What are the four drivers that have shaped Australia’s policy settings for arts and culture?

As a nation we are facing unprecedented challenges, as we wrestle with the consequences of back-to-back bushfire and pandemic crises as well as Australia’s first recession in 29 years. Arts and culture have a significant role to play in helping Australia address these challenges, including setting the tone for how we view ourselves as a nation now and into the future.

A New Approach today released its fourth report, Behind the scenes: Drivers of arts and cultural policy settings in Australia and beyond.

There are some important opportunities and decisions ahead of us. That is why understanding the drivers that inform public policy settings is critical for the future of Australian arts and culture.

Behind the scenes brings these policy drivers centre stage; making them clearer and more accessible so that a wider range of people can take part in informed discussion about Australia’s cultural policy settings.

In this report, we unpack four policy drivers that we have found to be the most significant influences on arts, cultural and creative policies, globally, for the last 70 years. They are:

  • Collective identity
  • Reputation building
  • Social improvement
  • Economic contribution

In exploring Australia’s existing cultural policy settings, we found that these four very different, sometimes conflicting policy drivers have accumulated in both positive and negative ways. This makes arts and culture a highly complex policy space, but also one where there is great opportunity for development.

The report identifies some key opportunities for action in this area, including:

  • Establish an inquiry investigating whether cultural policy settings and associated investments are effective and relevant for 21st century Australia. This should include a strategy and mechanism for better coordination between the three levels of government, and identify the policy areas that would create value through strategic investment.
  • Create a National Arts and Culture Plan, in the same vein as the existing ‘Sport 2030’ National Sport Plan, that identifies the enduring and non-partisan principles and responsibilities that could inform more coherent arts and cultural policy settings and investment at all three levels of government.
  • Consider the value of a whole-of-government creative industries approach to cultural policy that will strategically connect arts and culture to  innovation outcomes in the broader creative economy.
  • Prioritise incentives, requirements and schemes that support collective identity-building through the production and distribution of diverse Australian content that will help to build a unified national identity and represent Australia to the world.
  • Review pathways and mechanisms that connect and embed arts and cultural activities in education, mental health and social inclusion strategies, including those related to recovery from natural disasters and significant social and economic disruptions.

Behind the scenes: Drivers of arts and cultural policy in Australia and beyond is part of the work by A New Approach to champion effective investment and return in arts and culture.

We hope that this report will help create a framework for more productive discussions about policy and investment between all levels of government, businesses, individual creators, philanthropists and in the media.

Our cultural future depends on it.

About A New Approach

A New Approach (ANA) was established in 2018 to champion effective investment and return in Australian arts and culture. It was created through a $1.65 million commitment by The Myer Foundation, the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation and the Keir Foundation, with lead delivery partner, the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Australian Academy of the Humanities recognises Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of this land, and their continuous connection to country, community and culture.