Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Labor election victory means renewed approach for Australian arts and culture support

Almost a decade of Coalition Government has ended, with a complex and ground-breaking result. During that long period the substantial and detailed work to develop a national cultural policy under the Rudd and then Gillard Labor Governments was sidelined. A strategic, comprehensive, long-term approach to support by national Government for Australian culture and creativity in its broadest sense was largely absent. Now we are likely to see a return – finally – to some of the central principles that underpinned ‘Creative Australia’, the blueprint that represented the Labor Government response to Australia’s creative sector.

Having been Director of the National Cultural Policy Task Force that coordinated the development of 'Creative Australia' under Crean and Gillard, I feel a great sense of deja vu this week - albeit looking back over almost ten years and a global pandemic. I can never say again that we don't live in interesting times – with all the consequences of that.

 A ground-shaking election means that there may be some important changes on the way for support for Australia’s arts and culture. I must admit that I had largely stopped commenting because at some point, you realise there is no more to be said about the same old, same old after almost a decade. Now we are likely to see a return to a revised blueprint that represented the Labor response to Australia’s creative sector ten years ago. Before the election, Shadow Arts Minister, Tony Burke, outlined what an incoming Labor Government would do for Australian arts and culture.

Election poster from New Zealand 2016

His most important comment was that ‘the first step is a comprehensive cultural policy.’ He went on to note that ‘a cultural policy isn’t simply an arts policy. Cultural policies have only been developed in Australia by Labor Governments. Paul Keating and his Arts Minister Michael Lee developed Creative Nation. Julia Gillard and her Arts Minister Simon Crean developed Creative Australia.’

‘Anyone who understands the sector knows arts isn’t simply about entertainment, leisure and hobbies. At its best it affects our education policy, our health policy, our trade, our relations around the world, our industrial relations approach and is a driver of economic growth.’

Elaborating he pointed out that ‘in each case it was a whole of government exercise. Because anyone who understands the sector knows arts isn’t simply about entertainment, leisure and hobbies. At its best it affects our education policy, our health policy, our trade, our relations around the world, our industrial relations approach and is a driver of economic growth.’

Slow haul recovery from global pandemic
Coming as the creative sector finally begins the slow haul of recovery from the ravages of the COVID-19 global pandemic, this renewed focus on the cross-cutting importance of Australian creativity and culture has to be a positive sign. The sticky issue will be funding for this blueprint in a time of massive deficits due to the response to the pandemic combined with widespread pork-barrelling by the outgoing Government. However, as I said at the time Creative Australia was announced, funding is a secondary matter – most important is a strong understanding of the importance of creativity and culture and a commitment to support it across all areas of Government.

‘Instead of starting with a blank page, a Labor Government would use Creative Australia, the national cultural policy developed over six years and announced in early 2013, as the starting document and immediately work with the creative sector to update it. Australia would have a cultural policy reviewed, revived and relaunched this year.’

Instead of starting with a blank page, a Labor Government would use Creative Australia, the national cultural policy developed over six years and announced in early 2013, as the starting document and immediately work with the creative sector to update it. Australia would have a cultural policy reviewed, revived and relaunched this year. According to Burke, the concepts that underpinned Creative Australia were all sound and would remain. However the policy needed to reflect the unique and extraordinary cultural strength for Australia that is First Nations culture.

National and local co-operation restored
Labor wanted to restore co-operation and dialogue between the Federal Minister and State Ministers, and include Local Government. Coming on the back of the massive, largely successful, role played by the States and Territories of whatever political brand during the pandemic – at least until recently – coupled with their role in starting to address climate change, this could be an approach which delivers a great deal.

‘Labor also wanted a return to a system where artistic merit is determined by peers, not by the personal views of the Minister of the day.’

Labor also wanted a return to a system where artistic merit is determined by peers, not by the personal views of the Minister of the day. In response to the crisis of live performance, Burke also wanted to examine and try to negotiate with the states an insurance system for the live events and festivals sector. He noted that COVID-19 and the regulations that have been brought about to manage it had created a real financial risk that couldn’t be commercially insured.

Priority for Australian content
He was also convinced that Labor needed to find a way to support Australian content, so there was more Australian content streaming on TV and Australian music in our headphones. Authors have also been hit by the changes with libraries moving to e-books. Our settings need to be urgently updated for modern technology, so Australia is not be forever confined to someone else’s stories and someone else’s soundtrack.

‘Labor needed to find a way to support Australian content, so there was more Australian content streaming on TV and Australian music in our headphones….Our settings need to be urgently updated for modern technology, so Australia is not be forever confined to someone else’s stories and someone else’s soundtrack.’

