Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall MP speaks on the Creative Australia Amendment Bill (Part 2)

27 June 2024



I welcome the opportunity to make some further comments in relation to the legislation brought forward in relation to Creative Australia Amendment (Implementation of Revive) Bill 2024. We know for so many artists in Australia it is incredibly difficult to make a living. We know that it has gotten harder throughout recent years with COVID but generally we know they are well below national average when it comes to income. It is incredibly difficult, despite contributing so much to our national identity, our culture, our children in their understanding, our country, our traditions, our multiculturalism; all these aspects are incredibly important and in particular, understanding and having better awareness of first-nations cultural tradition and art.

So, we know for example artists in Australia are generally unable to work full-time in creative work because the income from this work is simply not sufficient. Only one in 10 artists can work full-time in the arts. Two out of five working artists need to meet their basic living costs by additional work. In 2022, the Productivity Commission found the sale of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, including souvenirs, was worth $250 million annually, supporting thousands of jobs in remote communities and helping draw more tourists to Australia and more awareness of those first Australians.

So, incredibly important to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their art in that way. So unfortunately, according to Creative Australia, there is no single source of representative data on Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander artists and their working conditions. That is simply not good enough. It is symptomatic of the way in which we do not take first-nations artists as seriously as we should, or haven't to date. I certainly hope with this legislation that that is going to change. The bill before us will help to start to turn that around and give more support and certainty for first-nations artists.

The bill, and I will support it, will create two new bodies within Creative Australia: a First Nations Arts and Writing Australia. First Nations Arts will have autonomy over the allocation of its funds for investment in First Nations art. It will be guided by First Nations cultural protocols and principles to support and invest in a diverse range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts practice and provide financial assistance whether by way of loan, grant, investment, award or otherwise, as it sees fit and whether on commercial terms or otherwise. And separately, Writing Australia will support and provide the Australian literature sector, including the development of markets and audiences. We know the importance of stories and too often when we speak of the arts the literature sector has been overlooked, the writers have been left to really fend for themselves.

So it is welcome, this amendment to create Writing Australia. We know we have a lot of work to do to better support the arts in Australia, particularly First Nations art. We are already starting to see some good outcomes from investment in Australia's creative sector. We need to remember within the arts the philanthropic sector, philanthropy, has always been a huge contributor to the arts and I very much thank all those who are in a position to, through philanthropy, assist in that development in that continuation. I know there are many within my community in Warringah that invest in that way. Invest into the future into that cultural aspect in the storytelling.

Creative Australia is already making its mark in supporting First Nations artists. We know 23 artists, including Emma Donovan, Dan Sultan, Jungaji, Buddy Knox, Lucas Proudfoot and Selve are already set to receive contemporary music touring grants. It has been encouraging to see the government focus on genuine community input through the First Nations first national consultations.

This is the sort of genuine engagement with community that my community in Warringah want to see first-nations people around Australia. In Warringah, my constituents showed one of the strongest levels of support for the Voice Referendum in the country and for the recognition of First Nations People, First Australians, in our Constitution.

I strongly believe in Indigenous people's self-determination and opportunity to have a much stronger representation. It is positive that there appears to be a genuine effort by the government in its commitment to listen, to take on feedback and provide First Nations Peoples with opportunity to be active participants in decision-making within First Nations art. Increased participation in the arts will also provide employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, which will allow for stronger economic participation in development of First Nation artists and their community. I should note though, and I am concerned that, it cannot be overlooked the multiple aspect of Australia. When I think of Writing Australia, for example, to make sure it has in its mind's eye when applying and looking at supporting artists and writers to make sure that we do so with awareness of our multicultural nature in Australia. There are many stories to tell, there are many backgrounds, many cultures, and we must make sure that we actually reflect that through that funding of so many bodies, that we reflect the true nature of our communities, which is an incredibly successful multicultural nation.

So, I hope that all these bodies, as there is rightly a focus on that First Nations arts piece, we must make sure that all other funding and bodies keep an eye and make sure they have that principle of that multicultural aspect as well and that that be recognised.

To finish off, this bill represents essential steps to revitalising an industry consistently undermined by budget cuts in previous years. Too often people say the arts as nice to have, not a must have. But when we look back and think of what it is to be Australian, what is our national identity, what is our culture, it is so often contributed by the arts. So as many in Warringah and around Australia know, we are incredibly proud of Australian artists and what they do, how they represent Australia on the international scene, how they tell our stories through all the different mediums, and I commend this bill to the House.