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University of Melbourne
15 July 2010
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Thank you Professor Dewar.
I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, and pay my respects to their elders, both past and present.
It's a pleasure to be back in Melbourne—a city that revels in artistic and cultural excellence.
And it's good to be here at the University of Melbourne, which plays an important role in fostering the development and ongoing practice of our creative artists, historians, academics, curators, conservators and arts administrators.
Congratulations are in order to the Australian Art Industry Networks and the convenors of this event for bringing together representatives from right across the diverse visual arts sector.
The reason we are here today is that we are all committed to, and passionate about, Australia's visual arts. This is our common ground.
We recognise that visual culture plays a critical role in communicating, deciphering, interpreting and critiquing the world we live in.
There is no shortage of creativity and excellence in Australia's visual arts and no shortage of enthusiastic participants.
As I've said previously, I believe we are in the midst of a great sea change in the involvement of Australians with the arts.
This is borne out in the Australia Council's recent survey, More than bums on seats: Australian participation in the arts, which found that more than 16 million Australians are actively participating in the arts, with nine out of every ten Australians aged over 15 making the arts part of their lives in the previous 12 months.
And four out of ten Australians creatively participated in the arts, with visual arts and crafts being the most popular artform.
The visual arts focus of our 2007 election policy, New Directions in the Arts - supporting a vibrant and diverse Australian arts sector, was to support Australian artists, encourage access and participation in the arts, provide arts education for all Australian students and display a strong commitment to Indigenous arts.
I believe in a visual arts industry in which people are treated fairly and artists receive a fair price for their work—a visual arts industry in which intellectual property and the rights of artists are protected—a visual arts industry that is moral, ethical, dynamic, sustainable and, importantly, profitable.
The Government's support for the arts is not measured simply in terms of funding. Our support is about putting in place the building blocks for the long-term resilience and vitality of the sector.
These building blocks are initiatives like the inclusion of arts in the development of the national curriculum, Artstart grants to help artists establish their careers, protecting copyright and intellectual property, employment for Indigenous Australians in the arts and culture sectors, the Indigenous Australian Art Commercial Code of Conduct and the Charter of Principles for Publicly Funded Collecting Institutions, increasing support for the Indigenous visual arts sector and, importantly, the resale royalty scheme.
These new initiatives sit together with established programs, like Visions of Australia, and organisations, like the Australia Council, Artbank and our national collecting institutions, all of which are central to the Australian arts and culture landscape.
I'd like to start by talking about the improvements and reforms that we've made in a broader sense, to set the scene, before I discuss the Aboriginal visual art sector and the implementation of resale royalty in more detail.
For almost forty years, the Australia Council has been central to the Australian Government's support for the arts.
The Australia Council supports excellence, innovation and distinction in the arts.
This year the Australia Council is offering 58 grant categories and 40 initiatives to support the arts sector.
These include support to develop artists' capacity, skills, opportunities and income, promote artists' work and recognise outstanding achievements.
Australia Council funding is also crucial to the maintenance, development and success of arts organisations of all sizes, supporting a range of activities from operations, to one-off projects to infrastructure.
As well as grants for new work and exhibitions, the Australia Council is a robust supporter of the development of business skills, opportunities, audiences and income streams that encourage sustainability in the arts.
The Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, or "VACS", is an important joint initiative of the Australian, state and territory governments.
VACS has provided some $90 million since starting in 2003, supporting a wide and dynamic range of visual arts and craft activities.
This support has led to a more sustainable and effective infrastructure, which has seen VACS funded organisations achieve:
VACS has also facilitated an increase of 76 per cent in the direct support for new work by individual artists since 2003.
Importantly, the Commonwealth's commitment to VACS is ongoing.
Artbank is another enduring and exceptionally successful Australian government program, now in its 30th year.
It's a real gem that I came to fully appreciate when coming to government.
Artbank's contribution to the sector happens in two ways; it provides direct support to artists, through the purchase of their art works, and it provides a service to both the public and corporate sectors through its rental scheme.
It also plays a critical role in promoting Australia's art export industry, constantly updating and showcasing works for international promotions and engagement.
And it's a shining example of sustainability in the visual arts.
By the time it reached its 12th year in 1992, Artbank was already self-sufficient.
More recently, Artbank has begun collecting video and new media artworks to add to the collection.
This supports Artbank's objective of developing a representative collection of contemporary art and in promoting new artforms.
Artbank's eruditely informed (if I can put it that way) and far-sighted approach to acquisitions has, of course, been tremendously beneficial to building the capital value of the collection, now valued at some $35 million.
The cost of purchasing works by artists like Rosalie Gascoigne, Imants Tillers or Emily Kngwarreye would be prohibitive for the organisation these days.
But Artbank's innovative and informed approach means that the works of Australia's premier artists are included in Artbank's collection and available for rent.
Thanks to the increased engagement with corporate Australia as demand has built, Artbank is now also Australia's biggest buyer of emerging contemporary Australian art.
