Flight of the wild geese – Australia’s place in the world of global talent

As the global pandemic has unfolded, I have been struck by how out of touch a large number of Australians are with Australia’s place in the world. Before the pandemic many Australians had become used to travelling overseas regularly – and spending large amounts of money while there – but we seem to think that our interaction with the global world is all about discretionary leisure travel. In contrast, increasingly many Australians were travelling – and living – overseas because their jobs required it. Whether working for multinational companies that have branches in Australia or Australian companies trying to break into global markets, Australian talent often needs to be somewhere else than here to make the most of opportunities for Australia. Not only technology, but even more importantly, talent, will be crucial to the economy of the future.

Watching the course of this global pandemic, I have been struck by how out of touch a large number of Australians are with Australia’s place in the world. While before the pandemic many Australians had become used to travelling overseas regularly – and spending large amounts of money while there – we seem to think that all our interaction with the world is about discretionary leisure travel. Australians stranded overseas during the pandemic have been abused on social media, as though they just wanted to have a holiday.

It’s not only technology that fuels the new economy of the future – but talent

In contrast, increasingly many Australians were travelling – and living – overseas because their jobs required it. Whether working for multinational companies that have branches in Australia, Australian companies trying to break into global markets or companies based overseas, Australian talent often needs to be somewhere else than here. They are part of a globe-trotting aristocracy of labour, increasingly a different form of essential worker, fuelling the modern global economy and, as a result, the many national and local economies connected to it.

Transfer of wealth of talent
It reminds me of the exodus of talent from Ireland after successive defeats at the hands of the English invaders. Many soldiers who had fought defending Ireland against the English fled overseas and offered their services as mercenaries to England’s adversaries. The phenomenon became known as the flight of the wild geese. It’s interesting to speculate on what a wealth of skill and talent was lost to Ireland – and transferred to Europe – as a result. In the case of contemporary Australia, though, the talent is not military but intellectual and creative, and it has been pulled rather than pushed.

Mixture of judgement and good luck
Compared to much of the rest of the world, Australia has done relatively well during the pandemic – from a mixture of good judgement and good luck, though we seem to be switching places with other comparable countries as our vaccination levels struggle in the face of supply shortages and poor national leadership.

‘Unfortunately Australia has come to depend on involvement in the global economy – it has made us a rich nation. With the creative and cultural economy, this is equally true, possibly more so. After the old staples such as coal and iron ore, which are increasingly at risk from fragile futures, education is Australia’s largest export industry. At some stage we will have to reopen to the rest of the world. We are already seeing in crucial industries, such as education and hospitality, different kinds of shortages linked to the closure of borders – in education, students who want to gain an education, in hospitality, skilled workers.’

In a strange twist I used to think that the states were anachronistic relics from the past that should be abolished, but I’ve now realised that in times of weak and indecisive national Government, they can play a crucial role. However, the unfortunate side effect of being able to close our borders so easily is that a massive, long-running tradition of Australian xenophobia has been reinforced. 

Unfortunately Australia has come to depend on involvement in the global economy – it has made us a rich nation. With the creative and cultural economy, this is equally true, possibly more so. After the old staples such as coal and iron ore, which are increasingly at risk from fragile futures, education is Australia’s largest export industry. At some stage we will have to reopen to the rest of the world. We are already seeing in crucial industries, such as education and hospitality, different kinds of shortages linked to the closure of borders – in education, students who want to gain an education, in hospitality, skilled workers.

The global talent pool – missed opportunity for Australia
Our failure to recognise and capitalise on this involvement in the global economy have already cost us dearly in lost opportunities. When Trump was elected President in the US, most of the commentary about the change of government focused on the effect of his new policies on democratic rights there. What was less covered was the negative effect this threatened for US innovation and economic dynamism and the potential implications – both bad and good – of this for other countries, like Australia, that are tied closely to the US.

Did this create a once in a lifetime opportunity for Australia to scoop up some of this global talent pool the the US no longer wanted – if we were up to acting on it? Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald at the time, journalist Peter Hartcher argued that as revulsion against the short-sighted actions of the Trump administration makes global talent look elsewhere for a home, Australia had a unique opportunity to move to attract this talent to bolster our new industries, where jobs were being created.

