Our 2018 Year and into 2019

The Childers Group had a very busy 2018 carrying on it’s advocacy work on behalf of the arts and artists in the ACT and Region.

During 2018 we continued with our lobbying of ACT Legislative Assembly Members and our Federal Parliamentary Representatives. We also met with the Arts Minister, Mr Gordon Ramsay during the year.

Other Childers activities included : attendance at artsACT and City Renewal seminars and workshops, regular attendance at the new ACT Tourism Forum and meeting with the new ACT International Commissioner, Mr Brendan Smyth. We also made a submission to the Inquiry into the National Cultural Institutions.

So far in 2019 we have had a productive meeting with VisitCanberra.

We also played an active role in community consultation for the 2019/2020 ACT Budget with our annual budget submission.

Our key recommendations are listed below :


The Childers Group encourages the ACT Government to fund the growth of the ACT’s Key Arts Organisations to fulfil their potential and support their sustainable growth as an essential part of what makes the ACT such a great place to live.

The Childers Group analysis of arts grants in the ACT shows that there still is a significant decline in ACT arts grants on a per capita basis, and as a proportion of funds available to Government.

It is Childers Group understanding that if 2019-20 arts activity were funded at an equivalent proportion of Total Government Revenue as in 2004-05, total grants to the arts would be increased by around $2,000,000. Childers would see this needed increase being achieved by an increase of $1,000,000 each Budget year (19-20 and 20-21) leading up to the next ACT election in 2020.


The Childers Group strongly advocates for an increase of an extra $1,000,000 into the Arts Portfolio for the 2019-20 Budget and again in the subsequent Budget 2020-2021 leading into the next ACT election.


  • Are there particular services that you consider the Government should stop delivering or should deliver in a different way?

While it is crucial to recognise the immense direct contribution that arts and culture makes to the quality of life in the ACT, it is also important to factor into strategic whole of government planning, their broader social and economic impact. Through their central role in content creation, arts and culture are inextricably linked to ACT creative industries, which in turn sit at the heart of the knowledge economy of the future. As such they have an important part to play in fostering innovation and fuelling a clever and inventive society in which good design plays a central role in industry, urban environments and public policy.

Currently, the arts are not adequately integrated within policymaking or service delivery at a whole of government level. For comparison, there are existing strategic objectives to achieve ‘higher than average participation in sport and physical and recreational activities’.

No such strategic objective has been stated for the Arts. Cultural Tourism would appear to be an obvious inclusion given the strategic importance and economic benefits of cultural tourism to the region.


The Government should commit to incorporating clear Strategic Objectives for the Arts and Cultural sector within the ACT Government’s Budget Objectives.


Childers Group recommends that the ACT Government establish links between Government Directorates to maximize Arts Development in the ACT and region.

In line with ACT Government strategic priorities of enhanced liveability and social inclusion, suburban renewal and health and education investment, the role of the arts in these areas should be recognised with the establishment of officer positions in ACT Government Directorates, including Education and Training, Health, Environment and Planning, and Capital Metro, at the Senior Officer Grade 3 level, to identify and implement strategies where arts activity can multiply existing value and enrich outcomes. In the first instance, this should be a 3-year initiative.

Establishing and consolidating existing links between artists, arts organisations and the stakeholders of each Directorate should be a key component of the work. For example, engagement in the arts throughout a child’s schooling, including early childhood, has immeasurable benefits which are now both quantifiable and proven in countries that have invested in strong arts programs within their schools.

  • How can the Government deliver current services more efficiently, productively or to better meet the needs of Canberrans?

The Childers Group welcomes the decision by Minister Ramsay after positive consultation with the Arts Sector to form a Minister’s Creative Council.


We seek that the Creative Council be properly resourced in the next Budget so that it can undertake “strategic advice to the ACT Government on the arts and sector issues.”


  • What can the Government do to make Canberra even more liveable?

