Bleak future for cultural and creative industries without a national arts strategy: MEAA
The absence of a coherent national strategy for the cultural and creative industries threatens to create a brain drain that will impact Australia’s economy and its sense of identity.
In its submission to the House of Representatives inquiry into Australia’s cultural and creative industries and institutions, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance warns that unless a new national strategy is developed, the arts will wither and decline.
A national arts strategy should include the restoration of funding to the Australia Council and Screen Australia, but also greater investment in community and regional arts organisations, and schools music and art education initiatives to enable greater access and outreach to the arts.
In its submission, MEAA blames successive federal governments for failing to support Australia’s cultural and creative industries, which generate more than $85 billion in economic activity each year.
Funding from governments to the cultural and creative sectors is 18.9% less per capita than a decade ago with the decline most stark at a federal level. Australia has now slipped to 26th out of 33 OECD countries in funding for the arts.
The crisis in the cultural and creative industries has been heightened by COVID-19, which has caused at least 20,000 job losses in the performing arts, film and television. The majority of those workers have not been eligible for JobKeeper and federal government assistance to the arts has fallen well short of what was needed.
MEAA Chief Executive Paul Murphy said the arts had suffered from government neglect and poor policy decisions.
“The arts deliver incredible value to Australia, generating billions of dollars of economic activity, providing income to tens of thousands of workers, and bringing people together in every suburb and town in Australia in community theatre, dance workshops, visual arts classes, writers groups, amateur bands and much, much more,” he said.
“But the economic and cultural cost of the current approach to Australian arts policy, coupled with the impact of COVID-19, is generating dramatic declines in creative activity and the workforce it sustains.
“This is not just economically harmful: the resulting creative ‘brain-drain’ will cause an inability to produce the next generation of popular creative works. The consequences of this are that Australian content will be compromised, with a corresponding loss of identity and cultural values that creative works generate.
“There is an urgent need to create a new, world-class strategy for Australia’s creative sector with funding to sustain the sector’s economic growth.
“Without it, important parts of our cultural and creative industries will wither. This demise will be felt across the board – not just by those in densely populated areas, but in areas where access to the arts is more restricted and marginal.
“The federal government has been wilfully indifferent to this bleak picture for the arts. Its decision to fold the Department for the Arts into a mega infrastructure department sends a message that it does not value the cultural and creative industries. This must change.”
In its submission, MEAA recommends:
- Restoration of the Arts as an office with greater standing in Government.
- Greater funding for small to medium creative enterprises.
- Creation and investment in a self-governed First Nations arts/creative agency.
- Improved Australian content protections and incentives.
- Rebooting the Australia Council with extra funding and new guidelines that enable greater diversity (cultural and otherwise) in the range of funded organisations and individuals.
- New funding for community arts organisations to enable greater access and outreach.
- Schools music and art education initiatives.
- Access measures to improve regional arts assistance.