Wednesday, July 12, 2017

See also – indefinite articles in a definite world

I was losing track of the articles I have published to my 'indefinite article' blog over the last few years. For easy access, this is a summary of all 133 articles, broken down into categories. They range from the national cultural landscape to popular culture, from artists and arts organisations to cultural institutions, cultural policy and arts funding, creative industries, First Nations culture, cultural diversity, cities and regions, Australia society, government, canberra and international issues – the whole range of contemporary Australian arts and culture.

1. Cultural landscape
2. Artists and arts organisations
3. Cultural institutions
4. Cultural policy
5. Arts funding
6. Creative industries
7. First Nations culture
8. Cultural diversity
9. Australian society
10. Cities and regions
12. Government
13. International
14. Canberra
15. Popular culture
16. About my blogs

1. CULTURAL LANDSCAPE
Taking part – Arts involvement in a divided Australia
‘The arts and culture sector has long suffered from a shortage of high quality, useable research and statistics. This makes what is available doubly important as we argue the case for the central relevance of arts and culture and the broader social and economic impact of involvement. New research demonstrates the positive scale of involvement, views on importance and trends in participation in Australia’s arts and cultural life, especially hands on involvement. It also shows a worrying decline in engagement and recognition in recent years and points to the need for a more strategic view by government’, Taking part – Arts involvement in a divided Australia.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Taking part – Arts involvement in a divided Australia

The arts and culture sector has long suffered from a shortage of high quality, useable research and statistics. This makes what is available doubly important as we argue the case for the central relevance of arts and culture and the broader social and economic impact of involvement. New research demonstrates the positive scale of involvement, views on importance and trends in participation in Australia’s arts and cultural life, especially hands on involvement. It also shows a worrying decline in engagement and recognition in recent years and points to the need for a more strategic view by government.

The arts and culture sector has long suffered from a shortage of high quality, useable research and statistics. This makes what is available doubly important as we argue the case for the central relevance of arts and culture and the broader social and economic impact of involvement.

Wynscreen, curated by Alessio Cavallaro, a new public art space in the walkway to Wynyard station, central Sydney.

It was a gap which became obvious as ‘Creative Australia’, the Labor Government’s National Cultural Policy, was being developed, when the case for arts and culture funding needed to be powerful and compelling. The analytical power that has been applied in the area of Indigenous affairs – and which had been utilised to some degree in the Indigenous cultural programs – was needed for arts and culture as well.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

History all around us – the long term practical impact of cultural research

Cultural research has long term impacts in terms of our developing body of knowledge which stretch far into the future. Researchers are finding stories in our major cultural collections that were never envisaged by those originally assembling them – a process that will continue long into the future. The collections of our major cultural institutions are becoming increasingly accessible to the very people the collections are drawn from and reflect. In the process they are generating greater understanding about some of the major contemporary issues we face.

Recently I posted a notice about a forthcoming talk at the National Library of Australia by Paul Diamond, Curator, Māori, at the National Library of New Zealand. Paul has has been researching Australian, New Zealand and Pacific records in the collections of the National Library of Australia.

Curator Paul Diamond begins his talk in Te Reo Māori.

The talk turned out to be fascinating because there were so many overlapping topics and perspectives. The talk was being recorded, so hopefully the Library will make it available online for those who were unable to attend. While the talk was highly relevant to New Zealand and its history, it also alluded to some of the big contemporary issues affecting Australia.

Cross-Tasman collaboration
For a start a collaboration between the national libraries of two countries so interlinked was always going to be of interest. With the recent sister city relationship between the two capitals, Wellington and Canberra, already long-established partnerships are becoming much stronger.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Year Zero without a roadmap – arts funding chaos set to be repeated as Government sells regions short

The years of chaos produced by ad hoc changes to national arts funding, with no strategy or overall vision, seem set to be repeated. The Government's ham-fisted attempt to turn back the clock on the national capital by transferring Government departments to regional centres seems like our own (thankfully, milder) version of Year Zero. Though a response to a genuine problem, it is unlikely to produce any real benefits and could inflict major damage on one of Australia’s greatest national assets. It seems strange when, in many areas, particularly arts and culture, the Government has for years been steadily transferring roles back to Canberra.

