Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Theatre Network Australia - A National Cultural Plan



 Theatre Network Australia provides information and suggestions with the next Federal Election in mind, to be held before the end of May, 2022.

Posted by Frank McKone

December 14, 2021


The plan to make a plan

Australia does not have a national policy or plan for arts and culture. We have had two policies in the past, both by Labor; Creative Nation in 1994 under Paul Keating, and Creative Australia in 2013 under Julia Gillard. Both were short lived.

According to arts and culture think tank, A New Approach (ANA), having a national arts and culture plan would:

  • Use our rich culture in the recovery from COVID-19, the economic downturn, and recent natural disasters

  • Ensure Australia’s unique stories are heard nation-wide as well as internationally

  • Build confidence in our creative and cultural industries, allowing for growth and necessary change

  • Help ensure every single person in this country has the opportunity for happiness, togetherness and the connectedness offered by cultural participation and contribution

In August 2020 the Federal Government launched a Parliamentary Inquiry into Cultural and Creative Industries and Institutions. In this inquiry the Committee considered the following points in regards to creative and cultural industries, which were provided by Minister Paul Fletcher:

  1. How to recognise, measure and grow economic benefits and employment opportunities

  2. How to recognise, measure and grow non-economic benefits that enhance community, social wellbeing and promoting Australia's national identity

  3. Cooperation and delivery of policy between layers of government

  4. The impact of COVID-19

  5. Increasing access and opportunities through innovation and the digital environment

The Inquiry collected 352 submissions, conducted a survey, and held a number of hearings, which informed the Committee to write a report and a set of recommendations.

A 205-page report titled Sculpting a National Cultural Plan; Igniting a post-COVID economy for the arts was published in October 2021, and is broken into six sections. They cover the composition of the cultural sector, approaches to evaluating it, the impact of COVID-19 on artists and organisations, and the problem of arts education in schools.

The report makes 22 recommendations, which can be divided into three categories: restorations, bespoke suggestions, and calls for further action. Importantly, the first recommendation is:

"The Committee recommends that, noting the significant short and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 public health emergency on the arts sector, the Commonwealth Government develop a national cultural plan to assess the medium and long term needs of the sector."

Essentially this report is a plan to make a plan.

Importantly, unlike the previous two Labor policies which were lost in changes of government, this report essentially has bipartisan support, with the Committee comprised of Liberal, National and Labor MPs. Although there are additional comments added to the report by Labor, there is no dissenting report. The creation of a national plan as suggested in the report has the potential to be supported by both major parties, and therefore be more likely to survive changes in government. For a long-term strategy, this is vital.

It is worth noting that is currently unclear if Labor will be supporting the creation of such a plan, or pushing ahead with their own policy if elected. You can read Federal Shadow Minister for the Arts Tony Burke’s address to the Arts Industry Council of South Australia where he speaks about the principles that will guide Labor, and the need for a cultural policy.

So, what now?

The Committee recommended that the relevant Commonwealth minister(s) report on the progress of the Committee’s recommendations by December 2022. The Government is under no obligation to implement any of the recommendations from the report, although keep in mind that they are the ones that instigated the inquiry.

In their submission to the Inquiry, ANA said: “Following the Inquiries’ report, ANA recommends the Federal Government establish an independent process to draft a NACC Plan, drawing on both evidence presented to the Inquiry and the formidable body of current data and research that is publicly available.”

The work from here is to advocate for the Government and the Opposition to commit to the development and resourcing of a national plan in their election campaigns, as we head to an election before May 2022. Within this should be a call support the Australia Council for the Arts as a key driver for the development and implementation of the plan.

Following are three more sections for those who wish to advocate for a National Plan:

Some ideas on how to do that

Play your part

What is our vision?