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National Cultural Policy Discussion Paper Submission October 2011 Community Arts Network Western Australia Ltd. PO Box 7514, Cloisters Square, Perth WA 6850 T: 08 9226 2422 or freecall 1800 681 021 E:

Summary Community arts and cultural development practice is a growing sector in Australia and overseas. This is confirmed by the theme of the 5th World Summit on Arts and Culture, “Creative Intersections,” held in Melbourne, October 2011.

The community art and cultural development field is at the forefront of these creative intersections (Matarasso 1997; Mills and Brown 2004). Our sector has developed partnerships and intersected with health, education, local governments, rural revitalisation, community development and social cohesion for decades.

Community Arts Network WA (CAN WA) embraces this cultural policy initiative as the opportunity to acknowledge and support what we already know – participation in the arts produces positive social impact and outcomes, and community arts practice is a vehicle to foster active community participation (Anwar 2011; Sonn and Quayle 2011; Goldbard 2006).

A CAN WA Catalyst funded community arts project ‘Our Secret River’ in Denmark, WA 2010. Photo by Nic Duncan. National Cultural Policy – Discussion Paper Submission Community Arts Network WA Ltd. October 2011


Rather than thinking ‘what can the National Cultural Policy do for us?’ we would like to state how the community arts and cultural development sector can contribute to implementing a compelling National Cultural Policy. In this context CAN WA can:

1. Create opportunities for meaningful and active participation in arts and cultural activities for communities through community arts practice. We know how to do it and have a proven record of success.

2. Create opportunities for diverse communities to tell their story. This creates cultural content that enriches the cultural fabric of communities and affirms local identity.

3. Actively intersect community arts practice with other sectors. This interdisciplinary approach strengthens outcomes for communities through synergistic resourcing and the alignment of mutual objectives. Furthermore, interdisciplinary approaches provide opportunities to leverage sources of funds from areas not traditionally accessed by the arts community.

4. Offer training and PD opportunities for emerging and mid career artists to practice in communities. This establishes new employment opportunities that promote training, education and career pathways for artists. Moreover, this contributes significantly to a national workforce development strategy that sustains the sector by considering longerterm perspectives throughout the creative industries.

5. Inspire and invigorate artists through opportunities to work with marginalised communities. These communities offer an incredibly rich source of stories that are unique, challenging and demonstrate the capacity and resilience of the human spirit. Community arts practice often inhabits this marginal space, rich in diversity.

National Cultural Policy – Discussion Paper Submission Community Arts Network WA Ltd. October 2011


6. We can contribute to the development and honouring of many diverse stories expressed through a variety of art forms, including digital technologies, enriching the Australian cultural identity.

Doll makers Senema Kickett and Cherie Abednego in the 2011 doll making workshops in Narrogin as part of the Strong Culture, Strong Community program. Photo by Bo Wong.

We ask that the National Cultural Policy does address the following: 1. Firstly, we ask for a National Cultural Policy based on the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005), which Australia is a signatory to and thus frames its intent on: a. Respect, acknowledgment and reparation for Aboriginal people and their diverse cultures. b. An understanding that human rights are sacred, and creativity, as one of those human rights, is encouraged and facilitated.

2. For the Community Arts and Cultural Development Sector to be recognised in the National Cultural Policy as an area of the arts that has been at the forefront of developing access and active participation strategies for communities and is innovative in partnership development with others sectors.

National Cultural Policy – Discussion Paper Submission Community Arts Network WA Ltd. October 2011


3. For diverse models and schemes of funding for community arts across government that recognises the positive intersections between community arts and other policy agendas. For example ‘closing the gap’, the ‘education revolution’ and ‘creative economies’.

4. A clear and flexible mechanism for VET pathways to be in a wider spectrum of the arts and creative industries.

5. A cultural policy that finally incorporates and supports both access and participation, and excellence. We have a history of policies that have either viewed the two as antithetical or spoken of access only in terms of audience development. We want more than ‘bums on seats’. We want people to have access to making art that is meaningful for them and for communities to create their own cultural content and products.

