19 July
First Peoples Dialogue Forum held at Customs House in Sydney on 6 May 2019. Photo by Mark Metcalfe. Courtesy City Of Sydney.

Cultural practice no longer under busking laws

The City of Sydney has recently released a new policy Local Approvals Policy Busking and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Practice which distinguishes the cultural expression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from public busking performances.

Under the new policy, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will no longer need to apply for a busking permit if they wish to practice their knowledge and cultural heritage through song, dance and other creative means.

Arts Law made submissions on the drafting of this policy in October 2018 highlighting the need to recognise the public practise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture as separate and distinct from busking. Read the full submission here.

The City of Sydney has demonstrated in this new policy that while the practice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture can have both economic and entertainment outcomes it is primarily a cultural practice. This right to cultural practice is emphasised in Article 11 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which states:

‘Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.’

Lord Mayor Clover Moore, referred to the new policy, saying “The City’s new policy recognises that the practice of cultural heritage is not a busking activity – this means Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can practise their cultures without requiring an approval from the City, as long as safety requirements are met.”

A representative of the City of Sydney advised that this new policy only applies within the boundaries of the city council. However, the City of Sydney is a partner to the Eastern Region Local Government Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Forum which formed in 1998 to address at a regional level the affairs, events and celebrations that impact on local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Under this forum we expect the remaining partner councils; Waverley, Bayside, Randwick, Inner West and Woollahra, will follow the City of Sydney with similar policy changes.

Contemporary forms of cultural expression such as rapping, street art and electronic music will be covered by the exemption of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Practice. The policy aims to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to connect with their heritage and express their cultural identity through many means without the limitation of seeking a permit. A City of Sydney spokesperson advised “The City doesn’t prescribe the form or content of cultural practice. However, we do encourage people to read the Interpretation, integrity and authenticity section of the protocols to ensure their practice is in line with the intent of this policy.”

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