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In return artists could for example, be encouraged (or even required) to lend artworks for public display or to provide free public drama or music. This would ensure our talented pool of Australian artists is engaged in meaningful work rather than costly job programs, and we could significantly enhance the cultural fabric of our country. Bernadette Smith has a B.Ed. Art and a Master of Fine Art (San Francisco Art Institute). She is currently preparing for doctoral studies in Media Arts. Art/photography: Blog:

About ... European countries of similar population size and OECD ranking to Australia where income support initiatives for artists apply. Sweden: Ministry of Culture: Conditions for artists d/3009/a/18868 Norway: Ministry of Culture: Implementing the Cultural Initiative http://www.regjeringen. no/en/dep/kkd/Selected-Topics/ Culture/The-Cultural-Initiative/ Implementing-the-Cultural-Initiative.html?id=592438

Advantage receiver A new deal for culture

by Andrew Hunter, Secretary ACT Fabians

With its first Budget fast approaching, the Gillard Government can not escape a moment that has a powerful potential to rise above momentous opportunity was lost in both the Rudd Government’s response to the financial crisis, and underwhelming federal election campaign. The National Building Stimulus Plan was predicated on the understanding that vast spending on education, housing, infrastructure, transport and the environment would protect Australian jobs. This plan addressed imperatives, but cutting the red tape and encouraging the building industry to let rip can leave scars that take several generations to heal. If due caution is not exercised, the wounds have a devastating affect. The sentiment expressed in James Oppenheim’s 1911 poem ‘Bread and Roses’ seem apt when one considers the narrative built by both major parties in their respective election campaigns, barely a year after the stimulus measures took hold: ‘Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes; Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!’ The notion of culture comes from a desire to harmonise diverse manifestations of our way of life. Arguably, our culture has ceased to be distinct. From the languages we speak to the houses we live in, the development our once-distinct culture is being overlooked in favour of a near absolutist focus on the economy. A new deal for Australian culture could have achieved the same economic imperatives whilst also stimulating an overdue commitment to lives surrounded by excellence of a distinctly local flavour. The time has come to offer roses, as well as bread, when constructing a narrative to engage the Australian people in constructing an alternate future.

Can you fight a crisis with culture? It is impossible to imagine an Australian politician getting away with the statement ‘we will make culture our response to the global economic crisis’, as French President Nicholas Sarkozy did at the height of the economic crisis. His words were reminiscent of the former Minister for Culture, Jack Lang who famously stated ‘economy and culture: same combat’. Reduced spending on culture was a common international response to the economic crisis, yet the French Government’s €26 billion stimulus package, also designed to promote employment and growth, increased funding of cultural heritage as a key priority. Major infrastructure work included 100 million Euros allocated to national museums and heritage projects. In spite of the global financial crisis, the French embraced cultural pursuits. Patronage at exhibitions increased and attendance at cinemas was at a thirty-year high in the midst of the financial crisis. Would it be possible to envisage such a situation in Australia? Is it realistic to imagine a stimulus package that includes a significant investment in the beautification of bus and train stations in Australia’s major centres? Such an initiative would significantly change the way we experience public transport. Expansive murals of Indigenous dot paintings, sculp-


Australian Fabian News  

Vol 50 No 2-3 2010

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