Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Death by a thousand cuts – what is happening to the Indigenous culture programs of the Australian Government?

The Indigenous cultural programs of the Australian Government play a critical role in support for both Indigenous communities and for a diverse and dynamic Australian culture.

A network of community-based Indigenous arts centres and an array of cultural activity across Australia have been fostered by these programs, often providing the only positive balance to the destructive impact of a focus on deficit models of Indigenous capability supported by both major parties.

Dancers at the Garma Festival, East Arnhem Land. Performance and music is often one of the few activities which bring people together in a co-operative, positive and productive way to build community through culture

A portfolio of case studies drawn from decades of experience of the Indigenous cultural programs, bolstered by anecdotal evidence, shows that involvement in arts and cultural activity – by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities – often has powerful flow on social and economic effects. By building self-esteem and generating a sense of achievement; developing a stronger sense of community; increasing skills and capabilities through involvement in engaging activities relevant to modern jobs and thereby increasing employability; and by helping to generate income streams however small, cultural activity can have profound long-term effects.

In an article at the time of the Budget I flagged that things didn’t seem to add up with arts funding in the Budget, including support for Indigenous culture.

As we head to the announcement of the feared Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook where more budget cuts are usually on the cards, it’s timely to review the current state of Indigenous culture funding provided by the programs managed by the Ministry for the Arts in the Attorney-General’s Department.