National Cultural Policy view of museums
Anna Freeland and Hannah Story, Labor’s national cultural policy includes streaming quotas, reimagined Australia Council, and new body targeting misconduct in arts industry, ABC News, 30 January 2023
Federal Arts Minister Tony Burke has unveiled the government’s new national cultural policy — the first significant framework of its kind in nearly a decade.
- The national cultural policy will establish a new funding body, Creative Australia, which expands on the functions of the Australia Council
- Four new entities will be created as part of Creative Australia: a First Nations-led board, Music Australia, Writers Australia, and a Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces
- The policy also includes the introduction of local content quotas for streaming services and a crackdown on fake Indigenous art
The policy, titled Revive, will invest $286 million in the sector over four years. That includes new investment of $241 million, with an additional $45 million redirected from a COVID insurance scheme.
It includes local content quotas for streaming services, a new federal body dedicated to addressing sexual harassment and bullying in the industry, and legislation to crack down on fake Indigenous art.
Full details about the spending are expected in the May budget.
Speaking at The Espy hotel in Melbourne on Monday morning, Burke emphasised the place of arts and culture in the lives of all Australians.
“Arts and entertainment is for everyone — whether you’re reading a thriller, a history, or a poem, whether you’re watching from formal allocated seating or from a mosh pit, whether you view art in a gallery or in a back lane from the side of a wall.
“Our artists work for all of us, and their works reach all of us.”
The policy comes in the wake of years of funding cuts for the arts and creative industries — a sector worth $17 billion — which were compounded by the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the live entertainment industry decline 69 per cent in 2020, losing $1.4 billion in revenue.
At the launch, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said: “This document stands as a powerful reaffirmation of the government’s commitment to our culture and the arts through which it finds its great expression.”
“Revive puts the arts back where they are meant to be — at the heart of our national life,” he said.
What is the national cultural policy?
The national cultural policy is a comprehensive road map that establishes the priorities for the federal government in terms of arts and culture. Organised under five pillars, it outlines what skills and resources are needed to support the sector, looking forward five years.
The policy builds on Labor’s Creative Australia document, first put forward by the former Gillard government in 2013 but later scrapped under the Coalition. No successive government has sought to fill that void — until now.
Why do we need this kind of policy?
Between 2013 and 2022, the federal arts portfolio contracted and funding stagnated.
Severe funding cuts under the Coalition, including $52 million axed from the arts portfolio in 2015 and $104 million divested from the Australia Council, left the arts sector particularly vulnerable at the onset of COVID-19.
Notwithstanding that interim support, federal arts spending dropped by 22.7 per cent per capita over the past decade.
In addition to calls to boost funding for the sector, pandemic-related job losses and persistent issues around low wages and precarious working conditions have spurred calls for greater recognition for artists as not just creatives but workers.
Speaking at the launch of the Revive policy, the prime minister acknowledged the need to reframe the discussion:
“The arts cannot be left simply to those who can afford to do it. Arts jobs are real jobs.”
How did Labor develop the policy?
At the last election, Mr Burke pledged on behalf of Labor to “end the culture war” by refreshing the 2013 Creative Australia policy and revising its priorities under five key pillars.
“[The] concepts are all sound, but I have a firm view that the order needs to reflect the extraordinary cultural strength that is unique to this continent,” Mr Burke said at the time.
“The first pillar of Australia’s cultural policy should be First Nations.”
Since taking over the arts portfolio in May last year, Mr Burke has been working to develop the policy in consultation with industry stakeholders, culminating in today’s launch.
The government undertook a six-month consultation process led by Mr Burke, who held town hall events and invited public submissions between July and August last year.
These submissions drew attention to issues across the spectrum of the arts.
An advisory group of industry stakeholders, including author Christos Tsiolkas, director Rachael Maza, and Australia Council CEO Adrian Collette, was assembled to review the more than 1,200 submissions received.
So, what’s in the national cultural policy?
Here’s a snapshot of the key commitments:
- The establishment of Creative Australia, a new arts investment and advisory body that expands the functions and funding of the Australia Council and will continue to fund projects at arm’s length, based on their artistic merit
- The creation of a First Nations-led board within Creative Australia to make decisions about investment in First Nations works
- The creation of Music Australia, worth $69 million, with a remit to invest in the development, production and promotion of Australian music, as part of Creative Australia
- The creation of Writers Australia ($19.3 million), as part of Creative Australia, for funding, research and advocacy for writers, including the appointment of Australia’s first poet laureate, and determining the winners of the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards
- The creation of a Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces ($8.1 million), as part of Creative Australia, which will address complaints about fair pay, sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination in the industry. Government funding for organisations could be withdrawn if they fail to adhere to new workplace safety standards
- The restoration of $44 million to the Australia Council (rebranded as Creative Australia) to address underfunded areas such as youth arts
- Local content quotas for streaming services operating in Australia, such as Netflix, Disney+ and Prime Video, will be imposed from mid-next year. The exact percentage will be negotiated with the platforms and the wider industry over the next six months, although the sector has persistently advocated for 20 per cent of local revenue to be reinvested
- A $12.9 million digital lending rights scheme will see authors, illustrators and editors earn money when their e-books and audiobooks are borrowed from a library. The scheme will come into effect from July
- Legislation to protect the copyright of Indigenous artists, including blocking the sale of fake Indigenous art, merchandise and souvenirs
- Undertaking to pursue the repatriation to Australia of First Nations ancestors and artefacts from overseas, as well as the return of ancestors and artefacts held in Australia’s major museums. This will include the establishment of the National Resting Place, dedicated to the care of ancestors returned from overseas
- A First Nations Languages Policy Partnership, worth $11 million, which will support 60 primary schools to teach local First Nations languages and cultural knowledge, and includes a commitment to preserve and safeguard First Nations languages
- $11.8 million in extra funding for the National Gallery of Australia for a pilot program to tour its collection to galleries around Australia
- The creation of a works of scale fund, worth $19 million, to commission new Australian work
- The extension of resale royalties for visual art to cover international sales, at a cost of $1.8 million
- An increase in funding to regional artists through an increase to the Regional Arts Fund, and the continuation of Festivals Australia, which helps fund regional festivals
- The establishment of artist residencies to visit Australian World Heritage Sites
- A national arts and disability plan to remove barriers to working in the creative industries for people with disabilities
- The restoration of the Australian Interactive Games Fund, under Screen Australia, which supports local video game development, and was abolished by the coalition government in 2014
- Support for specialist arts and language education in schools
- Pilot funding for art and music therapy programs
What is not in the national cultural policy?
