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Yes vote celebrated by arts organisations

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Richard Watts

Arts leaders are calling upon the government to act in the wake of the Yes vote triumphing, while also acknowledging the divisive nature of the debate.
Yes vote celebrated by arts organisations

Image via Shutterstock

After months of divisive and often painful public debate, today the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced that 61.6% of respondents to the national postal survey on the issue have voted yes to marriage equality.

A yes vote was also recorded in every Australian state and territory.

Arts leaders are now calling on Federal Parliament to legislate for marriage equality.

Evelyn Richardson, Chief Executive of Live Performance Australia (LPA), the peak body for the live entertainment and performing arts industry, said Australians have sent a clear message of support for marriage equality.


‘The Parliament must act and pass legislation that reflects the will of a clear majority of Australians,’ said Richardson.

‘Australia's live performance industry embraces and celebrates diversity and strives to promote equality for all Australians, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or physical or intellectual disabilities.

‘Many members of our industry are currently being discriminated against by the Marriage Act which denies them the same rights as heterosexual couples,’ she continued.

‘We now look to the Federal Parliament to put Australians’ support for marriage equality into law and remove this discrimination against many of those who work in our industry.

‘We celebrate the talents and achievements of Australia’s live performance industry – it’s now time to also celebrate the loving relationships of all who work in our industry,’ Richardson concluded.

Other organisations responded on social media.

Another, thoughtful statement was released by the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA).

In a joint statement, NAVA’s Chair, James Emmett, and Executive Director Esther Anatolitis, acknowledged the divisive nature of the marriage equality campaign.

‘For many, the last two months has been a difficult time. We hope that most of our members’ immediate and wider communities have been as supportive and constructive as those we have been lucky enough to experience ourselves, both personally and in NAVA. The outpouring of love and support has been one of the most touching features of this debate, but it would be naïve to ignore the fact that some people on both sides of the debate have suffered, and perhaps suffered privately. We should frankly acknowledge that there are wounds to heal and that this will require care and mutual respect,’ their statement read.
‘For other people, this period has not been difficult so much as frustrating. Marriage is an important institution to a great many Australians, but many people both within the LGBTI+ community and outside it would remind us that there are many other important issues. The fact that this question has been answered in this way does nothing to diminish the importance of those other goals. Diversity of opinions, diversity of lifestyles and diversity of models for love should all be celebrated. We trust NAVA will continue to celebrate the marvellous diversity of its members.’

The pair also noted that the survey results are not legally binding, and stressed the valuable role artists play in fostering and leading public debate in Australia.
‘Art asks questions, and demands that we do the same. In responding to and leading the current debate, artists challenge us to rethink and re-articulate our values. Being part of Australia’s contemporary arts community is something we should never take for granted: it stimulates our curiosity, fosters our compassion and nurtures our resilience. Ours is a strong, diverse and growing community that inspires people across the nation and across the world,’ Emmett and Anatolitis said.
‘The Australian culture is ours to create. Let’s build it with passion, care, and confidence in one another.’ 

For details on the outcomes of the Marriage Equality Survey visit

About the author

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's Performing Arts Editor and Team Leader, Editorial; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R.

The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, Richard currently serves on the board of literary journal Going Down Swinging and on the Committee of Management for La Mama Theatre. He is a former member of the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel, a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and in 2017 was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend.

Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardthewatts