24 October 2019
USC graduate and PhD student Lydia Fairhall has managed to secure not just one, but two, of Australia’s most prestigious creative arts grants.
The musician and producer received a 2019 Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship, worth $160,000 over two years, as well as an esteemed Australia Council Fellowship worth $80,000.
“I applied for both thinking it would be great to get one, so to find I was successful twice over is something I’m still getting my head around,” Lydia said.
“The Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship is evaluated on talent and courage based around your body of work to date, and both of the grants are peer assessed so it’s beyond humbling to be in this position.
“It’s such a unique offering to have a wage to allow you to explore your arts practice and really commit to bigger creative endeavours.”
Lydia said she planned to use her fellowship support to finish recording and producing a music album with her band ‘The Black She Oaks’ and investigate leading edge business models for Indigenous arts companies.
“There are so many funding threats to the arts and, as a result, business models are very conservative,” she said.
“We need a full rethink of business models for Indigenous arts companies and set really high standards that allow us to become dynamic, next-economy leaders in the sector.”
Lydia completed what was then known as a Community Development degree at USC in 2008 and went on to work at a local family violence support organisation.
“My passion has always been singing and music though, so I started looking for ways I could find the sweet spot between being a strong advocate for social justice and music,” she said.
“I was lucky enough to find that working in Aboriginal communities in the far north of South Australia, using song writing to support the Elders of those communities in their goal of maintaining and regenerating language with young people.
“Since then my career has been a blend of my own creative practice, producing, running companies and community development”.
Over the past decade, Lydia has worked as the Head of Programming at Footscray Community Arts and Executive Producer/Co-CEO for First Nations theatre company Ilbijerri in Melbourne.
Lydia returned to USC’s School of Creative Industries at the start of 2018 to undertake a PhD, using song writing as a tool for the exploration of restoration narratives.
“It’s a very spiritual look at our lives and how story and song are such important anchors for connecting us to our past and also to our future,” she said.
- Megan Woodward