Life in Canberra - Craft










10 October 2014

ACT Budget Consultation
Treasury Directorate
ACT Government
GPO Box 158


The Childers Group welcomes the opportunity to provide input into the 2015-16 ACT Government Budget development process.

We are committed to advocating for the arts sector as we believe creativity and engagement in the arts are vital components of a healthy city. The ACT Budget is an opportunity to make adequate provision for the arts to flourish in our city. The Childers Group is an independent arts forum whose advocacy is based on the principles of:

  • independence;
  • objectivity;
  • valuing the arts; and
  • pride in Australia’s national capital city and the surrounding region.

The Childers Group is pleased to note the ACT Government’s continuing commitment to improving liveability and opportunity, better health and education outcomes and urban renewal. The funding and demonstrated commitment to a number of arts initiatives in the 2014/15 budget were welcomed by the Childers Group but, as we have made clear, we remain concerned about the capacities of the present level of arts funding to sustain a vibrant arts sector in the longer term.

Our submission focuses on the contribution the arts sector can play in:

  1. enhancing liveability and opportunity;
  2. 2. making Canberra healthy and smart.

Engagement and participation in the arts contribute to a healthy and smart city

Whatever form they take, the arts transform, chronicle and illuminate the world around us. The arts contribute to the quality of life in the ACT and are central to enhancing liveability and creating opportunities enlivening life in our community. The ACT enjoys a national reputation in terms of its participation in the arts. We should invest in that reputation. Similarly, we lead the nation in attendance at cultural events. The ACT Government can – and should – build on that.

Canberra is experiencing the maturation of a wide range of arts activity with a rich and exciting array of arts events and programs. These activities challenge our perceptions, inspire confidence, and create cohesion in our community. Professional arts activity across a broad range of art forms and community engagement in the arts are indicators of a healthy and smart life-style in a very liveable Canberra.

There is ample evidence, both in terms of qualitative and quantitative data, in particular from the UK, indicating a high return in terms of community well-being, on government investment in the arts and arts infrastructure.

In addition to the benefits to our immediate community, the arts represent a major attraction for tourists and visitors to Canberra and the surrounding region. The region offers considerable choice by way of galleries, craft outlets, theatres, the national cultural institutions and significant local facilities such as the Canberra Glassworks. Our city has become an attractive destination in terms of our cultural facilities and the lifestyle attractions, e.g. a lively arts and cultural events calendar, excellent wineries and great restaurants. In order for our arts and cultural sector to build on its capacity to serve both its local community and develop the visitor economy, high-quality programming and professional personnel are essential.

Life in Canberra - Craft2RECOMMENDATION 1: Ensure the continuing viability of our Key Arts Organisations and arts facilities.

The Childers Group strongly urges the ACT Government to ensure enhanced funding for ACT Key Arts organisations and arts infrastructure with CPI+ increases granted on an annual basis. The Childers Group is concerned to note the continuing pressure on Key Arts Organisations in particular, the diminishing capacity to attract – and then retain – professional staff to the ACT. This remains a critical issue as increased costs associated with programming and salaries, along with the pressure to contain operational overheads, results in arts organisations unable to offer financial incentives and professional development opportunities to valued staff members. Fair payment of ACT arts workers’ salaries commensurate with their skills and experience will ensure that the National Capital attracts qualified people with the necessary expertise to manage Canberra’s arts and cultural services. It will also ensure the efficient and sound management of the ACT’s key arts facilities.

RECOMMENDATION 2: Ensure appropriate funding for the alignment of ACT arts sector salaries with those of the community sector.

The Childers Group recommends that the salaries of our professional arts managers are benchmarked with salaries in the Community Service sector and with arts personnel in other states and territories. There is no real benchmarking for arts-workers’ salaries, in particular for administrative/senior management personnel, other than information obtained through informal networks. The National Association for the Visual Artists can provide some guidance, but this is not cross–sectoral. We understand the Chief Minister, Treasurer and the Economic Development Directorate (CMTEDD) have commenced an audit of the economic impact of the arts sector on the ACT economy. This is an important initiative. The Childers Group would welcome further information being made available to the sector on the scope of the consultancy and the anticipated timeframe for completion.