Hartcher pointed out that the US ‘has been the global talent magnet for a century. It has reaped the best and brightest of the planet’s scientists, entrepreneurs, sportspeople, professors, artists, chefs, traders and technicians. It has drawn many of Australia’s best, too.’

‘Our failure to recognise and capitalise on this involvement in the global economy have already cost us dearly in lost opportunities. When Trump was elected President in the US…as revulsion against the short-sighted actions of the Trump administration made global talent look elsewhere for a home, Australia had a unique opportunity to move to attract this talent to bolster our new industries, where jobs were being created.’

He went on to note that ‘This has been a source of incalculable strength to America. From Silicon Valley to Wall Street to Hollywood, every one of America’s great generators of wealth and influence is powered by considerable numbers of talented foreigners.’

His suggestion was that ‘universities, corporations, industry associations, sports bodies, cultural institutions and governments should step up recruitment efforts to win the attention of an entire generation of ambitious and talented people who would normally have had their sights set on the US and bring the best of them to Australia to top up our human capital.’ To do that we needed to stay open and we needed to think creatively about visa programs for such talent.

Hartcher underlined that top-quality immigrants are a great prize. He noted that according to the World Bank, of all the Nobel prizes awarded in the last third of the 20th century, 31 per cent were won by immigrants, and, of those, a third were at US institutions. He pointed out that most of America’s start-up ventures valued at over $US1 billion were not founded by Americans but by foreigners.

Cultural diversity and innovation
Cultural diversity leads to innovation because where cultures intersect and different perspectives interact, new ideas and approaches are encouraged. In the new clean and clever knowledge economy of the future, with its links to our creative industries and the creativity of Australia’s arts and culture sector, talent and new ideas are critical.

The global pandemic has largely shut this down, as international movement has been frozen. As the pandemic recedes, Australia will need a comprehensive well-thought through strategy to attract this global talent, while also hand in hand fostering our home-grown talent to complement and benefit from it. Many of our researchers and innovators and entrepreneurs are already part of this global talent pool and before the pandemic interacted and co-operated successfully in the international environment. This just needs reinforcing on a massive scale as we move beyond lockdown. This means a heightened and systematic focus on education and research and creativity.

‘Cultural diversity leads to innovation because where cultures intersect and different perspectives interact, new ideas and approaches are encouraged. In the new clean and clever knowledge economy of the future, with its links to our creative industries and the creativity of Australia’s arts and culture sector, talent and new ideas are critical.’

There already seem to be signs of detachment as other more vaccinated countries open up, with Australia’s vaccination effort lagging behind many comparable countries overseas, due to complacency and hubris. Some of the international cohort so important to our prosperity are choosing to return to the countries they came from, to avoid long periods of separation from their families as border open and close.

The question is whether Australia, which seems to be entering an era of small ideas in the face of factless populism, can think large enough to make this leap forward we need. Our talentless leaders offer scant cause for optimism. The alternative is to slip further and further into mediocrity and poverty as the great mining boom which fuelled our economic advances ends and as the rest of the world opens up post-pandemic.

There are already signs that some of our advantages as locations for creative production may be disappearing. During the pandemic Australia attracted many overseas screen productions because we were seen as a safe place to produce. Now both Australia and New Zealand may be affected if production companies turn back to more familiar locations where the threat of sudden lockdown is less.

No easy answers
This is fuelling the usual sterile and arid debate between those who simplistically think all economies should open up and let pandemics proceed apace and those of the more nuanced view that pandemics create economic chaos of their own accord, as the labour force becomes ill and hospitals become overcrowded. The problem for a country like Australia, that depends on hordes of casual migrant labour and international students and both attracting and exporting global talent, is that there are major dangers ahead. 

Locking down and closing both internal and external borders and limiting global movement has been very effective in quarantining us from the rest of the world, but it also throttles the very mobility and exchange that fuels some of our greatest strengths. There are no easy answers to this dilemma but a good start is recognising that not only technology, but even more importantly, talent, will be crucial to the economy of the future.

