We face a national arts crisis the seriousness of which can’t be understated. Looking forward, though, a far more important issue than arts funding is the question of how the broad arts and cultural sector can become a better organised, effective voice for arts and culture and its wider importance for Australia. Changes like this happen because they are able to happen – because decision-makers think it’s not important enough and they can get away with it. The arts and culture sector and its supporters have to be influential enough that decision-makers think carefully about the importance and the standing of Australia’s arts and culture and weigh any decisions they make carefully in terms of the strategic needs of the sector. The current dire circumstances may provide the opportunity we have needed to look seriously at this question. It’s time for the big picture and long view for Australian arts and culture.
Bigger pictures to paint – no less than a fight for the soul of Australia
While there is an important campaign underway around arts funding we shouldn’t get lost in that alone. There are far more important issues affecting the future of arts and culture in Australia that underlie the question of funding. Many issues have been thrown up about which organisations were funded in the Australia Council four year operational funding round. Without getting lost in these, the real issue is how the overall arts and culture budget, except for brief moments, has always fallen short of a serious commitment. On top of this, that limited commitment has been steadily eroded. Even more crucially, Australian arts and culture itself is being threatened, with crucial institutions and traditions and long positive histories being trashed for short term greed and gain.