While Artbank's collection was established to encourage contemporary Australian artists by acquiring their work, the collections of the National Gallery of Australia and the National Portrait Gallery exist to tell the nation's story.
They are part of Australia's national collection, they belong to the people of Australia and they are preserved and presented for the enjoyment and education of the Australian people.
A great demonstration of the Australian public's appetite for art is the success of the new purpose-built National Portrait Gallery, which welcomed its one millionth visitor, just 15 months after opening.
Most Australians understand that the arts benefit the individual, the community and society.
They agree that the arts make life more meaningful.
But I recognise that not everyone is able to travel to the institutions in the national capital.
Of course, the state and territory galleries and museums are also important landmarks in the visual arts environment and, for the Melburnians in the audience, I concede that you have your very own National Gallery here in Melbourne.
The Government's record in its first term is clearly seen by a commitment to implementing election promises and putting in place important reforms to assist the sustainability of the sector.
Putting aside the shrill criticisms from some members of the Fourth Estate and a direct lack of interest in the portfolio from the Opposition, there is much to be proud of.
The inclusion of the arts in our national curriculum is a tremendous breakthrough and one of huge and far reaching importance - it is one that I am genuinely excited about.
The potential pedagogic benefits are significant, with innovation and imagination at the fore; it reflects our sophistication as a nation and will make us more competitive in the global economy.
The decision by Australian Education Ministers to include the arts in the development of a national curriculum recognises the real benefits of an arts-rich education for students.
The United States-based Champions for Change and Critical Links studies suggest that comprehensive arts programs are likely to improve student attendance, especially among disadvantaged groups.
Greater engagement in learning through the arts helps make our children better communicators and collaborators.
It encourages students to stay in school longer and this in turn improves skill levels and ultimately their future employability.
As part of developing a national arts curriculum, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority is conducting a ten-week public consultation with the broader arts community.
I encourage you to contribute to the future of Australian arts education through this consultation process.
We have also introduced the ArtStart program, which provides financial assistance of up to $10,000 to recent creative arts graduates who are committed to establishing a career as a professional artist.
These grants help graduate artists to build an income-generating career.
The first two rounds of ArtStart supported 201 grant recipients, and 95 of those are visual artists.
This support enables artists to develop their professional practice by supporting the acquisition of skills, resources and equipment.
It also gives the next generation of Australian artists a solid foundation upon which to build a sustainable career.
The IIP Toolkit is an initiative of the Cultural Ministers Council, and is designed to cover all artforms, including the visual arts.
Its primary objectives are:
I am pleased to announce that the Arts Law Centre of Australia has been engaged to deliver the IIP Toolkit, in progressive stages over three years.
During this time, Arts Law will develop an Indigenous portal on its website, create audio, DVD and print resources for communities, consumers and commercial operators.
Arts Law is also planning a series of workshops to provide training on IIP to Indigenous artists and art centres throughout Australia.
I believe that delivery of the IIP Toolkit will make an important contribution to the visual arts sector.
I've no doubt this will also be a factor in contributing to fairer outcomes and better business practices for Indigenous visual artists.
The Indigenous visual arts sector is estimated to have an annual turnover of up to $500 million.
Participation by Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander people in the visual arts plays a vital role in supporting the maintenance and transmission of culture, inter-generational learning, and improved levels of community cohesion, health and wellbeing.
The Australian Government currently provides funding to 87 Indigenous art centres, most of which are located in remote parts of the country.
To a large degree, the Indigenous visual arts sector has been built on the backbone of these Indigenous-owned art centres.
Each art centre is owned and controlled by Indigenous community members who, in many cases, are also the artists that make the work.
The centres function like artists co-operatives and, in my view, are one of the best models that we have for supporting Indigenous self-determination and financial independence.
I am reminded of the success story of the community at Ali Curung, about 380kms North of Alice Springs with a population of 500, which, over two years, with Australian Government support, has turned community arts practice into a thriving professional enterprise.
The centre currently supports around 65 artists through its men's and women's centres, and has recently worked with peak tourism bodies to be recognised as a National Tourism accredited art gallery.
New ceramics practice has been added for men, using the considerable skills of the art centre coordinator as well as a timely donation of kilns.
The art centre offers outreach services to surrounding communities, is introducing a volunteer program in 2010, and is working with the Red Cross to deliver a nutrition program.
Training across all facets of art centre business is a high priority and the centre currently employs eight Indigenous arts workers to support the manager.
These arts workers are supported by specific funding that the Government is providing for the employment of Indigenous Australians in the arts, which I will talk about in more detail in a moment.
Training is extended to all members of the community in areas such as budgeting and literacy.
The art centre is now looking to extend its opening hours to meet increasing demand.
Since 2007-08, the Government has committed an additional $17.5 million over seven years to strengthen the Indigenous visual arts and craft sector.
This includes $2 million over four years from 2009-10 for a Professional Development Fund, for projects that will increase the skills of Indigenous arts centre managers and staff and provide opportunities for Indigenous people to gain employment in the sector.
