Cultural diplomacy & Arts

Alison Croggon, ‘Australia Council’s strategy for cultural diplomacy risks sidelining experimental and emerging artists’ ABC Arts, 18 August

The Abbott Government has signalled a new international role for the arts by endorsing the Australia Council’s new strategy and funding system.

The Minister for the Arts, Senator George Brandis, today endorsed a five year strategy for the Australia Council for the Arts that turns the focus of Australian culture resolutely outwards, with an international network of arts managers employed to promote Australian art as part of a wider policy of cultural diplomacy. The first International Development Manager has already been appointed in Europe, and others will follow.

“This reflects a confidence that the arts is something that Australia does well,” said Senator Brandis. “In the area of artistic excellence and art practice, our cultural sector is one of the very best.”

In what must be a first for arts policy, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, was present at the Sydney Opera House announcement, reinforcing the Abbott Government’s support for cultural diplomacy as an arm of economic diplomacy. It was, said Senator Brandis, an “emphatic endorsement” of the Federal Government’s support for a “culturally ambitious nation, one of the great art nations of the world”.

The emphasis on cultural diplomacy – an initiative flagged by Alexander Downer in the last Howard Government but almost at once reversed by the incoming Rudd Government in 2007 – is the first of a four-prong strategy which aims to also promote art in regional areas, to bring the arts into the everyday lives of Australians, and to “cherish Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and cultures”.

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