Current Issue #488

Fixing the gender play gap: Girls Rock! comes to Adelaide

Girls Rock! Adelaide team
Morgan Sette

Girls rock, and a new Adelaide branch of the international Girls Rock! movement wants to help them realise it.

“There’s some incredible forward movement happening [in the industry] and it’s our job to keep that forward momentum going,” Girls Rock! Adelaide co-director Sianne van Abkoude says. “We’re experiencing some really positive change and now is the time to ensure that it’s extended to those less privileged than us.”

Girls Rock! Adelaide is part of an international network of camps that serve to empower girls, trans and non-binary young people through music and community-building. Globally, the Girls Rock! Camp Alliance works as a vehicle for positive change, which the newly-founded Adelaide branch hopes to drive at a local level.

Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich of Camp Cope offers advice at a Girls Rock! Melbourne camp

Scheduled for the July school holidays, the inaugural week-long program allows campers aged 10-17 to learn an instrument of their choice (guitar, drums, bass, synth or vocals) and hone their skills alongside new bandmates. Over the week, they write a song together to be performed at a showcase on the final day. When campers aren’t rocking out, they participate in workshops covering punk-rock aerobics and self-defence to history, zine-making, songwriting and discussion. It’s a program that honours the hard work of the music scene’s trailblazers while working to shape a new generation.

Sianne says the program aims to instill the idea in young girls, trans and non-binary young people that they can make music and form a band, and that there is space for them within the music community to be able to do so.

“The hope is that each of these kids who want to start a band will, and will keep making music together, whatever that may look like. In turn that leads to a stronger community and much more interesting music industry. It gives a platform to voices that we probably haven’t heard enough of in the past,” she said.

Campers perform at a recent Girls Rock! Melbourne event

A recent report on the gender gap in Australian music undertaken by triple j found that while improvements have been made in women’s earnings and representation, there is still a long way to go. Women and non-binary musicians remain underpaid and under represented on airwaves and on stages across the country, with music made by men being twice as likely to receive radio airplay. Significantly, APRA AMCOS reported that just 19 per cent of Australian songwriting royalties in 2018 went to women – a substantial pay gap. Such data highlights ongoing concerns about how women and gender diverse people are represented within the Australian music community, and raises questions of the barriers to participation.

The Girls Rock! program seeks to combat this at a grassroots level, by offering both positive representation and mentorship from those currently working in various capacities in the industry. “There are no losses by highlighting the talented women, trans and non-binary people working in the music industry,” said Sianne

Befitting the movement’s DIY roots, the overarching message of Girls Rock! is that anyone can make music, and that there is space for everyone to have a creative outlet, to try and to make noise. Part of the strength of Girls Rock! is its grounding in punk and rock music; the simplicity of putting together noise and chords and thrashing about can be an empowering, cathartic outlet at a crucial point in young peoples’ lives. It also encourages the idea that there is no one way to be a ‘successful musician’ in a formalised industry setting, and that campers can just mess around and have fun. Girls Rock! is about providing a supportive space for young people to explore just that.

The team behind Girls Rock! Adelaide
Morgan Sette
The team behind Girls Rock! Adelaide

“If we create an encouraging community of people who value art, effort and trying – that’s a beautiful version of success that everyone can access,” she said.

Community and camaraderie are at the very heart of Girls Rock!, with the program showing young women, trans and non-binary people that they don’t necessarily have to be in competition with each other. Girls Rock! is about providing a network of support, and the understanding that there is always space for them to make music.

Girls Rock! Adelaide will host a major fundraising show at Lion Arts Factory on Saturday, March 30, featuring local bands Heaps Good Friends, Dead Roo, Teenage Joans, Hey Harriett and Contract Love. Proceeds from the all-ages gig will help fund the first Girls Rock! Adelaide program in July.

Freya Langley

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