The professional development projects will be jointly funded by the Australian Government and the state and territory governments.
Another important strategic achievement for Indigenous art centres is the introduction of triennial funding which reduces red tape, and enables organisations to plan more strategically over a longer term.
Australian Government support for the Indigenous visual arts sector is directed purposefully, in order to build the capacity and knowledge of individual artists, art centre staff and communities.
This, along with our measures, supports a sustainable, profitable and vibrant Indigenous visual art industry.
In addition to providing support for the Indigenous visual arts industry through the National Arts and Crafts Industry Support program the Government is also providing specific support for the employment of Indigenous Australians in the arts, culture, language and broadcasting sectors.
This support is helping to close the gap on the difference in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Over 560 jobs are currently supported, with 250 of these positions in the Indigenous visual arts sector, mostly based in NACIS funded organisations.
As part of a new budget measure, additional jobs in the arts sector will be created in 2010-11 in the Torres Strait.
Employees in these positions benefit from mainstream employment conditions such as superannuation and annual leave.
The support includes provision for training, with some employees pursuing accredited TAFE courses in arts administration in tandem with on-the-job skills development.
The Indigenous Australian Art Commercial Code of Conduct complements these measures.
The Code, developed and managed by the industry, sets the standard for ethical and transparent commercial dealings with Indigenous artists.
It has the endorsement of industry and federal, state and territory governments.
This framework was a key recommendation of the 2007 Senate report, which found that while many in the industry were respectful and fair in dealing with Indigenous artists, others exploited, bullied and harassed.
Indigenous Art Code Limited is the public company established to administer the Code.
As its Chair, the Honourable Ron Merkel QC brings invaluable legal knowledge to the company and to the Code.
The Board of Directors represent broad interests and expertise, including artists, art dealers, representatives from art centres and peak organisations and independent experts.
I would like to acknowledge the hard work and exceptional commitment shown by the Code Board of Directors, who are volunteering their time and expertise to lead the Indigenous visual art industry in building a fairer, more transparent and sustainable sector.
The Code presents a real opportunity for the industry to support ethical business practices.
I'm pleased to announce that as of today applications are open to become a member of the Code.
The Code is supplemented by the introduction of the Indigenous Australian Art Charter of Principles for Publicly Funded Collecting Institutions.
Public institutions are not eligible to sign up to the Code but they are major players in the Indigenous visual arts market and they have considerable buying power.
And they have a significant role to play in positively influencing the practices of the Indigenous art market.
The Charter of Principles sets out minimum ethical standards and best practice principles for public institutions to follow when handling Indigenous works of art.
It was developed in consultation with the national, state and territory collecting institutions and has the approval of federal, state and territory cultural ministers.
The ministers also agreed to take on the role of encouraging public institutions in their jurisdictions to adopt it.
I am very happy that all the national collecting institutions in my portfolio have adopted the Charter of Principles, and publicly acknowledged this on their websites.
The Code and the Charter represent a very important step in the right direction.
Finally, one of the most significant reforms in the visual arts sector is of course the implementation of a resale royalty right for visual artists.
The commencement of the resale royalty scheme on 9 June this year was an important milestone in the Australian visual arts environment.
This initiative delivers on an election commitment by Labor to provide artists with what is rightfully theirs - the right to receive a portion of the sale proceeds when their artworks are resold on the commercial market.
This scheme is designed to complement existing copyright and moral rights legislation and thereby provide visual artists with similar financial opportunities to other creators, such as authors and composers.
The scheme will also increase transparency in the art market, and safeguard the rights of visual artists.
In April 2010, I announced that the Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) would act as the collecting society for the first five years of the scheme's operation.
The Australian Government has committed funding of $1.5 million over three years for the establishment and administration of the scheme, and this funding is assisting CAL to conduct an education campaign to communicate with artists and art market professionals about their obligations under the scheme.
CAL has launched a dedicated website for the commencement of the scheme, which provides detailed information about how the scheme works, and allows rights holders and art market professionals to register online.
I am confident that CAL has established a strong model for the administration of the resale royalty scheme that is sustainable over the long-term.
I would encourage anyone wanting to know more about the resale royalty scheme and how it will operate to contact CAL.
One of the groups to benefit from the resale royalty right will be Indigenous visual artists and their heirs.
We have seen the Indigenous visual art market boom over the last decade and there is much deserved national and international interest in the distinctive work of Indigenous artists.
I recognise that a significant structural change like this will take some adjustment but I am confident that, along with the Code, it will help make the Indigenous visual art sector even more principled, professional, profitable and sustainable.
Against the backdrop of our great visual arts organisations and programs, we are working to ensure that the visual arts is sustained and sustainable by empowering artists with skills and knowledge and by putting in place structures that support a level playing field and fair go for Australian artists across the country.
We are supporting excellence and we are supporting participation.
And we are making a substantial investment in Australia's visual arts, for the benefit of all Australians, because we believe in the power of visual arts to help shape our national identity and enrich our lives.