In another desperate attempt to scrabble together enough votes to save its panicked ranks, the Government is plucking plans out of the air again. This time Australian Government departments are to be reviewed to identify which ones might be suitable for relocation to regional areas.

Main street, Ararat, Victoria. Regional development needs a more serious approach than pork-barrelling - understanding the crucial role arts, culture and creative industries can play in boosting regional economies and communities is a good start.

This is not just about Canberra because as John Wanna, Professor of Political Science at the Australian National University, has pointed out, approximately 70% of the Australian Public Service is based outside of Canberra. Of course, despite this, it has become a discussion about Canberra.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

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, is 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.

Without a grasp of the importance of Australia’s cultural diversity to its future – culturally, socially and economically – we will find it impossible to navigate the treacherous and confusing times in which we are living. Due to failures of leadership and lack of vision we have drifted into a world in which diversity is increasingly under attack and borders are closing.

Innovation is applied creativity – and it’s more than a catchphrase
In this landscape it cannot be stressed too many times that cultural diversity is inextricably linked to pressing issues such as innovation – which is, after all, just applied creativity – because where cultures intersect, new ideas flourish. It fosters new approaches and helps breed the innovation needed for the modern knowledge economy and our creative industries.

Where cultures intersect, new ideas and approaches flourish.

However, for this to be reflected in strategic policy and the day to day decisions that flow from it, it is critical that decision-making bodies that affect our future understand it and its implications. This includes an array of organisations across Australian society at all levels – small and large businesses and their industry bodies, community organisations and local, state and territory and national governments. This includes the political parties, major and minor, that are increasingly negotiating the compromises that shape our world and determine our future.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

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 is what I call a quadruple whammy, caused by lack of indexation, the cumulative effect of ‘efficiency dividends’, the trend towards project funding rather than operational funding and falling behind as the population and economy expands.

The real danger for the future of arts and culture in Australia is not so much big cuts to funding by government. Though they are always possible, expenditure on arts and culture is so small relative to the rest of government spending, that there aren’t really the savings to make it worth while,

Drawing on the strengths of the communities underpinning Australia's cultural diversity can help provide partnerships and support and build a truly broad and representative contemporary culture.

Much more likely and more dangerous is that the arts will stagnate and decline by being ignored or sidelined, with support steadily eroded. That’s where the ‘efficiency dividend’ is so dangerous.

Four long-running factors add up over time
The decline of Government arts and culture support – and hence a negative impact on Australia’s arts and culture – can be attributed to four long-running factors, what I have called a quadruple whammy. Get to know them well because they will be closing or limiting an existing service or preventing the startup of a new service near you at some stage in the immediate future. The process is already well underway.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Industries of the future help tell stories of the past – Weta at work in the shaky isles

After three weeks travelling round the North Island of New Zealand, I’ve had more time to reflect on the importance of the clean and clever industries of the future and the skilled knowledge workers who make them. In the capital, Wellington, instead of the traditional industries that once often dominated a town, like the railways or meatworks or the car plant or, in Tasmania, the Hydro Electricity Commission, there was Weta. It’s clear that the industries of the future can thrive in unexpected locations. Expertise, specialist skills and industry pockets can occur just about anywhere, as long as you have connectivity, talent and a framework of support that makes it possible. These skills which Weta depends on for its livelihood are also being used to tell important stories from the past.

I’ve just returned from a thoroughly enjoyable three week visit to the North Island of New Zealand. Despite landing only two days after a major 7.8 magnitude earthquake that produced long-lasting damage and thousands of aftershocks for several weeks afterwards, it was a country I felt very much at home in.