Joint statement


The annual Melbourne Prize, and this year’s panellists and artists, collectively acknowledge and pay respects to the Boonwurrung/Bunurong and Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, their Elders, past, present and emerging, on whose unceded lands we are honoured to advocate for the role of art within public life.

The Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture continues to be led by artists. This year’s finalists have addressed the critical role public art plays in the ethical domain that underpins evolving notions of place and justice. Since awarding the inaugural Prize in 2005 to OSW’s propositional artwork, groundings, the Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture continues its record as a progressive institution contributing to the redefinition of public sculpture in the civic domain. The 2020 Melbourne Prize acknowledges that the ground on which we make and produce art has been continuously nurtured by over two thousand generations of First Nations people, integrating life and art, creating song and performing dance.

Reflecting a year like no other, the judging panel has welcomed the initiative of the 2020 finalists of the Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture who have acknowledged the absence of First Nations voices and culturally diverse representation in the 2020 Prize. In seeking to address this situation, and the critical role of equity, diversity and inclusion of the annual Melbourne Prize, they note: “As artists we are accountable to our ethical positions, to the expectations of our communities and furthering the critical contexts that have nurtured our practices and disciplines over many years.”

The annual Melbourne Prize recognises the absence of self-identified First Nations applicants to the 2020 Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture. In response, and through discussion with the shortlisted artists, panellists, and community members, the Melbourne Prize has committed to a series of proactive measures to ensure greater diversity, access and inclusion across the Prize, its awards juries and the recruitment of applications in future. These initiatives include:

/ The appointment of Kutcha Edwards, proud MuttiMutti singer and songwriter, in the role of Cultural Advisor to advise the Melbourne Prize in relation to First Nations inclusion and representation.

/ With Kutcha Edwards, establishment of a Melbourne Prize Advisory Group to guide the Prize going forward in relation to equity, diversity and inclusion for all future planning and operations.

/ Empowering this Advisory Group to establish an action plan that is implemented by the Melbourne Prize to ensure a greater diversity of applicants to future prizes.

/The implementation of greater diversity on the awards judging panels through the appointment of First Nations and other culturally and linguistically diverse members.

The annual Melbourne Prize and panellists endorse the artists’ proposal in 2020 – as a gesture of solidarity in an economically and culturally challenging year – to share the $60,000 prize across all six finalists, and their initiative to collectively pay an equal share of the total prize pool to a First Nation community organisation.

We recognise the artists’ initiative as a productive critical engagement with the ethical conditions of working in the public realm on unceded Aboriginal lands and the importance of action towards justice and equity through the arts.

Artist finalists: Beth Arnold, Mikala Dwyer, Emily Floyd, Nicholas Mangan, Kathy Temin and Field Theory (Sarah Rodigari, Anna Schoo, Jason Maling, Martyn Coutts, Lara Thoms and Jackson Castiglione).
Isadora Vaughan – winner Professional Development Award 2020 and Laura Woodward – winner Rural & Regional Development Award 2020.
Panellists: Max Delany, Professor Marie Sierra, Dr. Simone Slee and Pip Wallis.
Melbourne Prize Trust: Simon Warrender, Founder & Executive Director.