From the President: Is it ever safe to go out in the cultural policy waters?

Let’s face it, cultural policy is a highly politicised domain. This is probably unsurprising, as human culture itself is the thing that we create with our collective consciousness, through desires, fears, imagination and ambitions. Inevitably, it is volatile and dynamic. So, it seems that is never really safe to go out in the water. However, that is what we like about it, I guess, and it is why it is important to restate the principles and emphasis as different times and in different contexts.

The Australia Council for the Arts recently released a report that makes the case for us. In its opening statement, International Arts Tourism: Connecting Cultures states:

“Art is an international language that transcends borders. In sharing Australian stories with the world, the arts are a highly influential and powerful tool for building national identity and cultural exchange.”

The report outlines that the tourist participation in arts-related activities outstrips others: “More international tourists engage with the arts than visit wineries or casinos, or attend organised sports events.”

While not meant as a competition between industry sectors, it is useful to have this material and to understand the growing demand and interest in the arts in the very mobile and transitory world in which we are living. It comes as no surprise to us, but it is good to have our intuitions confirmed with evidence.

It will be nice when we don’t have to defend ourselves with statistics and economic cases like these but it seems to be necessary. Possibly particularly in times of polarising world views and seeming organised reactionary forces mobilising. We know where that leads.

What to do? This issue of NiTRO deals with a number of approaches to cultural policy and I am sure we will all find this a stimulating discussion. And the next six months is going to be an interesting time, and we imagine that there will be much said and disputed as we move the towards the next federal election.

Watch this space.