Introduction Community Arts Network WA (CAN WA) exists to facilitate community arts and cultural development programs for community wellbeing across the state of Western Australia. We are partly funded by the WA Department of Culture and the Arts (DCA) and the Australia Council for the Arts and we receive project support from other state and federal programs including the Office for the Arts, FaCHSIA, Lotterywest and Royalties for Regions.

For over 25 years, CAN WA has inspired and mobilised communities to explore and grow their local culture and to facilitate and promote participation and engagement in community life. We do this through three devolved funding programs: youth arts and development programs, specialised Aboriginal arts and culture programs, and by operating as a Registered Training Organisation (RTO).

National Cultural Policy – Discussion Paper Submission Community Arts Network WA Ltd. October 2011


Our expertise, innovation and effectiveness has been recognised with a number of prestigious awards, including: 

The 2010 Art and Community Health Award at the International Art of Good Health and Wellbeing Conference

The 2010 Australian Business and Arts Foundation Toyota Community Award

The 2009 WA State Government Excellence in Arts Enterprise Award and

The 2009 Multicultural Services Award.

CAN WA has a long history of engaging with Aboriginal communities through the arts. Over the past six years we have established two regional offices in the Western Australian Wheatbelt, one in Kellerberrin and one in Narrogin. Six Noongar staff members (40% of our staff) deliver culturally appropriate Aboriginal Arts and Culture programs for the communities of the Wheatbelt. Through our local engagement we have developed strong relationships with state and local governments, other service providers and with the Noongar people of the region.

Alongside the production of community arts and performances, CAN WA is also a Registered Training Organisation (RTO). For over ten years, CAN WA has successfully delivered nationally recognised training outcomes for young people in the community. CAN WA programs engage young people who are at risk or who are difficult to engage by combining accredited vocational education and training (VET) with arts and cultural activities in local spaces. The arts activities inspire young people to engage and express themselves whilst the VET component prepares them for employment and creates pathways to further training or education.

It is from this context that we offer the following response to the Discussion Paper produced by the Office for the Arts.

We welcome the articulation by Government of a National Cultural Policy and applaud the Minister’s aim of integrating the arts and cultural policy within broader social and economic goals.

National Cultural Policy – Discussion Paper Submission Community Arts Network WA Ltd. October 2011


In particular, we value the recognition by the Minister of the central contribution that arts and culture can make to building an inclusive society, delivering education to young Australians and providing avenues of expression for Australian citizens.

Inevitably, this submission focuses on areas of concern to our organisation and the people with whom we work. We have identified matters that we believe require greater clarity and emphasis and our response offers ways to re-think those matters. However, this does not take away from our support of the initiative undertaken here and from the essential thrust of the Discussion Paper.

Giant illuminated Keela Ant in the Keela Dreaming Cultural Festival Kellerberrin 2011, as part of the CAN WA Strategic Partnerships Initiative. Photo by Toni Wilkinson.

Access and Excellence For the past 40 years all arts and cultural policies in Australia have failed to resolve the pull of two seemingly opposed policy imperatives – excellence and access and participation in the arts (Craik 2005, 2010). This discussion paper is weakened by the same policy conundrum. To be meaningful, the policy needs to clarify terms such as ‘excellence’, ‘world class’, ‘participation’ and ‘engagement’ and be clear about the goals it is pursuing in relation to each of these terms.

National Cultural Policy – Discussion Paper Submission Community Arts Network WA Ltd. October 2011


The paper appears mostly to adopt the traditional meanings for these terms with excellence equating to the high arts in the known and established art forms; and participation and engagement equating to audience development, i.e. bums on seats.