See also

‘indefinite article’ on Facebook – short arts updates and commentary
‘Short arts updates and irreverent cultural commentary about contemporary Australian society, popular culture, the creative economy and the digital and online world – life in the trenches and on the beaches of the information age’, ‘indefinite article’ on Facebook.

An everyday life worth living – indefinite articles for a clean, clever and creative future
‘My blog “indefinite article” is irreverent writing about contemporary Australian society, popular culture, the creative economy and the digital and online world – life in the trenches and on the beaches of the information age. Over the last ten years I have published 166 articles about creativity and culture on the blog. This is a list of all the articles I have published there, broken down into categories, with a brief summary of each article. They range from the national cultural landscape to popular culture, from artists and arts organisations to cultural institutions, cultural policy and arts funding, the cultural economy and creative industries, First Nations culture, cultural diversity, cities and regions, Australia society, government, Canberra and international issues – the whole range of contemporary Australian creativity and culture’, An everyday life worth living – indefinite articles for a clean, clever and creative future

Beyond a joke – surviving troubled times
‘We live in troubled times – but then can anyone ever say that they lived in times that weren’t troubled? For most of my life Australia has suffered mediocre politicians and politics – with the odd brief exceptions – and it seems our current times are no different. Australia has never really managed to realise its potential. As a nation it seems to be two different countries going in opposite directions – one into the future and the other into the past. It looks as though we’ll be mired in this latest stretch of mediocrity for some time and the only consolation will be creativity, gardening and humour’, Beyond a joke – surviving troubled times

Understanding the economy of the future – innovation and its place in the knowledge economy, creative economy, creative industries and cultural economy 

‘When we start to think about the economy of the future – and the clean and clever jobs that make it up – we encounter a confusing array of ideas and terms. Innovation, the knowledge economy, the creative economy, creative industries and the cultural economy are all used, often interchangeably. Over the years my own thinking about them has changed and I thought it would be useful to try to clarify how they are all related’, Understanding the economy of the future – innovation and its place in the knowledge economy, creative economy, creative industries and cultural economy.

Remaking the world we know – for better or worse
‘Given the Government cannot avoid spending enormous sums of money if it is to be in any way capable and competent, this is an unparalleled opportunity to remake Australia for the future. Usually opportunities such as this only arise in rebuilding a country and an economy after a world war. It is a perfect moment to create the sort of clean, clever and creative economy that will take us forward in the global world for the next hundred years. Unfortunately a failure of imagination and a lack of innovative ambition will probably ensure this doesn’t happen any time soon’, Remaking the world we know – for better or worse.

The old normal was abnormal – survival lessons for a new riskier world
‘When I hear the call to get back to normal, I think ‘what was normal about the old normal?’ The sudden shutdown of large sectors of the economy highlighted drastically how precarious was the situation of vast chunks of Australian society, in particular but not exclusively, the creative sector. The business models implemented by the Government to help businesses survive and employees keep their jobs didn’t work at all for those who had already been happily left at – or even deliberately pushed to – the margins of society and the economy. In good times the creative sector is flexible and fast at responding. In bad times it is a disaster, as the failure of the COVID-19 support packages for the sector shows’, The old normal was abnormal – survival lessons for a new riskier world.

Better than sport? The tricky business of valuing Australia’s arts and culture
‘Understanding, assessing and communicating the broad value of arts and culture is a major and ongoing task. There has been an immense amount of work already carried out. The challenge is to understand some of the pitfalls of research and the mechanisms and motivations that underpin it. Research and evaluation is invaluable for all organisations but it is particularly important for Government. The experience of researching arts and culture in Government is of much broader relevance, as the arts and culture sector navigates the tricky task of building a comprehensive understanding in each locality of the broader benefits of arts and culture. The latest Arts restructure makes this even more urgent.’, Better than sport? The tricky business of valuing Australia’s arts and culture.

