The founder of the Australian LGBTI Awards has defended the awards from accusations of brazen profiteering from the ‘pink dollar’.
The awards, which are run as a for-profit organisation with big business sponsorship, asks nominees to buy $380 tickets without disclosing whether they’ve made a shotlist.
Journalists and writers contacted Crikey after receiving an email from the awards alerting them to their nomination and asking for a bio and photo to be submitted to move to the shortlist stage.
The LGBTI Awards, now in their second year in Australia, are a business based on the British LGBT Awards, with celebrities, activists, journalists and businesses among those recognised for their work in the queer community in Australia.
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“For a chance to make the shortlist — we ask you to submit a 300-500 word BIO by 29nd Aug,” the email reads, without explaining how someone has been nominated. Silke Bader, the director of the awards and of Avalon Media, which publishes LOTL magazine, says members of the public nominate candidates, and they are shortlisted based on the number of nominations received and how much their work is focused on the LGBTI community. The final winner is then decided by a public vote, except for the journalism and corporate categories, which are decided by a judging panel.
“The process is actually not complicated,” Bader said. “It is all based on public nominations. Last year when we started we started only on social media and Twitter we received 1500 nominations across our four categories.”
She acknowledges that some people feel the nominations are “spamming” journalists, but that emails are often sent in batches to large numbers of people who have been nominated.
Someone who was nominated last year and submitted a bio in order to make the shortlist was then shocked to receive a follow-up email with an invite to a $380-a-head gala event at the Sydney Opera House, which said tickets were selling fast even though the shortlist hadn’t been announced:
“We also need to let you know that tickets to this event are selling fast with only 4 tables left. The event is being held at one of the world’s most beautiful spots: The Sydney Opera House. This high end event will put the message of equality on a world stage!”
Emails sent to nominees this year make no secret of the transactional nature of the awards, which will be held at the Star Casino.
The email reads:
“The main agenda of the event is to work with our Allies in the Corporate world and the entertainment industry to have our message of equality endorsed and to reach a wider audience to achieve acceptance . The media personalities attract main stream press attention which not only helps in our quest for equality but provides businesses and corporation a platform to align their brand with the message of equality.”
Bader told Crikey that while the awards give to charity, with $13,000 going to The Pinnacle Foundation last year, they are a for-profit business. Bader says she does most of the work for the awards herself, with a part-time assistant.
The awards have committed to donating to charity this year, but the recipient is yet to be confirmed.