Friday, December 17, 2021

Saving the farm – recognising Indigenous languages is part of salvaging community

The end of the year – after a bumper 24 months of disasters – is a time of closure. Many things have changed and many more will change – hopefully mainly for the better. In particular people who have made major contributions to Australia's creativity and culture are moving on from their roles to take up new interests or interests they have been too busy to pursue. This is particularly the case in the arena of First Nations languages, where the recognition amongst Australians generally of the importance of languages and culture is part and parcel of salvaging community – for everyone.

As the end of the year approaches rapidly, after two solid years of bushfires followed by pandemic, many other things are also drawing to a close. A few weeks ago I found myself sitting in my car outside my local surgery, waiting for a routine medical appointment while trying to take part in a Zoom session on my tiny tablet. The reason for the Zoom event was to farewell Faith Baisden after decades as the face of First Languages Australia, the national body advocating for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in Australia. 
A panel of community languages talent at 'Jarrak: Our languages journey', an event presented by First Languages Autralia in 2019 - Veronica Dobson, Dana Ober, Trevor Buzzacott and Eve Fesl, in conversation with Paul Paton.
Faith is leaving First Languages Australia to pursue her many other interests, particularly involving childhood education and music. Like all the other community languages folk I’ve met, she is a quiet over-achiever, building bridges and producing miracles wherever she turns. I’m sure she will keep doing it in a new area. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Flight of the wild geese – Australia’s place in the world of global talent

As the global pandemic has unfolded, I have been struck by how out of touch a large number of Australians are with Australia’s place in the world. Before the pandemic many Australians had become used to travelling overseas regularly – and spending large amounts of money while there – but we seem to think that our interaction with the global world is all about discretionary leisure travel. In contrast, increasingly many Australians were travelling – and living – overseas because their jobs required it. Whether working for multinational companies that have branches in Australia or Australian companies trying to break into global markets, Australian talent often needs to be somewhere else than here to make the most of opportunities for Australia. Not only technology, but even more importantly, talent, will be crucial to the economy of the future.

Watching the course of this global pandemic, I have been struck by how out of touch a large number of Australians are with Australia’s place in the world. While before the pandemic many Australians had become used to travelling overseas regularly – and spending large amounts of money while there – we seem to think that all our interaction with the world is about discretionary leisure travel. Australians stranded overseas during the pandemic have been abused on social media, as though they just wanted to have a holiday.

It's not only technology that fuels the new economy of the future - but talent

In contrast, increasingly many Australians were travelling – and living – overseas because their jobs required it. Whether working for multinational companies that have branches in Australia, Australian companies trying to break into global markets or companies based overseas, Australian talent often needs to be somewhere else than here. They are part of a globe-trotting aristocracy of labour, increasingly a different form of essential worker, fuelling the modern global economy and, as a result, the many national and local economies connected to it.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Updates on creativity and culture an email away

After many decades working across the Australian cultural sector, I have been regularly posting to my suite of blogs about creativity and culture, ever since I first set them up over 10 years ago. You can follow any of the blogs through email updates, which are sent from time to time. The app that I have used for this is shutting down the feature, so I have found a replacement, ‘’. If you don’t already follow my blogs and you want to take advantage of this new service, you can simply add your email address to the blog page, and then confirm that you want to receive updates when you receive the follow up email.

There are four blogs in all, covering the gamut of creativity and culture; humour; food and cooking; and creative writing. ‘indefinite article’ is irreverent writing about contemporary Australian society, popular culture, the creative economy and the digital and online world – life in the trenches and on the beaches of the information age. ‘balloon’ is thought balloons for our strange and unsettled times – brief quirky articles about the eccentricities of everyday life, almost always with a sense of short black humour. ‘handwriting’ is homegrown graffiti from the digital world – writing, rhyming and digital animations; ‘tableland’ is food and cooking from land to table – the daily routine of living in the high country, on the edge of the vast Pacific, just up from Sydney, just down from Mount Kosciuszko. The blogs are complemented by two briefer social media channels – indefinite article on Facebook, which is short arts updates and cultural commentary; and Twitter, short, sharp and shiny.

If you want to make sure you don’t miss any of my updates, simply select the blogs you are interested in and set up the update by adding your email. For ‘indefinite article’ on Facebook or for Twitter simply follow or like my feed.

© Stephen Cassidy 2021

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Contemporary Indigenous fashion – where community culture and economics meet

The recent exhibition 'Piinpi', about contemporary Indigenous fashion, has a significance for Australian culture that is yet to be fully revealed. The themes covered by the exhibition are important because they demonstrate the intersection of the culture of First Nations communities with creative industries and the cultural economy. In attempting to address the major issue of Indigenous disadvantage, for example, it is critical to recognise that one of the most important economic resources possessed by First Nations communities is their culture. Through the intellectual property that translates it into a form that can generate income in a contemporary economy, that culture is pivotal to jobs and to income. It may not be mining but it mines a far richer seam – authentic and rich content that has already been recognised internationally for its high value, just like our iron and coal. At a time when First Nations communities are talking increasingly about gaining greater control over their economic life, this is highly relevant.