Crossing boundaries – the unlimited landscape of creativity
‘When I was visiting Paris last year, there was one thing I wanted to do before I returned home – visit the renowned French bakery that had trained a Melbourne woman who had abandoned the high stakes of Formula One racing to become a top croissant maker. She had decided that being an engineer in the world of elite car racing was not for her, but rather that her future lay in the malleable universe of pastry. Crossing boundaries of many kinds and traversing the borders of differing countries and cultures, she built a radically different future to the one she first envisaged’, Crossing boundaries – the unlimited landscape of creativity.

After a fashion – creative industries from First Nations culture
‘When I first heard that Victorian regional gallery, Bendigo Art Gallery, was planning an exhibition about contemporary Indigenous fashion I was impressed. The Gallery has had a long history of fashion exhibitions, drawing on its own collection and in partnership with other institutions, notably the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It is fascinating to consider how a leading regional Australian museum and an internationally renowned museum on the global stage, while in many ways so different, have so much in common. The exhibition is far more than a single event in a Victorian regional centre – it is an expression of a much broader contemporary Indigenous fashion phenomenon nation-wide. It hints at the potential of the creative economy and creative industries to build stronger communities. Both the economic importance and the community and social importance of creativity and culture are tightly interlinked because of the way in which creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up’, After a fashion – creative industries from First Nations culture.
 
Creative and cultural futures – understanding the creative and cultural economy

‘Survival in the creative sector in a post-COVID world will require enhanced literacy in the opportunities of the new industries of the future, the clean and clever knowledge economy which is altering our world on a daily basis. Now a new short course delivered completely online in the new digital universe we are all increasingly inhabiting will look closely at the creative and cultural economy and the broader impacts of creativity and culture, both economic and social. It will outline the role of the creative sector in managing meaning and explain how telling Australian stories puts us on the international stage in an increasingly globalised world’, Creative and cultural futures – understanding the creative and cultural economy.

Making a living – building careers in creative and cultural futures
‘Making a living in the developing creative economy is no easy task. For a viable career, flexibility and creativity are crucial. For this a strategic outlook and a grasp of the major long-term forces shaping Australian creativity and culture is essential. To help foster this amongst emerging cultural sector practitioners, a new flagship course, a Master of Arts in Creative and Cultural Futures, was launched at the University of Canberra in 2019, building on earlier experiments in aligning research and analysis with real world cultural sector experience’, Making a living – building careers in creative and cultural futures.

Industries of the future help tell stories of the past – Weta at work in the shaky isles
‘After three weeks travelling round the North Island of New Zealand, I’ve had more time to reflect on the importance of the clean and clever industries of the future and the skilled knowledge workers who make them. In the capital, Wellington, instead of the traditional industries that once often dominated a town, like the railways or meatworks or the car plant or, in Tasmania, the Hydro Electricity Commission, there was Weta. It’s clear that the industries of the future can thrive in unexpected locations. Expertise, specialist skills and industry pockets can occur just about anywhere, as long as you have connectivity, talent and a framework of support that makes it possible. These skills which Weta depends on for its livelihood are also being used to tell important stories from the past’, Industries of the future help tell stories of the past – Weta at work in the shaky isles.

Designs on the future – how Australia’s designed city has global plans
‘In many ways design is a central part of the vocabulary of our time and integrally related to so many powerful social and economic forces – creative industries, popular culture, the digital transformation of society. Design is often misunderstood or overlooked and it’s universal vocabulary and pervasive nature is not widely understood, especially by government. In a rapidly changing world, there is a constant tussle between the local and the national (not to mention the international). This all comes together in the vision for the future that is Design Canberra, a celebration of all things design, with preparations well underway for a month long festival this year. The ultimate vision of Craft ACT for Canberra is to add another major annual event to Floriade, Enlighten and the Multicultural Festival, filling a gap between them and complementing them all’, Designs on the future – how Australia’s designed city has global plans.

Creativity at work – economic engine for our cities
‘It is becoming abundantly clear that in our contemporary world two critical things will help shape the way we make a living – and our economy overall. The first is the central role of cities in generating wealth. The second is the knowledge economy of the future and, more particularly, the creative industries that sit at its heart. In Sydney, Australia’s largest city, both of these come together in a scattering of evolving creative clusters – concentrations of creative individuals and small businesses, clumped together in geographic proximity. This development is part of a national and world-wide trend which has profound implications’, Creativity at work – economic engine for our cities.