At a more symbolic level, Labor’s Minister for the Arts would have responsibility for a department with the word ‘Arts’ proudly in its title. All this would be in addition to specific commitments Labor had already announced to establish the National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs, the Frankston Arts Trail, Macleay Island Arts Centre, Fremantle Creative Hub, Campsie Cultural Hub, Nairm Marr Djambana, Southern Highlands Regional Art Gallery, and the PIP Theatre, and to do the work to plan for an expansion of Double J, and to reverse Coalition cuts to the ABC.

After almost a decade of culture wars and a glaring absence of any strategic framework to help guide Government support for Australia’s cultural life and Australian content – coupled with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic – things might just be about to get interesting. Watch this space.

See also

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. If you don’t already follow my blogs and you want to take advantage of this 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. 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’, Updates on creativity and culture an email away

‘indefinite article’ on Facebook – short arts updates and commentary
‘Short arts updates and irreverent cultural commentary 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’, 'indefinite article' on Facebook.

An everyday life worth living – indefinite articles for a clean, clever and creative future
‘My blog “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. Over the last ten years I have published 166 articles about creativity and culture on the blog. This is a list of all the articles I have published there, broken down into categories, with a brief summary of each article. They range from the national cultural landscape to popular culture, from artists and arts organisations to cultural institutions, cultural policy and arts funding, the cultural economy and creative industries, First Nations culture, cultural diversity, cities and regions, Australia society, government, Canberra and international issues – the whole range of contemporary Australian creativity and culture’, An everyday life worth living – indefinite articles for a clean, clever and creative future

Beyond a joke – surviving troubled times
‘We live in troubled times – but then can anyone ever say that they lived in times that weren’t troubled? For most of my life Australia has suffered mediocre politicians and politics – with the odd brief exceptions – and it seems our current times are no different. Australia has never really managed to realise its potential. As a nation it seems to be two different countries going in opposite directions – one into the future and the other into the past. It looks as though we’ll be mired in this latest stretch of mediocrity for some time and the only consolation will be creativity, gardening and humour’, Beyond a joke – surviving troubled times

National Cultural Policy rises from dead to boost Australian arts, culture and creativity
‘A change in national Government means that much of the daily work of Government in keeping the country running continues as before, eased along by the continuity provided by the public service. However, there can also be drastic changes of direction and fresh starts and old and tested ideas reinvigorated. One area where this will certainly be the case is with Government support for Australian arts, culture and creativity, with consultation to update the policies in Creative Australia, the previous National Cultural Policy, getting underway without delay’, National Cultural Policy rises from the dead to boost Australian arts, culture and creativity.

Why cultural diversity is central to Australia’s future promise – a refocused Labor arts policy?
‘Can Australia successfully navigate the treacherous and confusing times in which we live? Understanding the crucial importance of our cultural diversity to our cultural, social and economic future will be essential. Applying that in the policies and practices that shape our future at all levels across Australia can ensure we have a bright, productive and interesting 21st Century. An important part of this are the political parties, major and minor, that are increasingly negotiating the compromises that shape our world. The recent launch by the Labor Party of a new group, Labor for the Arts, could be an important development. Combining as it does a focus from an earlier time on both arts and multiculturalism, it could potentially open the way for some innovative and forward-thinking policy’, Understanding why cultural diversity is central to Australia’s future promise – a refocused Labor arts policy?

Why Australia still needs a cultural policy – third time lucky?
‘It’s no longer the pre-election campaign we had to have. It’s become the election campaign we can’t avoid. We are spiralling inexorably towards election day and Ministers and members have been plummeting from the heights of the Coalition Government like crew abandoning a burning Zeppelin. We may wake on 19 May to find we have a national Labor Government. With Labor pledging to implement an updated version of the short-lived ‘Creative Australia’, its national cultural policy, first promised by the Rudd Government, it’s a good time to reconsider its importance’, Why Australia still needs a cultural policy – third time lucky?

‘Arts’ policy and culture – let's not reinvent the wheel
‘Faced with the increasing prospect that it could become the next Australian Government, the Labor Party is reviewing its ‘arts’ policy. Whatever happens and whoever it happens to, considered and strategic discussion of arts and culture policy is critical to Australia's future.’ ‘Arts’ policy and culture – let's not reinvent the wheel

Broader and deeper - the creativity and culture of everyday life
‘The Impact and Enterprise post-graduate course at the University of Canberra course 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,’ Broader and deeper - the creativity and culture of everyday life.

