The peak body protecting and promoting the Australian visual arts sector

Let’s do this.

Future/Forward is all about national standards and navigating the politics of policy change. What do we need to get right for a contemporary arts sector that’s ambitious and fair? What’s it going to take to make that happen?

Earlier this year the Grattan Institute released A Crisis of Trust, a timely examination of the rise of protest politics in Australia. The report fund growing dissatisfaction, disillusionment, cultural anxiety, anger and distrust in our politicians. 

When we distrust, we disengage. And when we disengage, we cede more of our power to the very people we distrust. As we can see from historical and contemporary examples the world over, this is dangerous. And there’s no shortage of such examples in Australia right now: rejection of the Uluru Statement, human rights abuses in detention camps, inaction on climate change… and nothing resembling the arts and cultural policy whose public focus and grounded ethics would help direct the government’s moral compass on all such matters.

We don’t tend to talk to MPs directly in Australia. We don’t have the USA’s civic engagement culture where we get on the phone or write letters to MPs to make our expectations clear.

That’s why the Australia Council’s new Electorate Profiles is a game-changer. It’s an explicitly political tool – political not in the partisan sense, but in the civic: it’s a tool designed to facilitate our participation in our democracy. Take a look – you can choose any electorate across Australia and get detailed arts stats and industry info. Perfect for when you’re trying to engage your local MP – or re-engage your own local passions.

For many years, we’ve been providing electorate information in our grant applications, seen classifications by electorate if we’re assessors, and had the local MP make our grant announcements in our electorate if we’re recipients.

Sometimes we wait and wait for funding announcements to be made because the MP ultimately responsible – the arts minister – wants to create an opportunity for the local MP to make the announcement in the electorate. While those delays are enormously frustrating, undermining the success of all funded projects, the engagement of the local MP fosters yet another advocate for the arts within the parliament. It’s an important chance to speak directly to the person whose re-election prospects depend on the success of this project and the strength of the community who supports it.

So what does all this have to do with Future/Forward? No, we didn’t receive any Australian Government funding for our Canberra event! It’s with thanks to the Copyright Agency that we can converge on the capital, as well as the state governments of WA, SA, TAS, VIC, ACT and QLD who have generously offered the travel subsidies that go straight to artists. However, if you’re joining us, you’ll be meeting plenty of federal MPs while we’re at Parliament House with both Houses sitting. And you’ll want to have something to say that connects with their constant focus on their electorate.

Future/Forward is all about setting best practice national standards and then navigating the politics of policy change. What do we need to get right for a contemporary arts sector that’s ambitious and fair? What’s it going to take to make that happen?

We can do this the easy way, or we can do this the strategic way. Not predictable panels offering patient wisdoms, but a roomful of people working things out together. With our bodies as well as our brains, through hypotheticals and games, both online and off, and ways that encourage us to think differently.

If you can’t join us, you can still make that connection. Here’s a handy Future/Forward guide to finding and contacting your local member and knowing what to say.

 

PS: Registrations are still open for Future/Forward. Let’s do this.