Commitment needed to grow arts culture: Garrett

By Adam Coleman

Australian arts and culture are not receiving the advocacy they deserve in the national leadership, and need a robust commitment to arts education, a creative industries agenda along with the promotion of Australian cultural diversity overseas.

That is the message of Shadow Minister for the Arts, Peter Garrett, who told some of some of the issues he feels needs to be addressed to enhance Australia’s “artistic and cultural vitality”.

“Whilst I love sport like the next AFL tragic I also both very much enjoy and recognise the single importance of a healthy creative culture for the country.”

Mr Garrett stressed the importance of “ensuring that arts education isn’t sidelined in the curriculum” and that there is closer scrutiny of the “way in which the government promotes Australian culture abroad particularly in relation to our embassies, our consulates and our participation in trade fairs”.

“I’d very much like to see a specific inclusion of cultural offices with broad arts experience in our embassies and at our consulates. We certainly believe that the scope for Australian work to find outlets overseas is huge and has not really been fully met, despite some tremendous successes from touring companies.

To highlight the success that can be achieved the Shadow Minister points to the significant representation of Australian indigenous art featured in the Musée du Quai Branly museum opened in Paris this year.

While Mr Garrett acknowledges the importance of funding, he stresses the importance of the development of a framework to increase private support for the arts.

“There has been some encouraging progress in terms of harvesting philanthropic support but if you compare Australia’s philanthropic tradition of giving to the arts to say America we still clearly have a long way to go,” he says.

“There are some significant glitches in the system whereby in particular medium sized theatre companies and dance companies are facing a crisis…being stretched to meet the funding requirements and balance their books in a way which enables them to be viable in the medium term.

“There is an argument for reviewing the funding formulas as well of providing the means for regional and suburban communities both through state and local councils to amplify their commitment to community art as well as by taking touring arts organisations through the existing programs into other regions.”

One of the most significant new agendas Mr Garrett believes needs far more focus is the creative industries agenda.
“It is clear that traditionally the measurement of the broad arts and culture industries contribution to things like employment and economic productivity have tended to be under emphasised and under measured,” he says.

“Recent work shows quite clearly that in fact the sort of contribution that the broad sweep of arts or what we call creative industries, which includes the general arts sector, digital film and video design, animation, design and architecture makes a significant contribution to over half a million jobs in Australia, by people directly involved or embedded in those activities.”

There is a genuine and constructive role the national government can play in taking up the creative industries agenda in tandem with the existing digital action challenges. The digital economy is a fast growing and dynamic economy and much of that economy has connections to creative industries.”

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