The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival
‘Across Australia, local communities facing major economic and social challenges have become interested in the joint potential of regional arts and local creative industries to contribute to or often lead regional revival. This has paralleled the increasing importance of our major cities as economic hubs and centres of innovation’, The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival.


Design for policy innovation – from the world of design to designing the world

‘Design and the language of design is very broad – much broader than architecture or industrial or graphic design – the forms we are most conscious of. Design is also very much about processes and the development of concepts across almost all areas of human activity. This means it also has a high relevance to the development of policy to solve pressing social challenges, moving beyond the world of design to embrace the design of the world. In a highlight of DESIGN Canberra this year, respected Dutch presenter Ingrid Van der Wacht led discussion about the relevance of design to innovative policy – from local, highly specific policy to grand strategic policy designed to change whole regions and even nations’, Design for policy innovation – from the world of design to designing the world.

The clever business of creativity: the experience of supporting Australia’s industries of the future
‘The swan song of the Creative Industries Innovation Centre, ‘Creative Business in Australia’, outlines the experience of five years supporting Australia’s creative industries. Case studies and wide-ranging analysis explain the critical importance of these industries to Australia’s future. The knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape, is both clever and clean. Where the creative industries differ completely from other knowledge economy sectors is that, because they are based on content, they draw on, intersect with and contribute to Australia’s national and local culture’, The clever business of creativity: the experience of supporting Australia’s industries of the future.

My nephew just got a job with Weta – the long road of the interconnected world
‘My nephew just got a job in Wellington New Zealand with Weta Digital, which makes the digital effects for Peter Jackson’s epics. Expertise, specialist skills and industry pockets can occur just about anywhere, as long as you have connectivity, talent and a framework of support that makes it possible. This is part of the new knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape. Increasingly the industries of the future are both clever and clean. At their heart are the developing creative industries which are based on the power of creativity and are a critical part of Australia’s future – innovative, in most cases centred on small business and closely linked to the profile of Australia as a clever country, both domestically and internationally. This is transforming the political landscape of Australia, challenging old political franchises and upping the stakes in the offerings department’, My nephew just got a job with Weta – the long road of the interconnected world.

Creative industries critical to vitality of Australian culture
‘The developing creative industries are a critical part of Australia’s future – clean, innovative, at their core based on small business and closely linked to the profile of Australia as a clever country, both domestically and internationally.’ Creative industries critical to vitality of Australian culture.

Applied creativity
‘I have been dealing with the issue of creativity for as long as I can remember. Recently, I have had to deal with a new concept—innovation. All too often, creativity is confused with innovation. A number of writers about innovation have made the point that innovation and creativity are different. In their view, innovation involves taking a creative idea and commercialising it. If we look more broadly, we see that innovation may not necessarily involve only commercialising ideas. Instead the core feature is application—innovation is applied creativity. Even ideas that may seem very radical can slip into the wider culture in unexpected ways’, Applied creativity.

Creative industries – applied arts and sciences
‘The nineteenth century fascination with applied arts and sciences — the economic application of nature, arts and sciences — and the intersection of these diverse areas and their role in technological innovation are as relevant today for our creative industries. From the Garden Palace, home of Australia’s first international exhibition in 1879, to the Economic Gardens in Adelaide’s Botanic Gardens these collections and exhibitions lay the basis for modern Australian industry. The vast Garden Palace building in the Sydney Botanic Gardens was the Australian version of the great Victorian-era industrial expositions, where, in huge palaces of glass, steel and timber, industry, invention, science, the arts and nature all intersected and overlapped. Despite burning to the ground, it went on to become the inspiration for what eventually became the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences — the Powerhouse Museum’, Creative Industries.

Updates on creativity and culture an email away

After many decades working across the Australian cultural sector, I have been regularly posting to my suite of blogs about creativity and culture, ever since I first set them up over 10 years ago. You can follow any of the blogs through email updates, which are sent from time to time. The app that I have used for this is shutting down the feature, so I have found a replacement, ‘follow.it’. If you don’t already follow my blogs and you want to take advantage of this new service, you can simply add your email address to the blog page, and then confirm that you want to receive updates when you receive the follow up email.

