Monday, September 21, 2015

Full circle – where next for Australian national arts and culture support in the 21st Century?

With a Coalition Government which now stands a far better chance of being re-elected for a second term, the transfer of the Commonwealth’s Arts Ministry to Communications helps get arts and culture back onto larger and more contemporary agendas. This move reflects that fact that the new industries in the knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape, are both clever and clean. Where they differ completely from other knowledge economy sectors is that, because they are based on content, they draw on, intersect with and contribute to Australia’s national and local culture and are a central part of projecting Australia’s story to ourselves and to the world. In that sense they have a strategic importance that other sectors do not.

I used to joke that in my almost 15 years working in the Commonwealth Arts Ministry, without ever deliberately changing jobs, I managed to move around the national public service like a comet roaming the far reaches of space. Just as comets reappear at regular extended intervals to terrify the inhabitants on the planet below, the Arts Ministry has reappeared in the sky above the Department of Communications to re-establish Communications and the Arts after nearly eight years of absence.

Leadership challenge over breakfast with 'The Age'

I started with Arts in the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts in late 2000 and then, with the election of the Rudd Labor Government in 2007, began a series of moves to four different departments over the next six years. Arts traveled from Communications to Environment, then to Prime Minister and Cabinet, on to Regional and finally to Attorney-General's. Now, Arts has returned to where I first started.