Wrap up from pre-Budget arts forum

14 Mar

… in case you missed the Childers Group’s pre-Budget arts forum!

We’ve had some very positive feedback about our pre-Budget arts forum on Wednesday 24 February, with calls for a follow-up pre-election forum later in the year. As one participant put it: ‘It was a terrific night, one of the Childers Group’s best’.

With expert facilitation by ABC 666 presenter Genevieve Jacobs, we invited three key MLAs to give the packed audience their vision for the arts in an ACT Budget context, i.e. show us your Budget policies and let’s discuss them. Dr Chris Bourke (Labor), Shane Rattenbury (Greens) and Brendan Smyth (Liberal) all presented their ideas for a vibrant, culturally diverse and progressive city with genuine interest and passion.

Their ideas were stimulating and in some cases unexpectedly imaginative, although this wasn’t an audience that needed to be convinced of the value of the arts, a point not lost on the facilitator, who skillfully steered the conversation to more clarity.

The terrific panelists were artist Jenni Kemarre Martiniello, journalist Paul Daley, academic Helen Ennis, and musician and comedian Chris Endrey. They raised issues such as greater strategic support for Indigenous arts development, artists’ spaces, a ‘living wage’ for artists, better coordination with national cultural institutions, and, of course, increased funding for artsACT.

None of the MLAs committed to increasing the Arts fund, leaving some in the audience wondering about the true state of the ACT Budget. And questions remain, such as – how can the arts be grown, not only by increased funding but by changing legislation? How can we seek and develop commercial opportunities? How can we use existing resources better, and harness local expertise? How do we increase awareness of arts/cultural benefits across portfolios for the benefit of all (artists & community alike)? Several MLAs also mentioned music as ‘arts education’, although there are five arts subjects in the new Australian Curriculum: The Arts.

We’ll keep asking these and other questions in the coming months.

We hear this was the first political forum in this ACT election year, showing the arts sector can be an organised and powerful force. As an ideas and vision forum, a particularly important outcome was the networking, with more people connected and doors opened to MLAs’ offices (and ears!) – all ongoing aims of the Childers Group.

Finally, here are a few ideas we’ll be pursuing:

A lively city comes from a lively music scene, and a lively music scene comes from a range of accessible venues.

Support for more arts opportunities in ACT schools.

Canberra arts are a part of the region and the region is a part of Canberra arts.

Supporting the arts is not a luxury, it’s essential to a modern city like Canberra.

The main way the ACT Government supports the arts is through the ACT Arts Fund. The last time the Arts Fund received a significant boost was in 2005. It’s time for a top-up, don’t you think?

The arts are key to an innovative and adaptive society and economy – creative jobs are the future.

Canberra’s tourism and developing image as the ‘cool little Capital’ can only exist with strong policies and investment in the arts.

Thanks to all who supported this important forum: MLAs, guest panelists, Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centres, New Best Friend.

Read:
Childers Group forum details vision for ACT’s arts future and funds
Clare Colley, The Canberra Times, 25 February 2016

Stephen Cassidy’s blog: The indefinite article, 25 February 2016

How do you put a value on art, and the people creating it? Toni Hassan, The Canberra Times, 10 March 2016

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