There are four blogs in all, covering the gamut of creativity and culture; humour; food and cooking; and creative writing. ‘indefinite article’ is irreverent writing about contemporary Australian society, popular culture, the creative economy and the digital and online world – life in the trenches and on the beaches of the information age. ‘balloon’ is thought balloons for our strange and unsettled times – brief quirky articles about the eccentricities of everyday life, almost always with a sense of short black humour. ‘handwriting’ is homegrown graffiti from the digital world – writing, rhyming and digital animations; ‘tableland’ is food and cooking from land to table – the daily routine of living in the high country, on the edge of the vast Pacific, just up from Sydney, just down from Mount Kosciuszko. The blogs are complemented by two briefer social media channels – indefinite article on Facebook, which is short arts updates and cultural commentary; and Twitter, short, sharp and shiny.

If you want to make sure you don’t miss any of my updates, simply select the blogs you are interested in and set up the update by adding your email. For ‘indefinite article’ on Facebook or for Twitter simply follow or like my feed.

Contemporary Indigenous fashion – where community culture and economics meet

The recent exhibition ‘Piinpi’, about contemporary Indigenous fashion, has a significance for Australian culture that is yet to be fully revealed. The themes covered by the exhibition are important because they demonstrate the intersection of the culture of First Nations communities with creative industries and the cultural economy. In attempting to address the major issue of Indigenous disadvantage, for example, it is critical to recognise that one of the most important economic resources possessed by First Nations communities is their culture. Through the intellectual property that translates it into a form that can generate income in a contemporary economy, that culture is pivotal to jobs and to income. It may not be mining but it mines a far richer seam – authentic and rich content that has already been recognised internationally for its high value, just like our iron and coal. At a time when First Nations communities are talking increasingly about gaining greater control over their economic life, this is highly relevant.

After remotely reviewing ‘Piinpi’, the important exhibition about contemporary Indigenous fashion, when it first opened at Bendigo Art Gallery last year – at a time when I expected to never see the exhibition myself in the flesh (or the fabric) – I have finally seen it. 

The exhibition especially interested me because while I fortuitously spent many years managing some of the most important Indigenous cultural programs of the Commonwealth Government, my main interest has always been creative industries and the cultural economy. A subsequent interest in the link between the two areas was inevitable.

Collaboration between Hope Vale Art Centre on Cape York Peninsula and Queensland University of Technology fashion design students was just one productive partnership.

My earlier article, After a fashion – creative industries from First Nations culture is a reminder of what the exhibition is about: ‘When I first heard that Victorian regional gallery, Bendigo Art Gallery, was planning an exhibition about contemporary Indigenous fashion I was impressed. The Gallery has had a long history of fashion exhibitions, drawing on its own collection and in partnership with other institutions, notably the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It is fascinating to consider how a leading regional Australian museum and an internationally renowned museum on the global stage, while in many ways so different, have so much in common. The exhibition is far more than a single event in a Victorian regional centre – it is an expression of a much broader contemporary Indigenous fashion phenomenon nation-wide. It hints at the potential of the creative economy and creative industries to build stronger communities. Both the economic importance and the community and social importance of creativity and culture are tightly interlinked because of the way in which creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up’.

The connection between community artists and creative industries is even more pronounced in this example. Print designer Bede Tungatalum, designer Heather Wallace and costume maker Robyn Trott collaborated to create the wedding dress and underskirt which featured in the film ‘Top End Wedding’ in 2018, bridging fashion and design and screen.

The exhibition finishes up at the National Museum of Australia this week, so if you are lucky enough not to be locked down or locked out or locked up, this is your final chance to see a truly iconic and ground-breaking exhibition. Otherwise you can buy the excellent catalogue or check out the websites of both Bendigo Art Gallery and the National Museum of Australia. Incidentally, my visit earlier today underlined how well set up and serious public institutions like museums are for continued operating during a pandemic.

