31 January
Photo of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announcing the National Cultural Policy, by Arts Law CEO Robyn Ayres

Reviving Culture and Remaking Policy 

“Culture then, is the sum of our stories and our music, of our paintings and our craft, our films and our games, our songs and our dance, our architecture and design, as well as the history of our wars and conflicts, our arguments, and accords… Culture is never THE story of us. Culture is dynamic. Culture is a force” 

Christos Tsiolkas and Clare Wright in Revive: a place for every story and a story for every place 

The arts sector has received a vital shot in the arm through the recently launched National Cultural Policy – Revive: a place for every story, a story for every place (Revive Policy). As the policy zeroes in on support for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander arts, it means that this rhetoric is more than just talk. 

Revive speaks to an array of values that Arts Law has been championing for decades. Placing artists at the centre of Revive aligns with our commitment to our Artists-First policy, and the inclusion of a ‘First Nations Pillar’ is cause for celebration. The policy recognises the ongoing harm that inauthentic art inflicts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities – a harm that Arts Law have been lobbying against through our #FakeArtHarmsCulture campaign. 

“Today is a significant day for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and is a great day to be an arts worker.”

Jo-Anne Driessens, Artists in the Black Coordinator

Enthusiasm for the policy from within the sector was amplified by an explicit commitment to develop stand-alone Indigenous Cultural & Intellectual Property (ICIP) legislation. Respect and protection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture has been a prominent feature of Arts Law’s advocacy work over the years. For cultures that have a deep history of not only visual arts, but also song, dance, and oral storytelling, the broad scope of the Revive Policy’s approach to ICIP represents a maturing respect for the diversity of artistic expression in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities. 

“ICIP relates to culture more broadly than just the visual arts and Aboriginal and Torres Strait musicians, dancers, performers, writers, game designers and cultural practitioners of all kinds deserve legal protection.” 

CEO Robyn Ayres.

The fact that a First Nations board will exist within Creative Australia is integral to achieving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. Perspectives, historically marginalised, will now be heard centrally within the key Governmental body for the arts and creative industries. 

Revive’s First Nations First pillar includes commitments to: 

  • Establish a First Nations Languages Policy Partnership between First Nations representatives and Australian governments to improve outcomes for First Nations peoples. 
  • Introduce stand-alone legislation to protect First Nations knowledge and cultural expressions, including to address the harm caused by fake art, merchandise and souvenirs. 
  • Provide a comprehensive response to the Productivity Commission’s report on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Visual Arts and Crafts, building on the commitment to introduce stand-alone legislation outlined above. 
  • Develop a First Nations Creative Workforce Development Strategy, where best practice is followed regarding cultural protocols, safety, self-determination, and ICIP.  

Artists are the original ‘gig economy’ workers, and have faced precarious working conditions, meagre incomes supported by additional jobs, and a lack of minimum employment standards. Arts workers are workers, and they have rights to safe environments and fair renumeration for their efforts – even if they work in a freelancing capacity. As such, Revive proposes to: 

  • Mandate minimum remuneration for professional musicians and performers contracted by government entities to perform at Australian Government events and functions. 
  • Include Award coverage of the arts sector and minimum standards as part of the upcoming Review of Modern Awards 
  • Establish a Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces, within the newly established Creative Australia, to provide advice on issues of pay, safety and welfare in the arts and entertainment sector, refer matters to the relevant authorities and develop codes of conduct and resources for the sector. 

The Albanese Government is leaping ahead with Revive, and it is essential for Arts Law to continue our work in supporting Government so that great plans become great change. As we approach our  40th anniversary, it has never been more pressing for Arts Law to dedicate its experience and expertise to cultivating a sustainable industry for Australian artists. 

As authors Christos Tsiolkas and Clare Wright recount, stories “have been told on Country: in caves, on beaches, under stars” for tens of thousands of years. Now, they will also be protected in law.