While the policy announcement today makes good on many of Labor’s pre-election promises, several issues campaigned for by industry leaders were not addressed.
- Better wages for artists were strongly advocated for by both the literary and visual arts communities, which variously proposed a universal basic income or a living wage pilot program for artists akin to international models, a legislated award for artists and writers, and tax-free status for art and literary prizes. Today’s announcement made a limited commitment to include consideration of minimum wages for the sector as part of the broader review of modern awards
- Quotas for Australian-made children’s TV: While local content quotas are part of today’s announcement, it remains to be seen whether this will apply specifically to children’s programming, which has been a strong point of advocacy by the screen sector since children’s content quotas were suspended by the Morrison government in April 2020
- A targeted skills package for arts workers, including subsidised traineeships, industry-led initiatives and investment in short-term courses, has long been advocated by the live-performance sector
- Tax incentives for overseas investment in local stage productions, similar to those in place for the screen industry. These were advocated for by Live Performance Australia
- A national insurance scheme for live events was first floated in response to COVID-19 cancellations and promised by the government in September 2022 for live events affected by mandatory self-isolation rules. With those rules having been relaxed, the scheme has been dropped and money reallocated within the national cultural policy
- Pandemic and natural disaster relief for artists and galleries was also on the wishlist in response to the disruptions of COVID-19 and the Lismore floods, which disproportionately affected artist communities
- Funding for the National Gallery of Australia and the National Library of Australia for infrastructure repairs and collections maintenance, which is expected to be addressed in the May budget
‘Radical and remarkable’: Industry reacts
The response to Monday’s policy launch has been resoundingly positive.
Penelope Benton, executive director of the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA), told ABC Arts the policy felt “radical and remarkable”.
“After such a long time being so discarded and undervalued, the fact that we have a cultural policy and that it is so comprehensive is thrilling and exciting, and it means a lot to people,” she says.
The formation of Creative Australia has been broadly welcomed.
Monash University cultural and creative industries academic Dr Ben Eltham told ABC Arts: “I think the reform of the Australia Council is long overdue and [this is] kind of an admission that the previous model was failing.
“The support for the music and literature sectors is also very positive and again an acknowledgement of the major problems both sectors face in the current landscape.”
Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) CEO Annabelle Herd welcomed the formation of Music Australia, calling it “an excellent indication that the government … is committed to growing our music industry, as well as helping secure the global audiences for our artists that they are so ready for.”
“It makes a huge difference to some kids’ books, genre books, and some books really take off on audio and some don’t,” Cunningham said.
Cautious optimism on content quotas
Matthew Deaner, CEO of Screen Producers Australia, welcomed the introduction of local content quotas for streamers, describing them as “transformative”.
“It gives us certainty and stability for all the businesses created to create content in Australia, and for all the workforce that are already in our industry,” Deaner told ABC.
But Eltham sounds a cautionary note: “I would really have liked to see the minister commit to an actual figure, whether that’s 20 per cent or 30 per cent. At this stage, we don’t know what it’s going to be.
“The devil is in the detail on content quotas, so we definitely need to see what that legislation looks like. It’s a big deal because, in terms of Australians consuming Australian art and culture, content quotas are absolutely vital.”
More detail still needed
In a statement responding to the Revive policy, Live Performance Australia chief executive Evelyn Richardson stressed the need for investment in education and training to address skills shortages across the creative industries.
“This will require a whole-of-government focus, including through vocational education and industry training programs and a review of migration settings so that we can attract and retain talent from around the world,” she said.
Benton, from NAVA, expressed concern over the lack of detail around support for individual artists.
“The announcement doesn’t quite [meet] what we’ve been asking for … in terms of getting to a place where we have payment standards for artists and arts workers that are enforceable,” she says.
NAVA has campaigned strongly for improvements to award wages, working conditions and minimum standards for arts workers.
Benton says that the proposed $8.1 million earmarked for the Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces will unnecessarily duplicate the role of the Fair Work Commission.
“If we were able to legislate working conditions for artists and arts workers like other workers who are protected by industrial awards, we wouldn’t need a separate centre … artists would be able to use Fair Work and that $8 million could have just gone to support artists and organisations who have been desperately unfunded for more than a decade.”
Eltham also questions the policy’s support for individual artists: “Even though there’s a plank of the policy that says the artist is central, there wasn’t a lot of detail around what that means and how that will be rolled out in the policy.
“It’s all well and good to top up Australia Council and give it a fancy new name, but the current funding structure largely funds organisations. I didn’t see any specific funding tied to individual artists.”
An ambassador for the Fund the Arts campaign group and co-author of the Australia Institute’s Creativity in Crisis report, Eltham has been consistently outspoken about the need for solid funding commitments and was critical of Labor’s pre-election assurances, which excluded expenditure.
“But I think Tony Burke and the Albanese government need to be congratulated … I think we shouldn’t get too critical too early,” he says.
“It’s a major step forward and it will definitely benefit the Australian arts.”