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Creative Australia : National Cultural Policy 2013


On 13 March 2013, the former Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean, launched the National Cultural PolicyCreative Australia— the successor to Creative Nation delivered by Paul Keating in 1994. As the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, stated, the policy is ‘a fresh expression of the values and priorities that will sustain Australia as a richly creative society in the 21st century’. It ‘continues the spirit of engagement with the arts embraced by my predecessors Gough Whitlam and Paul Keating, and affirms the centrality of the arts to our national identity, social cohesion and economic success’. The much anticipated release of Creative Australia has been long awaited with the policy being developed since the consultation process first commenced in 2009.

Creative Australia presents ‘a vision and strategy to place arts and culture at the centre of modern Australian life’. The policy document at page 45 sets out five overarching goals, developed in close consultation with the community. ‘These goals establish the framework which will drive future action... over the next 10 years … to ensure culture is strengthened as the expression of Australian identity and individual creativity’. The philosophy and goals of the policy have already been recognised in recent legislation passed by the Parliament as mentioned below.

What are the five policy goals?
  1. Recognise, respect and celebrate the centrality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures to the uniqueness of Australian identity.  
  2. Ensure that government support reflects the diversity of Australia and that all citizens, wherever they live, whatever their background or circumstances, have a right to shape our cultural identity and its expression. 
  3. Support excellence and the special role of artists and their creative collaborators as the source of original work and ideas, including telling Australian stories.
  4. Strengthen the capacity of the cultural sector to contribute to national life, community wellbeing and the economy.
  5. Ensure Australian creativity thrives here and abroad in the digitally enabled 21st century, by supporting innovation, the development of new creative content, knowledge and creative industries.
What will happen to the Australia Council?
Currently the Australia Council is the primary arts funding and advisory body in Australia committed to supporting artists and their work by providing assistance through the awarding of grants. The Australia Council will continue to direct ‘the nation’s cultural future’. In connection with the releasing of Creative Australia, the Australia Council will undergo structural reform ‘so that it is resourced, refocussed and renewed’. The recommendations for reform resulted from the independent review of the Australia Council in 2012 by Gabrielle Trainor and Angus James. The Creative Australia document had the following to say about the independent review of the Australia Council:
‘the results of an independent review of the Australia Council by Mr Angus James and Ms Gabrielle Trainor were released in May 2012. The purpose of the review was to ensure that funding opportunities offered by the Australia Council reflect the diversity, innovation and excellence of Australia’s contemporary arts and cultural sector and that the Australia Council was well placed to support the goals of Creative Australia for the next decade.

The review found that Dr HC ‘Nugget’ Coombs’ original vision for the Australia Council was still relevant but should be updated to reflect its place in a 21st century Australia and the evolving contemporary arts sector’.
The existing Australia Council Act 1975 will be repealed by proposed new legislation to revamp and modernise the governance of the Australia Council, including the creation of a new skills-based board.

The Australia Council Bill 2013 and the Australia Council (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013 were introduced into the House of Representatives on 20 March 2013.

The new structure will reflect the intended purpose for the Australia Council in a 21st century context. The legislation will implement a new Grant Management scheme.

Show me the money!!
Through the Creative Australia policy, the Australian Government will provide $235 million to place arts and culture at the centre of modern Australian life. The reforms are backed by increased investment of $75.3 million over four years for the Australia Council. ‘The additional $75.3 million is to invest in developing artistic practice and skills and helping artists and organisations innovate and collaborate in these rapidly changing times’. Other items of expenditure are set out in the Creative Australia policy document.

As noted above, recent legislation passed before the release of the Creative Australia accords with the policy and builds upon its foundations. For example the National Portrait Gallery of Australia Act 2012 which established the Gallery as an independent Commonwealth statutory authority and the Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Act 2013 which establishes an ‘immunity from seizure scheme’ for cultural objects on loan from foreign cultural institutions.   
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