The Childers Group’s objective is to contribute to the Government’s ability to deliver its agenda in the most effective way – building an understanding of where ACT arts and culture intersects with the national cultural institutions and tourism, the central role of the ACT in the cultural life of the region and the benefits this delivers back to the ACT, the national significance of much of the ACT’s arts and cultural presence, the importance of ACT arts and culture in providing a productive environment for creative and other knowledge-based industries and fostering a clean, clever and inventive society, and the importance of research and evaluation in demonstrating the broad value of the arts.

Partnership with Government

The government continues to make many positive decisions about the arts and we have been in discussions with Minister Ramsay and members of the Assembly about them. We believe that much has been achieved over the recent past and that the ACT arts and culture sector has matured and moved to a new level.

There are still some crucial gaps for us to jointly address, such as critical lack of recognition of the importance of First Nations arts and culture in funding outcomes. The appointment of an Indigenous Arts Officer at artsACT is a major step in this area and Childers group applauds the Government for this decision in the last Budget. This will remain a major concern for us, but also an issue for the Government’s social inclusion strategy, and we will continue to pursue this with Minister Ramsay as a priority.

We also acknowledge the Canberra Wellington Indigenous Artist Exchange pilot which will provide the opportunity for a local Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander artist to spend up to six weeks in Wellington.

Whole of government and whole of society

The Childers Group believes it is crucial that the arts are seen in terms of “whole of government and whole of budget issues”. The Arts needs to be seen as not the responsibility of only artsACT and its Minister but of “whole of Government”.

This is about the bigger picture for the ACT. As a small self-contained jurisdiction, the ACT can choose areas where it wants to be nation-leading, and the arts is a great candidate for this. The arts sector in the ACT has all the foundations required to be recognised as amongst the best in the country in a relatively short period of time. Much is already underway. To grasp the opportunity requires only political will and only a limited investment of funds compared to other aspirations the Government might have.

Sustainable Canberra – the crucial importance of the clean and clever knowledge economy of the future and the arts and creative industries at its heart

It is crucial to recognise the immense direct contribution that arts and culture makes to the quality of life in the ACT but it is also important to factor into strategic whole of government planning their broader social and economic impact, the substantial secondary benefit they provide. We are pleased that Confident and Business Ready – Building on our Strengths, the ACT Government’s Business Development Strategy clearly acknowledges this. The challenge is to move beyond recognising and acknowledging this to integrating it practically across whole of government day to day work. Often this may not even require new funding but repurposing, refocusing or linking up of existing initiatives.

The arts are a good investment in its own right, but it is also an economic driver and enabler, with far broader outcomes than cultural ones. This is shown clearly by the ACT Government’s 2015 Economic Overview of the Arts. It demonstrated that arts and culture is a significant local economic sector but, far more importantly, it’s indirect economic and social impact is crucial.

The arts are capable of adding value to any other strategy the government has – liveable spaces and creative precincts, improvements in healthcare, links to the major education and research institutions to foster innovation, enhancing social inclusion and valuing the role of diversity in fostering a vibrant and innovative society. The arts are inextricably linked to creative industries and the clean and clever knowledge economy of the future and this is the context in which we would like to discuss them further.

Cool little capital – a desirable place to live, work, visit and invest

The arts has a crucial role to play making the ACT a desirable place to live, work, visit and invest (for the ‘cool little capital’, arts and culture is much of the cool). Interestingly, the Economic Overview of the Arts noted that 40% of ACT population growth comes from interstate and international migration, so creating an attractive place to live and work is critical to this driver of economic growth.

Sustainable tourism means cultural tourism

It is noteworthy that the ACT Government 2015 Economic Overview of the Arts pointed out that amongst people who had not visited the ACT recently, Canberra’s appeal was scored poorly, but ranked above Hobart and Sydney (and almost equal with Melbourne) for appeal by those who had recently visited the ACT. These findings point to a high quality, but poorly understood, artistic and cultural tourism experience in the ACT.

Visitors to large blockbuster exhibitions at the national cultural institutions can augment their visitor experience when a wide-ranging, dynamic cultural milieu exists, so the whole visit is a rich and stimulating one. This increases the likelihood of longer and repeat visits.