Active Participation and Passive Participation in the Arts We would like to offer a different perspective on this. There are two kinds of participation in the arts, passive and active. Passive participation is being part of an audience, which brings important benefits for intellectual and emotional stimulation, self-reflection, socialising, and personal pleasure. Clearly imperative for the health of the arts sector is to have robust audiences; hence stimuli to grow these are welcomed.

Most often, in this and other policy documents, when there is a reference to access to the arts it means encouraging more people to enjoy the arts. Again, we support efforts to increase and broaden appreciation and enjoyment of the arts. However, the work we are engaged in aspires to a much more active relationship with ‘the consumer’.

Community arts and cultural development encourages people to use the arts for self-expression. It engages people in the process of art making to explore their own ideas, to reflect on matters affecting them and their community, to dream a different future for their children, to unlock a spirit of play and discovery, to share stories and build community connections. The intrinsic value of the arts is to the fore in this approach with the personal satisfaction that arises from art making combining with the creative engagement of people’s heads and hearts in addressing personal, community and social challenges.

For us, this is what participation and engagement with the arts really mean.

Thus the community arts and cultural development sector considers active participation in arts and cultural activity as the bedrock to achieving truly transformative national cultural enrichment. Therefore we ask that the policy specifically address the need to encourage more Australians to National Cultural Policy – Discussion Paper Submission Community Arts Network WA Ltd. October 2011


actively participate in the arts. Community arts and cultural development practice is the vehicle to achieving this.

There is ample evidence that participatory arts produces positive social impact at various levels (Matarasso 1997). These include: social engagement and the inclusion of disadvantaged communities (Ruane 2007; Palmer and Sonn 2010; Sonn and Quayle 2011); community development and capacity building (Anwar 2011); engendering participation and citizenship (Dunn 2006; Pippen 2003); and the benefits to mental health and wellbeing (McQueen Thomson and Ziguras 2002; Mills and Brown 2004; Anwar 2011). In education, participatory arts is recognised for its benefits in enhancing creative talent and critical capacity, and its benefits are also broadly recognised for rural and regional revitalisation (Anwar 2011).

In regards to social engagement of marginalised communities, community arts and cultural development has a long tradition of creating civic spaces for marginal communities to have a voice and tell their stories (Adams and Goldbard 2001; Palmer and Wright 2007) (Sonn and Green 2008). Telling community stories provides the opportunity to develop, preserve and express one’s culture which in turn plays a major role in affirming cultural identity and fostering social capital and inclusion (Ruane 2007; Williams 1995).

Achieving community development and capacity building outcomes has been documented as one of the key advantages of the arts, versus other forms of community engagement (Anwar 2011). Community arts activity is non-competitive and therefore it enables modes of collaboration and inclusion among the participants (Impact of the Arts in Regional Western Australia, 2004).

Community arts and cultural development practice also enables active participation where people engage in discussions and take action on issues that matter to them. This active collective engagement in civic matters is an important antidote to passive consumption of entertainment, news or other mass media forms of communication. In short, engagement in community arts exercises the muscles of cultural participation and citizenship, which run the risk of atrophy if

National Cultural Policy – Discussion Paper Submission Community Arts Network WA Ltd. October 2011


under-utilised (Adams and Goldbard 2001).

The role of community arts and cultural development in the development of positive health outcomes, particularly in mental health, has been widely recognised and there is a substantial body of research that points to this (McQueen Thomson and Ziguras 2002) (Proving the Practice 2008).

Educational benefits in participating in community arts have been explored for decades. Among the most common reported benefits are the acquisition of new skills, enhanced communication skills, problem solving, collecting and analysing skills and planning and organising complex projects and activities (Williams 1995; Sonn and Green 2008).

Finally, community arts plays an important role in developing social capital of rural communities, as these activities foster the development of social networks, trust, and cohesion (Anwar 2011) (Ruane 2007). Community arts assists with intergenerational dialogue by bringing families together and strengthening existing social networks as well as decreasing social isolation (Palmer, Hayden, and Kasat 2011).