Making history
The full significance of the exhibition will not be recognised for some time to come, because it is not just documenting history in the making, it is itself contributing to that history. You can read about the exhibition and its significance in more detail in my original article, referred to below. ‘Piinpi’ is so important for several cross-cutting reasons. Firstly it was developed by the fabulous Bendigo Art Gallery and then toured to the National Museum in Canberra, underlining the crucial importance of regional culture in our national culture – particularly relevant if we are talking about the place of First Nations culture in Australian culture generally.

‘Most importantly the exhibition demonstrates the intersection of the the culture of First Nations communities with creative industries and the cultural economy.’
Most importantly the exhibition demonstrates the intersection of the the culture of First Nations communities with creative industries and the cultural economy. In attempting to address the major issue of Indigenous disadvantage, for example, it is critical to recognise that one of the most important economic resources possessed by First Nations communities is their culture. Creative firms and other partners are already developing which draw on that cultural content, some of them mentioned in the ‘Piinpi’ exhibition. 
 
Through the intellectual property that translates it into a form that can generate income in a contemporary economy, that culture is pivotal to jobs and to income. It may not be mining but it mines a far richer seam – authentic and rich content that has already been recognised internationally for its high value, just like our iron and coal. At a time when First Nations communities are talking increasingly about gaining greater control over their economic life, this is highly relevant.

See also

Always was, always will be – a welcome long view in NAIDOC week
‘Being involved with Australian culture means being involved in one way or another with First Nations arts, culture and languages – it’s such a central and dynamic part of the cultural landscape. First Nations culture has significance for First Nations communities, but it also has powerful implications for Australian culture generally. NAIDOC Week is a central part of that cultural landscape’, Always was, always will be – a welcome long view in NAIDOC week.

After a fashion – creative industries from First Nations culture
‘When I first heard that Victorian regional gallery, Bendigo Art Gallery, was planning an exhibition about contemporary Indigenous fashion I was impressed. The Gallery has had a long history of fashion exhibitions, drawing on its own collection and in partnership with other institutions, notably the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It is fascinating to consider how a leading regional Australian museum and an internationally renowned museum on the global stage, while in many ways so different, have so much in common. The exhibition is far more than a single event in a Victorian regional centre – it is an expression of a much broader contemporary Indigenous fashion phenomenon nation-wide. It hints at the potential of the creative economy and creative industries to build stronger communities. Both the economic importance and the community and social importance of creativity and culture are tightly interlinked because of the way in which creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up’, After a fashion – creative industries from First Nations culture.

Standing out in the crowd – a regional road tour of arts and culture
A recent regional road tour through Victoria to South Australia showed how a focus on arts and culture is a pointer for how regional centres can take a path other than slow decline. It also showed how a small country on the edges of the mainstream can become a global design force by staying true to its language, locality and culture – the things that make it distinctive in a crowded, noisy marketplace dominated by big, cashed up players, Standing out in the crowd – a regional road tour of arts and culture.

Regional Australia recognised with City of Culture listing for Bendigo and surrounds
‘It’s been apparent for some time that regional centres and smaller cities and towns can be interesting and creative places and that cities that have missed out on the benefits of globalisation in the era of neo-liberalism can be brought back by community action and imagination. It’s certainly not happening everywhere but it’s true of many lucky regional towns and cities and some suburban and outer suburban areas – witness Sydney, where it’s increasingly clear that the excitement never really stopped at the edges of the inner city. The regional rollout of interesting keeps on happening’, Regional Australia recognised with City of Culture listing for Bendigo and surrounds.

Designs on the future – how Australia’s designed city has global plans
‘In many ways design is a central part of the vocabulary of our time and integrally related to so many powerful social and economic forces – creative industries, popular culture, the digital transformation of society. Design is often misunderstood or overlooked and it’s universal vocabulary and pervasive nature is not widely understood, especially by government. In a rapidly changing world, there is a constant tussle between the local and the national (not to mention the international). This all comes together in the vision for the future that is Design Canberra, a celebration of all things design, with preparations well underway for a month long festival this year. The ultimate vision of Craft ACT for Canberra is to add another major annual event to Floriade, Enlighten and the Multicultural Festival, filling a gap between them and complementing them all’, Designs on the future – how Australia’s designed city has global plans.