The Childers Group strongly urges the ACT Government to consider increased investment in the arts budget. Our city is internationally recognised as one of the world’s most liveable cities and the Murrumbateman Yass Valley region is classified as one of the fastest growing in NSW. It is imperative that artists and highly skilled arts workers are attracted to come and stay here and continue to nurture the creative engagement within our city and the wider community.


Information about the images used in this post:
Presented by Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre in partnership with ACT Parks and Conservation Service, the Gudgenby Ready-Cut Cottage Artist-in-Residencies Program in the Namadgi National Park delivers individual residencies, a forum, workshops, artist talks, open days and a group exhibition.

Images courtesy of Andrew Sikorski.

News and reviews for the arts in the ACT

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher. (Image source: Life in Canberra Magazine)

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher. (Image source: Life in Canberra Magazine)

Two brief though important news items for the arts in the ACT:

We expand our expertise

We are delighted to announced that we’ve expanded our areas of expertise, adding writer/educator Rosanna Stevens, singer-songwriter/musician James Fahy, and long-term arts worker Meredith Hinchliffe.

All of us who are involved in the arts are currently enjoying this extraordinary air of celebration in the ACT region.  It’s so important as a network of creative communities that we build on this groundswell of activity and starting thinking about what happens next.  To this end, the Childers Group has added three new members.  There is no doubt that Rosanna, James and Meredith will make terrific contributions to our advocacy work.

As a collective of arts advocates, the Childers Group is committed to maximising our diversity of expertise and strategic thinking.  Getting out of touch with the work of our artists and creative practitioners is simply not an option for us.  That’s why we’ve expanded our expertise – we want to make sure that our advocacy work is informed by the best brains possible.


James Fahy

James Fahy

James Fahy is a MAMA-nominated multidisciplinary artist based in Melbourne and Canberra. He has written for entertainment magazine BMA and ANU newspaper Woroni, and had fiction published in ACT literary journal Burley. Alongside Rosanna Stevens, Duncan Felton and Adelaide Rief he is a co-director of the ACT young literary organisation Scissors Paper Pen. In March 2013 James completed a research internship with independent think-tank Grattan Institute.  As a musician, James has performed as a featured artist at the FUSE Music Conference in Adelaide, received national airplay for his EP The Sun Will Burn Through This Cloud, and played with high-profile acts including The Beards, the Wildes, A French Butler Called Smith, Beth and Ben, Peter Combe, and Novocastrian touring veterans Benjalu. In 2012, James was nominated for an award at the MusicACT Annual Music Awards in the category of Best Folk Artist. In 2010, James co-founded Canberra-based label Nash Cap Productions with Bec Taylor and Julia Winterflood. As an events organiser, host, musician and interviewer he has taken part in a string of festivals such You Are Here, the Canberra Multicultural Festival, the Illawarra Folk Festival, and the Woodford Folk Festival. With Joe Oppenheimer, James founded and co-produced the Pedestrian Orchestra, a year-long series of fifty concerts and arts performances aimed at encouraging Canberra’s emerging talent.


Meredith Hinchliffe

Meredith Hinchliffe

Meredith Hinchliffe has been involved with the arts since 1977 when she began work with the Crafts Council of the ACT. As part of the CCACT exhibition program she curated many exhibitions including several of individual artists and group exhibitions.  These included all craft media – ceramics, wood, textiles, leather, metalwork and, to a lesser degree, glass.  Craft ACT was included in some touring exhibitions and during her time at the organisation, Meredith showed an exhibition of Molas from the San Blas Islands of Panama. Meredith was a contributor to The Canberra Times from 1978 to 2009 and writes review articles of crafts and visual arts exhibitions and books.  She also writes about issues of importance to the arts.  She has written articles about for a number of journals, including the National Library News, Smarts, Pottery in Australia, Craft Arts  International, Textile Fibre Forum, Object and Ceramic Art and Perception. Meredith worked at The Australian Bicentennial Authority, artsACT and Business Development in the ACT Government.  She was responsible for grant programs in each area.