CAN WA Rock Hole Long Pipe project performance in Coolgardie, 2008. Photo by Mike Gray.

National Cultural Policy – Discussion Paper Submission Community Arts Network WA Ltd. October 2011


Excellence We support the aspiration for Australia to produce world-class artists who can create world-class artworks. For all the reasons articulated in the discussion paper, this is a valid and important aim.

We also know that Australia produces artists and arts workers who are world leaders in engaging communities in creative expression and art making. The excellence in this work lies not only in the artistic expertise that an artist provides, but also in their capacity to inspire people and encourage people’s confidence to share in art making. This process, which we describe as community arts and cultural development, requires multiple skills to design and implement excellent community processes that result in excellent artistic and social outcomes.

We are as passionate about the complexity of this work being done well as the Australian Opera is about the quality of its productions.

When it comes to encouraging Australians to make art, the discussion paper reverts to formal education as the singular strategy. While we support moves to ensure the arts is well represented within a National Curriculum Framework, our work demonstrates that there are many ways in which citizens can and do engage in creative processes. Further, the rise in popularity of community festivals and events and initiatives such as Sculpture by the Sea suggest that many Australians appreciate the opportunity to incorporate the arts in their daily life, beyond the walls of traditional institutions.

CAN WA Rock Hole Long Pipe project performance in Coolgardie, 2008. Photo by Poppy van Oorde Grainger.

National Cultural Policy – Discussion Paper Submission Community Arts Network WA Ltd. October 2011


Although we are keen to encourage support for the arts across the full spectrum of activity, the figures outlining key elements of government support (p. 8) highlight how the traditional ‘arts excellence’ discourse has been detrimental to supporting participation in the arts. With so much investment directed towards cultural institutions it is inevitable that debate focuses on how to ensure greater access to this investment by all Australians but this automatically limits the conversation to matters of audience development. We urge the Government to clarify and broaden its thinking on issues of access and excellence to ensure that opportunities for the genuine engagement of all Australians in arts and culture are not overlooked.

Australia Council The conundrum of the access and excellence debate has played itself out in the operations of the Australia Council. While the various art form boards have had a long and stable history, the Council’s support for community arts and cultural development has had a tumultuous one. Changing mechanisms for distributing support (Community Arts Board, Community Cultural Development Committee, Community Cultural Development Board, Community Partnerships Committee) and changing focus for the support has characterised this area of work. In part this reflects the dynamism of the work, its commitment to being responsive to communities (and therefore subject to change) and its inextricable link to the shifts and turns of society and other areas of government policy.

The Australia Council’s primary focus remains clearly in the pursuit of excellence and the support of individual artists and arts organisations. Although there is currently a Community Partnership section within Council whose role is to support community arts and cultural development practice, its influence and capacity to affect internal and external change is probably limited to its modest budget and to a legacy around a culture of ‘excellence’. In addition, the diversity of the community arts and cultural development sectors needs a diversity of funding models. We would like to see the Community Partnership section of the Australia

National Cultural Policy – Discussion Paper Submission Community Arts Network WA Ltd. October 2011


Council strengthened but we would also welcome community arts and cultural development funding established across other government departments. Perhaps it could begin with The Office for the Arts running a pilot program with an allied sector(s) that is or (are) well recognised for its affinity with participatory arts, such as Aboriginal Affairs (linked to the ‘Closing the Gap’ agenda, for example), Education and/or Health.

CAN WA Voices of the Wheatbelt: Wheat Beats project – Kellerberrin District High School. Photo by Dion Cochrane.

