional expenses for women (see also Aims 2.1, 2.2, 2.5, 3.1, 4.2, 5.2)


2.6.1 Advocacy for additional funding for touring mothers to compensate for additional costs

2.6.2 Advocacy for all arts funding bodies to include additional expenses for women as approved budget costs. Build awareness in seeing this as increasing diversity and opportunities rather than as a deficit in people’s applications

2.6.3 Encourage more family friendly and other events at times and in locations which suit musicians who are mothers


36. Advocate for funding bodies and event organisers to factor in additional expenses for women (especially nursing mums) and for these to be viewed as increasing diversity rather than deficits in applications by individuals