Meredith Hinchliffe was appointed the full-time Executive Director of the National Campaign for the Arts Australia Ltd in July 1996, until the organisation was wound up due to lack of funding in August 1997.  During this period she built up a strong network of media contacts and assisted with the successful campaign for Artbank to be retained as a government operation. From August 1997 to December 1999 she worked as a freelance consultant. In 2000 Meredith began an appointment for two years as Project Manager, Australian Science Teachers Association. She was appointed Executive Officer of Museums Australia, the national professional association for museum workers and museums in July 2002. She worked as Public Arts Project Officer for artsACT and has managed several public art installation projects. From July 2008 to April 2009 she was the inaugural Executive Officer of the Donald Horne Institute for Cultural Heritage at the University of Canberra.

Meredith has served on the boards of a number of local arts organisations and was President of Ausdance ACT until May 2011. She is approved to value Australian ceramics, glass, textiles, jewellery, leatherwork, wooden objects and furniture from 1950 for the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program and has undertaken numerous valuations of works in most media, including the valuation of the Tamworth Regional Gallery’s textile collection. Meredith has been involved in a number of projects, including curating the Survey exhibition of the Tamworth Fibre Textile Collection in 2010. In 2000 she was awarded an ACT Women’s Award in recognition of her significant contribution to the ACT community in the arts.  In 2011 she was awarded an Australia Day medal by the National Gallery of Australia.


Rosanne StevensRosanna Stevens is currently the Communications Officer at the ACT Writers Centre, Senior Ambassador for the Australian National University Student Equity division, and co-producer and founder of Canberra’s young literary organisation, Scissors Paper Pen. In 2012 she was the recipient an artsACT grant to visit a variety of literary communities, initiatives and organisations in the United States of America. She also received CAL Creative Industries Career Funding while completing a three-month internship with San Francisco publishing house, McSweeney’s.

Rosanna has been a guest of the National Young Writers Festival, Adelaide Writers Week, You Are Here festival and the Emerging Writers Festival. She has also acted in a range of minor positions at literary festivals including Chairperson for the Melbourne Writers Festival, Volunteers Coordinator for the National Young Writers Festival, and Communications Officer for You Are Here festival. In 2011 she was National Young Writers Month co-Ambassador for New South Wales, and Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre Young Writer in Residence in Perth. Her short fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been published nationally, and her work has received favourable mention in The Canberra Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and The Australian.

Within her role at ANU Student Equity, Rosanna provides creative writing workshops to high-school students based in regional areas. Her passion for providing creative opportunities to young people and challenging popular educational paradigms has seen her work with students in Young, Bega, Goulburn, Yanderra, Canberra, Collector, the Blue Mountains, Chicago and San Francisco. Rosanna is currently completing a Master of Philosophy at the Australian National University.

The Childers Group’s six key opportunities for the ACT region


There is a process underway to review the brand of Canberra.  A branding exercise needs to offer an insight, hopefully with a unique selling proposition.  With regard to Canberra we suggest the city should be positioned as ‘The Creative Capital’.  Why can we make such a bold claim and why is it important:

  • it is Australia’s only ‘designed’ city;
  • it has the highest per-capita representation of creative-industry business and employees in Australia;
  • through our national cultural institutions Canberra is the holder of the cultural artefacts that articulate the Australian story;
  • we have Australia’s most distinctive (ambitious) collection of public art;
  • the arts attract  visitors – statistics from recent visual arts blockbusters make this clear; and
  • we have great artists in the region – let’s value them and recognise their achievements while promoting a different face for Canberra.


In terms of the Kingston Arts Precinct, what is most important is that all those committed to the arts and cultural life of our region – especially the ACT Government – have a grand vision, a strategic overview, a long-term plan for what’s needed to develop this area as a lively precinct for arts activity and cultural events.  It’s a rare opportunity for the ACT to work with the various development authorities and stakeholders to establish an exciting set of cultural facilities and creative spaces in the vicinity of the iconic Kingston Powerhouse, now the home of the Canberra Glassworks, which is already a major national attraction.  The Childers Group’s vision is a vibrant and accessible arts precinct for the visual arts in all its diversity, including film, new media and creative industries such as architecture, graphic design and digital technologies.  In the Childers Group vision, Kingston is a place for live performance to happen but music would not be the focus.