Training and sustaining the sector Training and skills development for: 1. Artists who wish to practice in communities 2. A VET pathway into the arts industry (particularly for young people) and the re-skilling of a mature age workforce 3. Specific pathways for Aboriginal people into the arts

As the arts intersect with other sectors it is important that artists are fully equipped to practice their art in relation to others, and with others, as well as having their ‘solo’ practice. Not all artists wish to do this and not all can. However, for those artists who can see that community practice offers them an alternative source of both inspiration and income, there are limited opportunities to undertake further training in community arts. This is predominantly because there is no infrastructure that supports this.

National Cultural Policy – Discussion Paper Submission Community Arts Network WA Ltd. October 2011


As an RTO, CAN WA’s experience reveals the difficulty in accessing funding to support training initiatives that respond flexibly to artists’ professional development needs. Education and training funding primarily reflects national workforce development strategies that highlight skill shortages based on the mining and resources sector. There is no funding from the education and training sectors to support community arts training.

National Cultural Policy – Discussion Paper Submission Community Arts Network WA Ltd. October 2011


References Adams, D., & Goldbard, A. (2000). Creative Community: The Art of Cultural Development. New York: The Rockefeller Foundation. Anwar, J. (2011). The Arts and Social Wellbeing in Rural Communites: A Qualitative and Quantitative Assessment in the Mid West Region of Western Australia. Perth: Centre for Regional Development, School of Earth and Environment Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. Craik, J. (2005). Dilemmas in Policy: Support of the Arts and Cultural Sector. Australian Journal of Public Administration 64 (4): 6-19. Repeated Author. (2010). Book Review: The Economics of Cultural Policy. Australian Journal of Public Administration 69 (4): 457-464. Dunn, A. (2006). Creative Communities: Community Partnerships. Scoping Study Australia Council. Goldbard, A. (2006). New Creative Community: The Art of Cultural Development. Impact of the Arts in Regional Western Australia. (2004). In Community Development and Justice Standing Committee. Perth: Government of Western Australia. Matarasso, F. (1997). Use or Ornament ? The social impact of participation in the arts. Comedia. McQueen, T., & Ziguras, D & C. (2002). Promoting Mental Health & Wellbeing through Community & Cultural Development: A review of Literature focussing on Community Arts Practice. Melbourne: The Globalism Institute RMIT University Mills, D., & Brown, P. (2004). Art and Wellbeing. Sydney NSW: Australia Council for the Arts. Palmer, D., & Wright, P. (2007). People now know me for something positive: An evaluation of Big hART's work at the John Northcott Estate. Perth: Big hART and Murdoch University. Palmer, D., Hayden, G., & Kasat, P. (2011). Kura, yeye borda, bulla gnulla boodjar, moort, karla: yesterday, today and in the future our country, family and home fires burn deep. Perth: Community Arts Network WA (CAN WA) & Murdoch University. Palmer, D., & Sonn, C. (2010). Naked Practice: Outcomes of Two Community Arts Projects in Regional Western Australia. Perth: Community Arts Network WA (CAN WA). Pippen, J. (2003). Insights: community, culture and local government. Edited by L. Carroli and National Cultural Policy – Discussion Paper Submission Community Arts Network WA Ltd. October 2011


M. Lean. Queensland: Queensland Community Arts Network. Proving the Practice. (2008). Disability in the Arts Disadvantaged in the Arts Australia (DADAA). Ruane, S. (2007). Paving Pathways for Youth Inclusion; The Contribution of Community Cultural Development. Perth: Community Arts Network WA (CAN WA). Sonn, C., & Green, M. (2008). Drawing Out Community Empowerment Through Arts and Cultural Practice. Community Arts Network WA (CAN WA). Sonn, C., & Quayle, A. (2011). Exploring Barriers and Opportunities For Partnership Formation in the Context of CAN WA's Strategic Partnership Initiative. Victoria University. Williams, D. (1995). Creating Social Capital. Adelaide.

National Cultural Policy – Discussion Paper Submission Community Arts Network WA Ltd. October 2011


Community Arts and Cultural Development  
Community Arts and Cultural Development  

Community Arts Network Western Australia October 2011