Indigenous songwriter shines at Helpmanns

Paul Kelly (R) handed the JC Williamson Award to pal Kev Carmody at the 19th Annual Helpmann Awards.
Paul Kelly (R) handed the JC Williamson Award to pal Kev Carmody at the 19th Annual Helpmann Awards.

An Indigenous singer-songwriter whose works have become ingrained in Australian culture has taken out a top prize at the 19th annual Helpmann Awards.

Kev Carmody took out this year's JC Williamson Award for his outstanding contribution to the live performance industry.

"Thank you to the Helpmann organisation for the recognition of our ancient oral tradition. I accept this award on behalf of that recognition as well as all indigenous people," Carmody said.

Australian music legend Paul Kelly presented his "old friend" with the award.

"I believe his body of work to be one of Australia's enduring cultural treasures, combining oral history, politics, poetry and prayer," Kelly said.

Belvoir and Co-Curious' Counting and Cracking won seven gongs at the ceremony, including best production of a play, best new Australian work and best direction of a play.

The multilingual play follows a family from Colombo in the 1950s, through the Sri Lankan civil war, until they arrive in western Sydney in the 21st century.

But playwright Shakthi Shakthidharan said the industry wasn't set up for shows like his and urged the nation to allow people to present their true selves.

The awards were handed out in the categories of comedy, cabaret, contemporary music, musicals, opera, classical music, theatre and ballet, dance and physical theatre.

Scottish-American singer David Byrne and Frontier Touring were given the top nod for the best international contemporary concert.

Tim Minchin took best Australian contemporary concert while The Australian Ballet's production of Aurum won best ballet.

Comedian Susie Youssef and SA State Theatre's Mitchell Butel hosted the awards, with performances from the cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the Victorian Opera, the Australian Ballet and the Bangarra dance group.

It follows a separate industry-only ceremony on Sunday that recognised the work of those behind the scenes, including creatives, designers and technicians.

Australian Associated Press