The full vision statement for the Kingston Arts Precinct is available here.


The School of Music was established in 1965 as an autonomous ‘conservatorium’ model of teaching (one-to-one) and performance. This vision was part of a long-term plan to stimulate, develop and enhance professional musical life in Australia’s emerging national capital city.  Funding was available to employ outstanding, experienced professional musicians for instrumental teaching and performance. Since then, the School’s presence has been the ‘life blood’ and a major contribution to every aspect of Canberra’s musical activity and the cultural life of the city. The reputation of the School of Music and School of Art was highly regarded nationally. Since 1992 when the School of Music (and the School of Art) amalgamated with the ANU, its teaching in schools and participation in concerts, performances, youth music activity and events have been a major part of Canberra’s cultural life and the public face and community profile of the ANU.

Recent developments have seen the School of Music facing funding challenges. A revised ‘university model’-based curriculum, staff cuts and new budget arrangements have been proposed to achieve financial viability and the future of the School. The changed curriculum will inevitably see the loss of key professional instrumental teacher/performers and consequently their loss to Canberra’s musical life.

The ANU, ACT Government and community support for music education in Canberra is essential to ensure professional expertise is available for teaching, participation in the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, music ensembles, choral societies, youth music, festivals and musical events. The ANU and the ACT must work together to ensure the continuation of a professional level of music performance in Canberra and the ACT region.

A radical option might be the establishment of new ‘National Academy of the Arts’ outside the university sector where the conservatorium model does not easily fit.  A National Academy of the Arts based in Canberra eventually accommodated in ‘state of art’ group of facilities could cater for music, visual arts, dance, theatre and film capitalising on the strong base of life and activity already present in these disciplines.  This visionary option is seen as a long-term possibility for Australia’s national capital city but would require dedicated funding commitments from Federal and ACT governments and the private sector, new legislation, governance and administrative arrangements.   The ACT Government could take a lead on facilitating discussions about the future.


Ausdance ACT recently conducted a review of dance facilities in Canberra.  The organisation found that the numbers of dancers, particularly in schools and other cultural groups, is under-reported and there is a need for good facilities in the ACT.  Building on the ‘hub’ model, Canberra is in the need for a high-quality dance hub with state-of-the-art facilities.  The facilities could be shared between a number of organisations, offering space for schools, classes, and our independent dance creators and choreographers as well as performers.  Locations that are currently under-serviced and would be suitable sites include: the inner sections of central Canberra, Gungahlin , Central Belconnen, South Tuggeranong, and Weston Creek.


There has been considerable progress in establishing links between education and the arts in the ACT but more can be done to strengthen this relationship.

The Childers Group encourages the ACT Government to prioritise arts programs in schools. We would like to see an expanded commitment to include additional artists-in-residence and the establishment of a Canberra-wide Poetry Slam-in-Schools program. There is capacity within the ACT – and region – to provide an exciting and culturally rich experience for young people by encouraging participation in a very ‘cool’ art form that’s gaining world-wide recognition as an important emerging art form.  Engagement in contemporary and relevant arts programs designed for young people has been shown to enhance their enjoyment of school, build self-confidence and lead to a stronger sense of community.

There is strong evidence from research undertaken in secondary schools, both within Australia and the United Kingdom, indicating engagement in the arts results in major benefits to young people. These include enhanced knowledge of social and cultural issues, development of creativity and thinking skills, increased communication skills, advances in social development and a heightened self-esteem. These are lifelong skills and worthy of investment.

The Childers Group estimates that $100,000 per year for three years would be sufficient to establish the ACT Poetry Slam-in-Schools program.  The program should be developed with the burgeoning ACT poetry-slam community.

For more information, visit


The ACT region has all the ingredients to offer a world-class artist-in-residency program for all art forms: a planned an accessible city, a seat of modern democracy, a suite of national cultural institutions, over twenty key arts organisations, nationally recognised tertiary education providers, a vibrant urban environment surrounded by natural beauty and pastoral landscapes, a network of country towns, and a diverse and engaged population.  Artist-in-residency programs off time and space to create, but also help to bring in national and international artists to work with local artists and the community.  The ACT Government has developed a policy statement and tool kit, along with a small amount of funding for 2012/2013.  The Childers Group strongly advocates for there to be ongoing funding within the order of $200,000 over the next five financial years in order to fully realise the potential of the program.  This would build on the impetus generated by the Centenary of Canberra celebrations.

