Queensland Music #IWD2022

Climate change, war in Europe, death of a ‘legendary’ cricket lad, the final year of a plague (we hope).

This weekend live music and festivals were back up, on wobbly legs.

It’s March 2022.

Women and girls remain in the everyday battlefield of sexual assault and abuse. Women and girls receive unwanted sexual attention in our workplaces, communities and homes.

Structural colonialism, racism and sexism — persists.

The work of many, for so many — continues.

It is International Women’s Day — again.

The Australian music industry — carries on. And on.

At the 2017 Women’s March on Washington Gloria Steinem’s speech included the line “I’ve been thinking about the uses of a long life, and one of them is you remember when things were worse.”

As IWD rolls around again, I reflect on the music industry and remember yes, things were worse.

This month we have the opportunity to participate in an Independent Review into Sexual Harm, Sexual Harassment and Systemic Discrimination in the National Music Industry.

By contributing to the review, your voice, which may have been silenced in the past, will be elevated. Your voice will help shape the findings and recommendations of the review and importantly, influence reform across the contemporary music industry.

I have committed to an interview and will make a written submission — my challenge will be condensing a three decade career. The memories will (re)trigger a multitude of traumas — yes, when it was worse and also the frustration that in many ways it still is bad. Harassment. Exclusion. Minimization.

From my standpoint it is the Queensland music industry that is my frontline of the systemic culture of sexism, racism and ableism. I know this to be true. I believe those that have had the courage, or need, to share their lived experiences of it with me.

Has it been worse? Probably.

Is it better? No.

Does it require a strategic accountability framework and funding for harm minimization and culture change? Desperately.

During the 2019 election campaign the LNP committed $2 million over 4 years to fund AIR’s “Women in Music Mentor Program” * — announced right here in our local Brisbane electorate by Trevor Evans MP. My understanding is that this funding is now being partially divested through AIR to support 2022 IWD events in Melbourne and other locations.

$2 million is a LOT of money at anytime — during a pandemic that ripped livelihoods from so many women in the music industry, it is TRUCKLOADS of money.

Additionally, the Queensland Government has spent $140,000 x 3 of public money to ‘sponsor’ the AWMAs for 3 years.

The process and impact of these funding commitments for national events and activities sits very uncomfortably with me. I am anxious to speak up. My criticism is levelled at how little impact any of this funding has made for meaningful change, accountability or reparation of harm OR lasting impact or opportunities for the women and girls of the Queensland music community.

My personal opinion is that any impact on the current generation of Queensland’s ‘women in music’ from any of this funding is negligible. Both have failed to make a dent on the ongoing problematic culture of sexism, racism, harassment and abuse that is perpetuated in Brisbane and has been reported on in the music media ‘down south’. I would welcome any evidence to the contrary on the public record — given it is public money that has funded these programs.

Where is the transparency ? Where is the advocacy or leadership from the state music peak body, Q Music, to demand equal opportunity and access to these public funds?

The Queensland Music Network (Q Music) was established in 1994** as a community driven, membership-based organisation to ‘protect, promote and develop’ Queensland’s musicians and its burgeoning industry. In the subsequent 28 years many folks have come through the Queensland music community and engaged in the full spectrum of challenges, successes and failures that the Australian music industry offers. As another IWD rolls around, I am deeply disappointed in this organisation to grasp its role in leadership and advocacy for the women and girls of the Queensland music industry. I also wonder given Q Music received Arts Queensland funding of $1.8m over four years where is the accountability to the local community for making reparations and strong governance when harm has been caused at events of which it has oversight? Where is the transparency to its membership for how change is being made within the organisation itself?

It was after IWD 2021 that the cracks in Q Music opened up in response to a number of allegations of sexual harassment and assault connected with the organisation’s activities and their lacklustre response was published here.

A Q Music “Safety Taskforce” was subsequently announced and is still to deliver any transparency or a strategic framework for change. (As of writing, I am unable to find any link to the taskforce on Q Music website.) Furthermore, in my opinion, the “Concert Care” campaign for “safe venues” at the Big Summer Block Party was simply not good enough and veered toward box-ticking.

Ahead of IWD 2022 there is no activity to bring the gender diverse, women and girls of the Queensland music industry together. It is another disappointment and missed opportunity by the organisation to engage with its community of paid and life members it exists to serve. Q Music urgently needs to demand accountability at every level of the industry and of the public money being spent to support ‘women in music’. More broadly, Q Music needs to revisit it’s role and relevance to the music community beyond producing events like the QMAs and BIGSOUND. To make any impact on systemic change Q Music’s board need to prioritise this work and ensure strong governance of a safe, supportive and independent process.

#safetyrespectequity #enoughisenough

The older I get, every IWD feels like ‘more pressure’ to get this shit done. And although things may not be worse, meaningful change in the Queensland music industry is like treacle.

Q Music need to urgently engage with their community in a deep and meaningful way — they need to ask “what could we do with $450k a year to respect your industry and make it fair, equitable, safe, inclusive and sustainable?”

The 2022 International Women’s Day theme for Tuesday 8 March is Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow. For a sustainable and equitable Queensland music industry we need to remain strong, keep working in the face of every challenge and criticism — foster our community and build a future that respects where we have come from, who we are and who is coming up behind us. To be sustainable Queensland music needs to make real change and heal the harm caused on both our community’s people and the planet.

To all the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people of colour, gender diverse folks, people with disabilities and all women and girls in Queensland music — you deserve safe, inclusive, and diverse places of work and equal opportunity to succeed. There is much to do.

*I participated in AIR’s mentor program as a ‘mentee’ which was unpaid, my mentor received a payment of $1000. Applications are open now for 2022 here.

**I was a founding committee member of Q Music and current life member and have donated funds to the organisation for “regional programs” in the past.



music, books, conversation, alchemy, feminism, justice ; in transition to a creative life > writer ; I live on unceded Turrbul country.

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Leanne de Souza

music, books, conversation, alchemy, feminism, justice ; in transition to a creative life > writer ; I live on unceded Turrbul country.