After remotely reviewing ‘Piinpi’, the important exhibition about contemporary Indigenous fashion, when it first opened at Bendigo Art Gallery last year – at a time when I expected to never see the exhibition myself in the flesh (or the fabric) – I have finally seen it. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Understanding the economy of the future ­– innovation and its place in the knowledge economy, creative economy, creative industries and cultural economy

When we start to think about the economy of the future - and the clean and clever jobs that make it up - we encounter a confusing array of ideas and terms. Innovation, the knowledge economy, the creative economy, creative industries and the cultural economy are all used, often interchangeably. Over the years my own thinking about them has changed and I thought it would be useful to try to clarify how they are all related.

The clean and clever economy of the future - knowledge economy, creative economy, creative industries and cultural economy
Increasingly 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. They are mainly service industries that make up the knowledge economy, based on intellectual inquiry and research and exhibiting both innovative services or products and often also new and innovative ways of doing business. At their heart are the developing creative industries which are based on the power of creativity and are a critical part of Australia’s future, in most cases centred on small business and closely linked to the profile of Australia as a clever country, both domestically and internationally.

Where the cultural economy (and to a lesser degree, creative industries) 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 ­– they help channel those who write the stories, paint the pictures and dance the dances that tell our story. In that sense they have a strategic importance that other sectors of the knowledge economy do not. As part of Australia's culture sector and the cultural economy that derives from it, they share the critical function of managing the meaning of Australia and what being Australian means, which distinguishes this sector from other parts of the knowledge economy.

Artists, the arts and culture sector and the cultural economy
The cultural economy is underpinned by the arts and culture sector and the artists and arts and cultural organisations, mainly small, that make it up and create the content which often feeds into and inspires other sectors of the creative economy. 

The cultural sector (including the arts sector and much of the heritage sector) can't be reduced to economics, in fact the cultural economy may well be one of the less important aspects of the cultural sector and its role. However, the reality is that the cultural sector does have an associated cultural economy, which is an important part of the creative economy and overlaps with the creative industries. This interconnected economy also happens to be my main area of interest.

The work I did on creative industries, including while I was in the Research, Statistics and Technology Branch of the Department of Communications, established the parameters of my subsequent interest. Even though I went on to manage various aspects of the Indigenous cultural programs of the Commonwealth for almost six and a half years, I have always seen my primary area of interest as being creative industries (and their links to the cultural economy) and even my continuing interest in First Nations culture and languages has largely been from this perspective.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Broader and deeper - the creativity and culture of everyday life

The Impact and Enterprise post-graduate course at the University of Canberra is unique in Australia in placing creative industries and the creative and cultural economy in the broader landscape of the wider impacts of creativity and culture - both economic and social. It starts from the premise that what the broader social and economic roles of creativity and culture have in common is that a focus on the economic role of creativity and culture is similar to the focus on its community role – both spring from recognition that creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up. In March 2021, as the course entered its third year, I gave a talk to the students about where it came from.

Increasingly I realise that everything is connected – if only we are able to recognise how and benefit accordingly. The ripple effects of creativity and culture reach far further than we might expect.

At one point one of my managers in the public service commented with a note of disapproval that I seemed to have done lots of different jobs in my career. What she didn’t realise was that I had done the same job, but in lots of different places. I was surprised that she didn’t see that because one of the things I loved most about my time in the Commonwealth public service was that every couple of years – if not months – you would find yourself doing something new.

You would never hear about this, but at the height of the pandemic, one of my former Arts colleagues found herself working around the clock in a task force set up to liaise with the major supermarkets to ensure that supplies didn’t run out, as a major attack of moronavirus stripped the shelves of toilet paper.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Beyond boundaries – Dr Terry Cutler and how to connect everything

The global pandemic has so upended the world we knew that everyday matters, like relationships, birthdays, births and deaths have often slipped by unnoticed and uncelebrated. In a world of pandemic and lockdowns – and shakedowns by government – such things seem to go unnoticed. In such a way the departures – through retirement or death – of those who have made unparalleled contributions to our future have often passed before we even notice. This was certainly the case with strategic creative and cultural thinker, Dr Terry Cutler, who died during the pandemic lockdown last year, when the focus of most of the world was on other things. 

I was listening to a talk about innovation by Professor Stuart Cunningham at the University of Canberra when I was shocked to hear that Dr Terry Cutler had died last year. In a world of pandemic and lockdowns – and shakedowns by government – such things seem to go unnoticed. Terry Cutler did so many things, across so many areas, that it’s difficult to even skim across them all – strategist at Telecom Australia in the early days of the digital revolution, key figure on the board of the respected science and technology body, the CSIRO, President of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, to name just a few of his many roles.

Terry Cutler crossed boundaries with his interest in the potential of the content of cultural institutions for creative industries. One of his later roles was President of the ground-breaking Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

Too soon to tell
What I want to touch on is only a part of this, in a period when I worked with him. It is only part, but it is extremely important. I regularly come back to much of it in my blog articles about innovation, cultural institutions, content and the digital universe. It has informed ‘Impact and Enterprise’, the post-graduate Unit I developed at the University of Canberra. This focuses on the interrelationship of the broader economic and social impacts of creativity and culture, arising from the way creativity and culture is a central part of everyday life and the activities that make it up.

‘When asked what he saw as the long term effects of the French Revolution, [he replied] that it was too soon to tell.’