Remaking the world we know – for better or worse
‘Given the Government cannot avoid spending enormous sums of money if it is to be in any way capable and competent, this is an unparalleled opportunity to remake Australia for the future. Usually opportunities such as this only arise in rebuilding a country and an economy after a world war. It is a perfect moment to create the sort of clean, clever and creative economy that will take us forward in the global world for the next hundred years. Unfortunately a failure of imagination and a lack of innovative ambition will probably ensure this doesn’t happen any time soon’, Remaking the world we know – for better or worse.
 
The old normal was abnormal – survival lessons for a new riskier world
‘When I hear the call to get back to normal, I think ‘what was normal about the old normal?’ The sudden shutdown of large sectors of the economy highlighted drastically how precarious was the situation of vast chunks of Australian society, in particular but not exclusively, the creative sector. The business models implemented by the Government to help businesses survive and employees keep their jobs didn’t work at all for those who had already been happily left at – or even deliberately pushed to – the margins of society and the economy. In good times the creative sector is flexible and fast at responding. In bad times it is a disaster, as the failure of the COVID-19 support packages for the sector shows’, The old normal was abnormal – survival lessons for a new riskier world.
 
The short answer #1: Mismanaging the future – the creative sector left in the lurch again
‘Another one of the many ways in which the current Australian Government doesn’t understand the creative sector has been underlined by its decision to wind back the JobSeeker allowance. In the clean and clever economy of the future both the creative sector and the higher education sector will be critical - yet both have largely been abandoned by the Government’, The short answer #1: Mismanaging the future – the creative sector left in the lurch again.
 
Now for the bad news and the good news – creative sector relief package finally announced
‘For the creative sector it’s a case of both good news and bad news in a world that has been very much about bad news. With the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shutdown of most of the creative sector, the announcement of massive reductions to Government support for humanities courses in universities, job losses at our major cultural institutions and continuing loss of ABC services, there has not been a lot to smile about’, Now for the bad news and the good news – creative sector relief package finally announced. 
 
Shutting down Australian creativity and culture – timeline of a trainwreck
‘In its response to the pandemic the current Government came a long way in terms of its narrow economic views about minimising the role of Government. However the longer history of neglect of the creative sector shows how severe the Government's economic limitations are and how its grasp of the economy (without even mentioning the social sphere) is too narrow and out of date. It has missed a whole sector of the economy that was large, fast growing and included many of the jobs of the future. It's most recent actions have merely compounded a seven year history of neglect and damage,’ Shutting down Australian creativity and culture – timeline of a trainwreck.
 
Caught in the past – economic blindness overlooks the creative sector
‘The last few months have been a wild ride. First the national bushfires and now global pandemic. In February people were being encouraged to visit fire-ravaged regional centres to help boost local economies. By March they were being urged to stay home to help reduce the spread of pestilence. I’m quietly seething at governments which knew this was coming, but just didn’t have a fixed date, and thought they could make savings by pretending it wasn’t coming. Now the Australian creative sector has largely been infected as well, but without the ventilators required to keep it alive,’ Caught in the past – economic blindness overlooks the creative sector.
 
Art at work – imagining a future Australia
‘In our strange new universe, where much of Australia burns while politicians make excuses for inaction, it’s time to take a hard look at what the arts can do. It’s an issue in the minds of many in the arts and culture sector. Part of the potential role of arts is around bushfire recovery – a much bigger part is around bushfire prevention. Artists have a role to play in designing a different future than what’s on offer and writing the story of a different future. Those social movements that are most powerful are the ones where arts and culture embodies and carries forward the essence of what they stand for. Think of the power of ceremony and ritual in the world – that is ultimately the power of art at work’, Art at work – imagining a future Australia.

Out of the ashes – art and bushfires
‘While the current bushfires raging across much of Australia are unprecedented in their scale and severity, they are a reminder of how people have responded after previous fires, rebuilding communities and lives in the affected areas. They have also focused attention on the impact of the fires on creative practices and business and on how those in the arts and culture sector can use their skills to contribute to bushfire recovery into the future’, Out of the ashes – art and bushfires.

Better than sport? The tricky business of valuing Australia’s arts and culture
‘Understanding, assessing and communicating the broad value of arts and culture is a major and ongoing task. There has been an immense amount of work already carried out. The challenge is to understand some of the pitfalls of research and the mechanisms and motivations that underpin it. Research and evaluation is invaluable for all organisations but it is particularly important for Government. The experience of researching arts and culture in Government is of much broader relevance, as the arts and culture sector navigates the tricky task of building a comprehensive understanding in each locality of the broader benefits of arts and culture. The latest Arts restructure makes this even more urgent.’, Better than sport? The tricky business of valuing Australia’s arts and culture.

