Zali Steggall MP speaks on the Creative Australia Amendment Bill (Part 1)

26 June 2024



 I love the arts, and so do the people of Warringah. Almost one in 10 of Warringah's workforce are employed in cultural or creative occupations. There are over 450 businesses in Warringah in the arts and recreation sector.

Live music is seeing a revitalisation, particularly in the Brookvale Arts District, which also has emerging breweries and distilleries in the area. We also hold the renowned Night at the Barracks concert series at North Head, which is very iconic. I invite everybody to come along. It really is an amazing opportunity to be there under the stars enjoying fantastic music. It generally features amazing Australian artists. This September it will be from Xavier Rudd, Pete Murray, The Presets, Jessica Mauboy, Bag Raiders—the list goes on.

We have the Manly Writers Festival as well, for readers, writers and thinkers. It includes one-on-one conversations, Q&A, panel discussions, presentations and book launches. This year's festival was opened by one of our well-known Warringah residents, Tom Keneally.

Coming up in September, Manly Jazz is back again. It's Australia's longest-running jazz festival. It's dedicated to nurturing young talent, with a number of school bands always given a chance to perform in front of some great crowds. In fact, I had the pleasure of seeing my son, as part of the Manly selective jazz band program, play on a number of occasions. It is phenomenal to see all those young people get that opportunity on the stage.

The arts are vital to the wellbeing of Australians and enhancing social cohesion, and they are significant contributors to the Australian economy. Australian artists are our cultural ambassadors on the international stage. The arts and entertainment sector contributes approximately $14.7 billion annually to Australia's GDP. The sector employs around 193,600 Australians. In 2021 the broader creative economy, which includes both creative and non-creative roles within creative industries, employed some 714,000 people, making up some 5.9 per cent of the total workforce, so this is huge.

But, numbers aside, we always have to be mindful that Australia is home to the oldest surviving culture in the world. With more investment, First Nations art has gained the potential to reach greater audiences both within Australia and internationally. But we should always remember as well that Australia is an amazing, multicultural country, and through creative industries we can and must celebrate and explore all of the cultures and traditions that we have within Australia. The arts bring people together. They help reflect our national identity and cultural heritage. They provide a platform for storytelling, innovation and dialogue, allowing us to connect more deeply. They nurture our communities, they promote mental wellbeing and they play a crucial role in education by fostering critical thinking and creativity. The bill before us will expand many opportunities by investing in First Nations artists and Australian writers and ensuring that we have a strong and vibrant creative industry.

It's important to acknowledge though that it has at times been tough for the sector. We can give the positive numbers, but we also have to paint the real picture right now. For the Australian arts sector it is sometimes dire. It has been seriously underfunded, and it needs more policy support. I know, for example, within Warringah that we have an incredibly strong philanthropic community when it comes to a lot of arts. Recently I went to the launch of the Mosman Art Walk, which shows incredible pieces of artwork displayed through modern technology, identifying iconic landscapes and areas of the Warringah and Mossman coastline. I invite people to go and do that walk and appreciate the arts, the artists' points of view, the display and the landscape that has been depicted.

Around 74 per cent of artists have a university degree, yet they earn significantly less than other professions that require similar levels of, or tertiary, education. Working artists earn an average income that is about 26 per cent below the national average, at about $54,500 per year. Generally, they always have to consider additional sources of income. The average income based solely on creative work is estimated to be around $23,200, with almost half of professional artists earning less than $10,000 a year from their creative work. Clearly, we have a gap between appreciating and valuing that creative output and making sure we support opportunities for them and recognising the role the arts play within our communities and within our cultural development and how we are as a society.