The Arts Access Awards are an annual opportunity to acknowledge the people and organisations leading the way in making arts and culture more accessible and inclusive. Many friends, family members, trustees, supporters and funders can all bask in their reflection and celebrate along with this year’s recipients.

Victoria Manning, co-MC of the Arts Access Awards 2016This year, Arts Access Aotearoa initiated an Arts Access Media Award. As my co-MC Victoria Manning of Deaf Aotearoa said in her introduction to the award presentation, “Disabled people are often underrepresented in the media and then when we are represented, it’s in the negative – how we are ‘suffering’ or somehow ‘victims’.”

It’s important to have professional journalists who don’t fall back on old and unhelpful clichés when reporting on stories about disabled or Deaf people – or, more widely, about minorities or excluded communities.

It’s an exciting milestone to have presented the first-ever Arts Access Media Award to a journalist who has provided excellent profile of community and multicultural arts events, projects and artists without using negative labels or stereotyping.

Dionne Christian, presented the Arts Access Media Award by Hon Maggie BarryThe crowd roared its appreciation at the Arts Access Awards when it was time for Dionne Christian, Arts and Books Editor at The New Zealand Herald, to receive her award from the Minister for Arts Hon Maggie Barry. Here’s just one example of Dionne’s reporting about the arts programmes at Northland Region Corrections Facility. Read the story, Award recognises Herald arts reporter.

We’ll be offering the Arts Access Media Award in 2017 so I hope Dionne’s recognition will encourage other journalists in New Zealand to think beyond a narrow definition of the arts and explore its rich, diverse landscape.

Recognition of Circability Central

Creative spaces were well-profiled this year, firstly in the recognition of Circability Central from Auckland. Their inclusive and innovative outreach programmes, led by Frances Kelliher and Thomas Hinz, are outstanding and they consistently break barriers around who can participate and achieve. Read the story, Circability Central a "big happy family".

Glen McDonald, presented the Arts Access Accolade by Deputy Mayor Justin LesterFor the third year, Arts Access Aotearoa presented the Arts Access Accolade. This is not an award you can be nominated for. Instead, it comes from our organisation – staff and trustees – recognising one particular person who has greatly assisted us and inspired us on our mission to make the arts and culture in New Zealand accessible and inclusive.

It was our great pleasure and honour to make this presentation to Glen McDonald of Vincents Art Workshop. And as an extra bonus, here is some excellent coverage of this award from Dominion Post reporter Hannah McKee. 

How we profile the achievements and present the work of disabled and Deaf artists is important. Whoever in the media writes about Arts Access Aotearoa, conducts radio interviews, and posts video clips and news on social media are important partners with whom we’d like to develop a positive relationship.

A guide for the media

Making the arts more inclusive and accessible is not the job of one person or one organisation. It takes a wide network of associates and supporters. Wherever possible, it is a good idea to invite your local media to your events and include them in information about your events even when you don’t want profile. Eventually, the standards will change so that people already from excluded communities don’t feel patronised or further marginalised.

Writer Richard Fairgay, journalist Dionne Christian and Richard Benge, Executive Director, Arts Access AotearoaBe. Accessible has produced Be. The Voice: Accessibility guide for Media, which you can download here.  If you have a story that you want to get out there please email Iona McNaughton or call on 04 802 4349 for advice or help with your strategic communications. Let’s get more members of the media understanding how stories can read, look and sound.

I hope you enjoy reading about the recipients for this year’s Arts Access Awards. Please send them your congratulations and if there is a way you can support them or aid their efforts, either let them know or contact Arts Access Aotearoa.

If you have any questions or feedback on this column, or if you would like to let me know about your art, organisation, group or project please email me on



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