Quadruple whammy – the long-running factors that together threaten our cultural future
‘The real danger for Australia’s arts and culture is not funding cuts but steady, unending neglect. The decline of Government arts and culture support can be attributed to four long-running factors. This I call a quadruple whammy, from lack of indexation, the cumulative effect of ‘efficiency dividends’, the trend towards project funding rather than operational funding an falling behind as the population and economy expands’, Quadruple whammy – the long-running factors that together threaten our cultural future.

Creating the future for Australia's arts and culture
‘Australia’s arts and culture is at a critical stage. One of the issues confronting it is lack of any kind of shared sense of what the role of government is in encouraging our arts and culture. The whole set of interlinked problems with the relationship between government and Australia’s arts and culture can be reduced to a lack of strategic vision and a long-term plan for the future. This deficiency is most apparent in the lack of any guiding policy, like trying to navigate a dark and dangerous tunnel without a torch or flying at night without lights or a map’, Creating the future for Australia's arts and culture.

The big picture and long view – creating a cultural future
‘The never-ending election campaign that became the never-ending election tally has turned into the unpredictable second term government. What does this new world of fragmented politics mean for Australian arts and culture and the organisations, artists and communities which live it and advance it? There are a series of major factors which are hammering arts and culture organisations. These intersect and mutually reinforce one another to produce a cumulative and compounding long term disastrous impact. All this is happening in a context where there is no strategic policy or overview to guide Government. It is critical for the future that the arts and culture sector think broadly about arts and culture, build broad alliances and partnerships, never forget its underlying values and draw on its inherent creativity to help create a society based firmly on arts and culture’, The big picture and long view – creating a cultural future.

Lies, damned lies and lies about statistics – how population growth will magnify the impact of arts and culture cuts
‘I’ve said before that the traditional saying about ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’, should instead refer to ‘lies, damned lies and lies about statistics’. Cuts to national arts and cultural funding, while relatively small each year, have a cumulative effect far greater than at first appears and, in the long run, will undermine the effectiveness of national arts and culture support. Where the real disastrous impact of these cuts will hit home is when we also factor in the impact of population growth. If anything, there needs to be an expansion of arts and cultural funding to service the growth’, Lies, damned lies and lies about statistics – how population growth will magnify the impact of arts and culture cuts.

Arts fightback – breaking out of the goldfish bowl
‘How can the broad arts and cultural sector become a better organised, effective voice for arts and culture and its wider importance for Australia? The current dire circumstances, where we face a national arts crisis the seriousness of which can’t be understated, 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 and time to get ready for a long haul effort to win hearts and minds’, Arts fightback – breaking out of the goldfish bowl.

Changing the landscape of the future – a new focus on cultural rights
‘The arts and culture sector has spent far too many years pressing the case for why Australian culture is crucial to Australia’s future, without seeming to shift the public policy landscape to any great degree. Perhaps a proposed fresh approach focusing on cultural rights may offer some hope of a breakthrough. What makes this approach so important and so potentially productive is that it starts with broad principles, linked to fundamental issues, such as human rights, which makes it a perfect foundation for the development of sound and well-thought out policies – something that currently we sadly lack’, Changing the landscape of the future – a new focus on cultural rights.

What is art good for? Understanding the value of our arts and culture
‘With arts and cultural support increasingly under pressure, arts and cultural organisations and artists are trying to find ways in their own localities to respond and to help build a popular understanding of the broader social and economic benefits of arts and culture. Much work has been done in Australia and internationally to understand, assess and communicate the broad value of arts and culture. The challenge is to share and to apply what already exists – and to take it further’, What is art good for? Understanding the value of our arts and culture.

Arts funding – it’s not all about the money
‘National Arts Minister, Mitch Fifield, has said that being a strong advocate for the arts doesn’t mean delivering government funding and that an arts Minister or a government shouldn’t be judged just on the quantum of money the government puts in. This sidesteps the Government’s very real problems that it has muddied the waters of existing arts funding, cutting many worthwhile organisations loose with no reason, that rather than delivering arts funding, it has reduced it significantly, and that it has no coherent strategy or policy to guide its arts decisions or direction. The real issue is that a national framework, strategy or policy for arts and culture support underpins and provides a rationale for arts funding – and is far more important’, Arts funding – it’s not all about the money.

