Culture and arts funding motion

Extract from Hansard
[COUNCIL — Wednesday, 7 September 2011]
Hon Linda Savage; Hon Mia Davies; Hon Adele Farina; Hon Col Holt; Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich; Deputy
President; Hon Lynn MacLaren; Hon Helen Morton; Hon Sue Ellery



Resumed from 31 August on the following motion moved by Hon Linda Savage —
That this house calls on the government to immediately increase funding for culture and the arts in
Western Australia to compensate for cuts made in the 2009–10 and 2010–11 budgets.

HON LYNN MacLAREN (South Metropolitan) [3.46 pm]: I want to make a few comments on this motion. I want to begin, possibly following on from Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich’s comments, by reflecting on how movies can move us. I want to reflect on the fundamental role that arts and culture play in our society. It is hard to overstate the importance of arts and culture, as their benefits are interwoven through all aspects of our lives. On a personal level, culture and the arts are a means through which we can expand our horizons, deepen our understanding and nurture our spirit. I think those comments have been made by several speakers on this motion thus far.

Creative expression says a lot about who we are, and it challenges us to see things from a different perspective. Therefore, it is a valuable means of learning not just about ourselves but also about others. When we look at the role of arts and culture from this perspective, it is not surprising that the process of creating art has been found to be therapeutic. It guarantees access to and participation in the arts for people who are disadvantaged, such as those with disabilities or those in prisons. It provides a concrete way of engaging with groups that are traditionally hard to connect with.

The importance of creative expression for children is perhaps more important now than ever. We live in a time when children are often over-scheduled and are subject to many pressures to perform. Artistic endeavours allow children to express themselves freely, and this in turn helps them to make sense of their world and build resilience. This is an important quality of character that will be required in this
time of transition and change.

At a community level, the availability and presence of art and creative expression is proportionate to the vibrancy of a town or a city. The collective benefits are enormous. Not only is a community where arts and culture abound better to live in, but also it is more attractive to visit. There is even a name for this kind of tourism. It is called “cultural tourism”. It is a substantial market, and one that we would
benefit from tapping into on a much larger scale than we already do.

As well as enabling Western Australians to access arts and cultural events from around the country and around the world, I believe we have a responsibility to ensure that our local talent is acknowledged and nurtured so that our story can be told. I have spoken on this before, members.We have a wealth of talent in both WA and Australia generally in the present and have had in the past.

My colleague Hon Robin Chapple has spoken extensively about the rock art of the Dampier Peninsula. I have visited this area and I found it to be truly awe-inspiring. Some of these art works date back a staggering 30 000 years. For those members who have not visited that area, it is spinechilling to walk
through those valleys. What a great testament it is to the Aboriginal people and their culture. We are privileged to be the home of the most unique and largest rock collection in the world, yet I dispute whether we afford it the proper reverence it deserves.

We must be flexible enough to support initiatives as they present themselves. In this regard I cannot help but lament the demise of the acclaimed literary journal Indigo Journal. I have spoken about this before. One of Australia’s most esteemed authors, David Malouf, made the following observation
about the journal which, according to my notes reads —

… it was important for a great many writers and others in WA, and to people here who used it to see
what was going on ‘on the other shore’. It’s almost impossible for a magazine that has serious goals,
and wants to make a mark, to raise the sort of private funds that will make that possible, and
governments these days simply have no interest.

It is inexplicable to me why a nationally respected and successful literary journal has no place in the
government’s plan for art and culture in this state. The end of the journal is an opportunity lost. Seventy per cent of Indigo’s print run went to bookshops outside the state and this led to an unexpected success in promoting WA writers across the country.

As Australians, we have an outstanding track record in sporting achievements. Hon Mia Davies mentioned earlier that sports stars are some of the most recognised and celebrated members of our
community and, internationally, Australia’s sporting prowess is widely recognised. It is something we are deservedly proud of. I will argue that there is also room to promote our other achievements.

Children should know that a career in culture and the arts is something that they can aspire to and that their endeavours will be recognised, supported and celebrated. What better way to showcase the multi-faceted society that makes Australia, particularly Western Australia, a wonderful place to live in? As parliamentarians, we have a key role in ensuring that artists and cultural institutions receive adequate funding and recognition. It is funny how we often weigh them up—arts and culture versus sport and recreation—when in fact they are both important aspects of our full character.

The Greens (WA)’s position is that arts and culture are not adequately funded in Western Australia and we are missing opportunities to add to the vitality of our state. I have mentioned that it is also an economic driver and, surely, even the economic rationalist thinking in this state would take advantage of that. As such, the efficiency dividend has been applied to an already underfunded sector and it should be removed. I support the motion strongly. I welcome it and I thank Hon Linda Savage for bringing it to our attention; indeed, the government should compensate for cuts made in the 2009–10, 2010–11 and, indeed, now the 2011–12 budgets.