THE NEED FOR VISION: our response to the draft ACT Arts Policy Framework

The recently released draft ACT Arts Policy Framework supersedes Arts Canberra: Action Statement for the Arts 2006-2008 and, we assume, related documents such as the ACT Action Statement for Public Art (May 2007).

The draft document proposes four goals together with brief dot-points indicating how these goals will be achieved.  The stated goals are to:

  1. increase community access and participation;
  2. support artistic excellence and artistic diversity;
  3. strengthen capacity of the arts to contribute to social and economic outcomes; and
  4. foster artistic innovation, creative thinking and sustainability.

The Childers Group appreciates the development of the draft ACT Arts Policy Framework and that it has been made available for public comment.

However, the Group believes the final Arts Policy Framework should be one that befits the capacity of the sector: it should be confident about its purpose and how it will contribute to arts development, and it should have a clearly articulate vision that energises arts activity, particularly in the context of the Centenary of Canberra.

More specifically, the Childers Group advocates for an arts policy framework that:

  • establishes the principles that will guide arts/cultural priorities and programs;
  • acknowledges the strengths of the sector, and the challenges ahead;
  • contains bold ideas for the future;
  • strongly advocates the importance of access and participation in the arts and the value of the arts and cultural life in our community;
  • promotes the notion of the intrinsic value of the arts while seeking to involve and engage with a wider constituency for mutual benefit;
  • makes a commitment to support for artists who are taking risks with new and innovative arts practice;
  • places emphasis on a whole-of-Government approach to policies and programs designed to support arts and cultural development;
  • includes a public art commissioning program (or the percent-for-art scheme);
  • develops stronger links and relationships with ACT Tourism and related agencies and the national cultural institutions to create opportunities for the arts;
  • indicates a time-frame for the life of the policy;
  • acknowledges that leadership in setting appropriate payments to artists and arts workers is crucial to arts viability and a sustainable future;
  • recognises that festivals, feature events, celebrations and other special anniversaries represent important opportunities for arts and cultural development;
  • supports arts opportunities available by developing co-operative arrangements with the University, College and School education sector, heritage facilities and services;
  • promotes the benefits of private support and working arrangements with the corporate sector both in terms of projects, commissions, sponsorship and philanthropy;
  • builds on relationships with the surrounding regional communities;
  • is committed to supporting key arts organisations, which are central to the vibrancy and life of our city and the region;
  • is written in clear and active language to maximise communication and effectiveness.

The Childers Group sees the 2010 Review of the Arts in Canberra (Loxton Report) and other relevant national documents, including the 2011 National Cultural Policy Discussion Paper, the Forward Plan for Contemporary Australian Art (Sept 2010) and the Dance Plan 2012, as useful references in preparing a policy for arts.

The Group would welcome the opportunity to contribute to the further development of the ACT Arts Policy Framework.


artsACT’s closing date for comment on the ACT Arts Policy Framework is 10 April 2012.


It is our great pleasure to announce the formation of a new voice for the arts, The Childers Group: an independent arts forum.

The Childers Group is an independent forum committed to the long-term viability and vitality of the arts in the ACT and surrounding areas.

The Childers Group contains representatives from diverse backgrounds, including visual art, music, dance, theatre and performing arts, youth arts, community arts, and literature, with new members to be added as appropriate.  Many have regional as well as national expertise and connections.  Whilst many of the members live and work in the ACT, the Group will build relationships with the surrounding regions.  Details about our members can be found at the membership tab above.

The Childers Group is based on the principles of objectivity and independence.

We look forward to engaging with all those interested in moving the arts forward, including governments at all levels, the private sector, educators, the media, and the broader community.  The Centenary of Canberra provides an exciting context to our work.  To this end, the Childers Group will host a public forum on the arts early in 2012.

Details about the Childers Group public forum will be announced shortly.