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’, Flight of the wild geese – Australia’s place in the world of global talent
 
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’, Contemporary Indigenous fashion – where community culture and economics meet.

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’, Understanding the economy of the future – innovation and its place in the knowledge economy, creative economy, creative industries and cultural economy. 
 
Music makes the world go round – the bright promise of our export future
‘After ABBA, in an unexpected break from its traditional way of building national wealth from natural resources, Sweden managed to discover a new source of income. It was not as you would expect coal or oil. Rather than oil what it had discovered was song royalties, part of a fundamental change in the nature of modern economies which transformed them from relying solely on natural resources, transport and manufacturing to make creative content a new form of resource mining. Examples like theirs point to potentially major opportunities for the Australian music industry to become a net exporter of music,’ Music makes the world go round – the bright promise of our export future.
 
Creativity at work – economic engine for our cities
‘It is becoming abundantly clear that in our contemporary world two critical things will help shape the way we make a living – and our economy overall. The first is the central role of cities in generating wealth. The second is the knowledge economy of the future and, more particularly, the creative industries that sit at its heart. In Sydney, Australia’s largest city, both of these come together in a scattering of evolving creative clusters – concentrations of creative individuals and small businesses, clumped together in geographic proximity. This development is part of a national and world-wide trend which has profound implications’, Creativity at work – economic engine for our cities.

The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival
‘Across Australia, local communities facing major economic and social challenges have become interested in the joint potential of regional arts and local creative industries to contribute to or often lead regional revival. This has paralleled the increasing importance of our major cities as economic hubs and centres of innovation’, The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival.

Saving the farm – recognising Indigenous languages 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 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’, Saving the farm – recognising Indigenous languages part of salvaging community.
 
The Magna Carta – still a work in progress
‘You don’t have to be part of ‘Indigenous affairs’ in Australia to find yourself involved. You can’t even begin to think of being part of support for Australian arts and culture without encountering and interacting with Indigenous culture and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and individuals who make it and live it.’ The Magna Carta – still a work in progress.

The hidden universe of Australia's own languages
‘I’ve travelled around much of Australia, by foot, by plane, by train and by bus, but mostly by car. As I travelled across all those kilometres and many decades, I never realised that, without ever knowing, I would be silently crossing from one country into another, while underneath the surface of the landscape flashing past, languages were changing like the colour and shape of the grasses or the trees. The parallel universe of Indigenous languages is unfortunately an unexpected world little-known to most Australians.’ The hidden universe of Australia's own languages.

Land of hope
‘There were times in our past when Australia was seen as the great hope of the world – when it offered a vision of a new democratic life free from the failures of the past and the old world. It seems we have turned from our history, from the bright vision of the nineteenth century and the great nation-building vision of the period after World War 2, with its sense of optimism and fairness, towards something much more pinched and narrow – mean and weak-willed. For such an optimistic nation we seem to have developed a ‘half empty’ rather than ‘half full’ view of the glass – and the world. If we want to live in a land to be proud of, a fair country that truly inherits the best of Australia’s traditions, while consciously abandoning the less desirable ones, we need to change course – otherwise we will have to rebadge Australia not as the land of hope but instead as the land without hope’, Land of hope.

A navigator on a Lancaster bomber
‘Sometimes I think Australia has lost its way. It’s like a ship that has sailed into the vast Pacific Ocean in search of gaudy treasure, glimpsed the beckoning coast of Asia and then lost its bearings, all its charts blown overboard in squalls and tempests. It seems to have turned from the great nation-building vision of the period after World War 2, with its sense of optimism and fairness, towards something much more pinched and narrow. It’s time to rediscover the Australian dream. We need a navigator – or perhaps many, one in every community – who can help us find our way, encourage us as we navigate from greed and complacency to a calmer shining ocean of generosity and optimism’, A navigator on a Lancaster bomber.

Valuing the intangible
‘We are surrounded by intangible cultural heritage – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – and often it’s incredibly important to us but we can’t seem to understand why or put a name to its importance. So many issues of paramount importance to Australia and its future are linked to the broad cultural agenda of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). In particular they are central to one of UNESCO’s key treaties, the International Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage,’ Valuing the intangible.

Ignoring the neighbours – why our backyard matters
'My trip to Tahiti last year reminded me of the large issues swirling around the Pacific and of how uneven the relationship between Australia and the region has been. It threw up lots of issues about how local cultures adapt to the globalised economy. Producing artwork and performances for the tourist market is problematical. Yet it's also the fate of Australian culture generally. Is it swimming against the tide for all of us?' Ignoring the neighbours - why our backyard matters.

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