Launch of National Cultural Policy

30 Jan 2023
The Espy, St Kilda
Prime Minister
Check against delivery

I pay my respect to elders past, present and emerging and I recommit, on behalf of the government that I'm proud to lead, the implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.

Later this year, Australians will have the choice of voting Yes in a referendum that will advance reconciliation, that is about just two things: recognition and consultation.

Nothing more, but absolutely nothing less.

And showing respect for the fact that we share this continent with the oldest continuous culture on Earth and that that should be a source of great pride for all of us.

But it's also about how Australia sees ourselves - whether we have the confidence to acknowledge the fullness of our history.

It's also about how the world sees Australia as well - whether we're a mature nation that's able to reconcile and move forward.

It is a generous, modest and gracious offer from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

And I would ask the arts community to join with me in urging us to take forward those steps together later this year by joining the campaign for Yes to reconciliation, Yes to constitutional recognition, and Yes to a Voice to our Parliament.

And it is appropriate to talk about those issues at the beginning of the launch of Australia's new cultural policy for the next five years – Revive.

Because for tens of thousands of years this land has been alive with stories, with song, with dance, with art.

Through the great immensity of time, First Nations people have mapped this landscape with songlines.

They are at the heart of this cultural roadmap.

This document stands as a powerful reaffirmation of the government's commitment to our culture and the arts through which it finds its great expression, and we have so much.

Every year when I vote in Triple J's Hottest 100 I'm struck by how much talent there is in Australia, how difficult it is to narrow it down to those ten songs that you're able to nominate.

And then you get excited about all the up and comers - it helps having a 22 year old son.

And all the talent that's about to be discovered - and that's just in music.

Today is a bright moment for that sector, but it's also an overdue one.

You have endured a decade in which opportunity wasn’t so much missed as thrown away, capped by the years of the pandemic, in which the loss of opportunity was exacerbated by calculated neglect.

Fittingly, our cultural policy for the next five years is called Revive.

Drawing on the pillars of Creative Australia – the work of the Gillard Government, which understood the power and value of culture, and I acknowledge my friend, Simon Crean, who launched that policy, who's here with us today – Revive puts the arts back where they are meant to be: at the heart of our national life.

Revive is structured around five interconnected pillars:

  • First Nations First, because we recognise and respect the crucial place of First Nations stories at the centre of Australia’s arts and culture.
  • A Place for Every Story, which reflects the breadth of our stories and the contribution of Australians as the creators of culture.
  • Centrality of the Artist, which supports the artist as worker and celebrates artists as creators.
  • Strong Cultural Infrastructure, which provides support across the spectrum of institutions that sustain our arts, our culture and our heritage.
  • And the fifth pillar, Engaging the Audience, to ensure our stories reach people at home and abroad.

Then there’s the establishment of Creative Australia – a reimagined and properly-funded Australia Council that will encompass new functions including:

  • Music Australia, to support the Australian music industry;
  • Writers Australia, which will provide direct support to the literature sector from 2025, and the establishment of a Poet Laureate for Australia;
  • A dedicated First Nations governance body within Creative Australia to invest in, create and produce First Nations works and with priorities and funding decisions determined by First Nations leaders; and, importantly
  • A Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces, within Creative Australia, to provide advice on issues of pay, safety and welfare in the arts and culture sector.

And we will walk the talk, mandating minimum remuneration for professional artists contracted by government entities to perform at Australian Government events and functions.

Because as important as talent and inspiration are to creation and performance, so are the hundreds and thousands of hours that go into it.

The arts cannot be left simply to those who can afford to do it.

Arts jobs are real jobs.

I compete with Josh, with my electorate of Grayndler in the inner-west of Sydney, for the highest number of people, as a percentage of the population, of people in the creative sector.

It is an important part of our economy and that is important to recognise that. But it is also important to lift ourselves above the usual economic debate.

This is about our soul. This is about our identity.

It is so important, because it's about who we are and being able to express ourselves, and about our quality of life.

During the pandemic, perhaps more so than any era certainly in my lifetime, how many of us, when we were unable to get out and about, missed, so much, going to live music or the theatre?

But we engaged in different ways. We read more books than we did before. We watched more programs in isolation with the people we were in iso with. We talked and engaged about cultural issues as well.

It was a real reminder, though, of the important role that the arts play just in our human interaction, in bringing our society together, in engaging with people.

If you're of my vintage, the great thing about bands still playing so many years later is that you run into people that you met at the Oils or the Sunny Boys or whoever 30 years ago and you had that connection of experience that enriches all of our lives.

It is literally through the arts that we build our identity as a nation and a people.

And that's why First Nations art has been put as the first pillar.

Because just as we can learn about caring for our country, for our land and our waterways, from those who looked after this island continent for 65,000 years at least, we can learn, as well, from the way that they told their stories through verbal communication, through the arts, through the world's oldest art galleries, through the songlines that are through their relationship with country that is so important.

As our nation evolves, it is vital our cultural policies evolve, too. Doors must be opened so we can hear the great diversity of voices that have struggled to find an outlet.

The arts tell us stories. The arts ask question, sometimes uncomfortable for those of us in public life. But it's a good thing.

In the arts we feel joy and celebration. We deal with pain, and we reflect on truths that aren’t always easily told.

What the arts add up to is a never-ending journey of discovery. That is how the arts can bring us together. It is how they create shared understanding and common purpose.

Without ever seeking to iron out the differences that make our nation so vibrant, strong and attractive, we will always seek out the common ground between us – because that will always be the most fertile place to plant our dreams.

That is the spirit that guides me.

It's the nature of the change in the culture of government that my Government is trying to bring: bringing people together, not looking for division.

That's what the vote later this year is about as well.

I am very proud to lead a government that follows in the footsteps of Labor governments that recognised and respected the centrality of culture and the arts.

It is my privilege to continue this Labor tradition, and I would like to express my deep gratitude to every organisation and every artist who has contributed to Revive.

Like other best policy practice, this hasn't come from people sitting around a room in Canberra.

This has come from people in this room and people from around the country who have made a contribution.

This is a framework that empowers our arts, entertainment and cultural sectors wherever you encounter them – from the gallery to the moshpit to your favourite reading chair.

Or, indeed, as many of you will, here at the Espy. Thank you.

So thank you very much and it's my great honour to particularly to single out as well the work that Tony Burke has done.

You won't be surprised some people pitch up to get particular jobs. And the Labor Party is a strange beast sometimes. We have the caucus processes and all of that, but I get to appoint the portfolios. Something I remind them of occasionally.

Burkey was the person who was so passionate about the arts portfolio and he's brought that passion into a realisation with this policy.

So I congratulate him on the work and I acknowledge the work that Michelle Rowland is playing as the Communications Minister in the art sector as well which is so vital, including properly funding the ABC and the SBS.

So thank you very much. Launched.