Photo: YouTube [ARIA]

One of Australia’s most high-profile music award ceremonies will feature gender neutral categories at this year’s event.

The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) will be discarding its best male and female awards to replace them with a more generalised best artist one.

The updated award will expand its number of nominees from five to 10 in light of this.

The ARIA Awards took to Twitter to announce the changes, saying: “This year, ARIA are also proud to announce the new category Best Artist which will be replacing Best Female and Best Male which reflects our commitment to embrace equality and the true diversity of the music industry in 2021.”

Annabelle Herd, ARIA’s chief executive, explained that the categories are being updated to give all artists the chance to have their work recognised in the same way.

In a statement, she said: “The time for separating artists based on gendered categories that exclude non-binary artists altogether has passed.

“The music industry is demanding a more equal, inclusive, safe and supportive space for everyone and ARIA is working hard to achieve that across the ARIA Awards and everything we do.”

The Grammy Awards became gender neutral almost a decade ago in 2012, though data from Statista suggests that only about 45% of nominees for best new artist since 2013 have been female.

However, when it comes to record and album of the year, more than nine in 10 nominees have been male.

The Brit Awards have faced increasing scrutiny for keeping gender-specific categories.

“Music for me has always been about unification, not division,” non-binary singer Sam Smith posted on Twitter earlier this year.

“I look forward to a time where awards shows can be reflective of the society we live in. Let’s celebrate everybody, regardless of gender, race, age, ability, sexuality and class.”

The ARIA Awards ceremony will be streamed live on YouTube on 24 November.