Cultural Policy

Australia’s domestic production of goods and services is valued at some $20 billion annually. It is similar in size to the home building industry. Just over 250,000 Australians are employed in the cultural sector, which represents 3.3% of the total Australian workforce. Altogether, 157,000 people work in a cultural occupation as their main job and a further 98,000 work in cultural industries in a non-cultural occupation. The funding that the Government provides the arts is not a handout but an investment in an industry like any other. [1]

The importance of a strong cultural identity is not just important for Australia’s citizens. It is also important to business, tourism and trade as it contributes to our international reputation as sophisticated, vibrant and progressive. Australia presents opportunity for migrants and it is even more important that our stories are told to ensure that society maintains our values and cohesions. We are an open and tolerant society. That does not mean we do not stand for something. We need an interesting and well-developed culture to be considered a world-class nation to which people wish to visit and invest, which further generates wealth.

AUSBUY believes the Government needs to put more support into the cultural funding bodies, at both State and Federal level. We also need to develop the philanthropic movement as another source of funding.

Our Government sees the huge importance sport plays to our nation’s identity, and AUSBUY agrees sport is fundamentally important to our image and lifestyle. However, sport receives many millions more in government funding that the arts. There have certainly not been as many, if any, government reviews into sport funding as there have been into the arts in recent years.

AUSBUY believes we need to extend the tax incentives for private donations to the arts.

The Australia Council should be able to develop policy and make funding decisions without having to follow government guidelines or election promises. Galleries and museums should elect their own boards and committees. Politicians should leave artistic decisions to artists and arts-workers.

As well as training and supporting our artists in their art-making, AUSBUY believes it would also be beneficial to train these artists in market development, self promotion and publicity in order to empower themselves to secure funding, patronage and commercial interest.

Government should stipulate to developers that all new developments must expend a percentage of their budget on public artworks within the development, whether they be outdoor sculptures, mosaics or paintings in the lobby. This will build opportunities for local Australian artists.

Whilst developing new means of expression, it is also vitally important we preserve our cultural heritage, indigenous culture and traditions as well as our architectural heritage, archives and historical objects.

Our government must see the arts as a valuable part of our economy which brings funds into our country whilst enlivening our community. Think of the Renaissance when Europe was thriving economically at the same time as it was artistically.

Addendum 2009

Reviews by the Australian Productivity Commission in 2009 were based on what price alone by removing the rights of Australian writers to their right to earn income and copyright. This was done under the guide that we can buy cheaper books. If we do not nurture our writers, who will tell our stories? When decisions are made short term based on the bottom line, there is something fundamentally wrong with the decision.

We Need to be Able to Tell Our Own Stories

Discussions about removing copyright benefits to our Australian authors have the money men thinking about cheaper prices here. This devalues the essence of our intellectual property and creativity and opportunity for our best minds to earn money through telling our stories rather than borrowing other cultures. The UK and USA reserve the right to protect their intellectual property so why is the Productivity Commission so obsessed with removing our authors’ rights and income.

AUSBUY believes the issue is beyond economics. It is also about tapping into our stories as told by Australians. During a recent meeting with the education department I was surprised to hear that there is little education material available which tells the Australian story. One of AUSBUY's members, Aussie School Books writes around 20 books a year for our school children because the author saw a need to tell our stories in our words, and relies on enlightened teachers and librarians to access these stories.

AUSBUY believes that as a nation we have always been productive, clever and innovative. We are in the top five countries to win Noble Prizes - our first in 1915 and nearly all in Science and Medicine, our sports people and artists are extolled for their excellence, yet we allow the essence of our culture to be eroded by "productivity commissions" who measure their productivity by the bottom line. Who measure their own productivity?

Excellence comes from vision and passion and hard work - Australian excellence is based on the four pillars of the ANZACs - courage, endurance, sacrifice and mateship. When will we start to nurture and acknowledge those who tell our stories?

AUSBUY represents only Australian Owned companies and all these have their foundation in someone having an idea and realising their dream through ingenuity and hard work - yet they are diminished in our "global drive". In the current climate we say if the decisions are not made here, the profits do not stay and then the jobs are at risk. The same applies to our writers. We have forgotten about our own village, and in these hard times it is a good time to really appreciate what we have as a nation - we are very special - ask every migrant who has come here in the last 200 years and every indigenous Australian.

[1] Information provided by the Australia Council

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