Out of sight, out of mind – building knowledge on sustaining the creative and cultural sector in regional and remote Australia
‘Creative organisations and artists often collect information and research in order to report to funding bodies about how grant funding has been used. Apart from the need to report on funding or to make a case to government, or society in general, the creative and cultural sector also needs evidence and understanding for its own purposes. While government funding bodies might need the sort of information collected from funded organisations, the organisations need it far more – for their planning and to report to their Boards and their communities. They need it to know whether what they are doing is effective and worthwhile – or whether they should be doing something else.’ Out of sight, out of mind – building knowledge on sustaining the creative and cultural sector in regional and remote Australia.
 
The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival
‘Across Australia, local communities facing major economic and social challenges have become interested in the joint potential of regional arts and local creative industries to contribute to or often lead regional revival. This has paralleled the increasing importance of our major cities as economic hubs and centres of innovation’, The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival.
 
Growing up across many worlds – the daily life of ‘In My Blood it Runs’

‘An important new film about Dujuan, a young Aboriginal boy living in Alice Springs in the centre of Australia, is both engaging and challenging, raising major issues about growing up Aboriginal in modern Australia. ‘In my blood it runs’ is a film for our troubled times, that tackles the challenges of a culturally divided country, but also finds the hope that this cultural diversity can offer us all for our overlapping futures’, Growing up across many worlds – the daily life of ‘In My Blood it Runs’.
 
Changing the landscape of the future – a new focus on cultural rights
‘The arts and culture sector has spent far too many years pressing the case for why Australian culture is crucial to Australia’s future, without seeming to shift the public policy landscape to any great degree. Perhaps a proposed fresh approach focusing on cultural rights may offer some hope of a breakthrough. What makes this approach so important and so potentially productive is that it starts with broad principles, linked to fundamental issues, such as human rights, which makes it a perfect foundation for the development of sound and well-thought out policies – something that currently we sadly lack’, Changing the landscape of the future – a new focus on cultural rights.

 

Songlines – an ancient culture for a contemporary world
‘What interests me in exhibitions about Aboriginal Australia is what they mean for Australians generally, even if most Australians won’t ever see them. After a mere 220 years, in many ways we are still only part way through making our home here. We haven’t yet figured out how to navigate this land properly. When I was at school we learned about so many doomed explorers misinterpreting the country, unable to find their way. Burke and Wills were the perfect examples, undone because they were unable to learn simple lessons offered by the local people on how to make edible the vast supplies of food surrounding them. They starved to death in a field of plenty. It made me realise that we can gain a much richer grasp of Australia through recognising that First Nations culture and heritage is part and parcel of our own Australian heritage’, Songlines – an ancient culture for a contemporary world.

History all around us – the long term practical impact of cultural research
‘Cultural research has long term impacts in terms of our developing body of knowledge which stretch far into the future. Researchers are finding stories in our major cultural collections that were never envisaged by those originally assembling them – a process that will continue long into the future. The collections of our major cultural institutions are becoming increasingly accessible to the very people the collections are drawn from and reflect. In the process they are generating greater understanding about some of the major contemporary issues we face’, History all around us – the long term practical impact of cultural research.

The language of success ­– recognising a great unsung community movement
‘What is especially significant about the Prime Minister, in his Closing the Gap address, recognising the importance of Indigenous languages is that this is the first time a Liberal leader has expressed such views. It’s exciting because for progress to be made it is essential that there is a jointly agreed position. This moment arises from the tireless work over many decades of hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language revivalists – surely one of the great positive unsung community movements in Australian history. By their hard work they have managed to change the profile of Indigenous languages in Australia. Unfortunately the address reinforced the tendency of government to overlook the success stories that are already happening in local communities and look for big institutional solutions. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be a missed opportunity’, The language of success – recognising a great unsung community movement.

Unfinished histories – encountering ‘Encounters’
‘A single exhibition can sum up many things. By bringing together so many histories, stories and objects – particularly long-absent ones from the British Museum – the ‘Encounters’ exhibition at the National Museum presented a snapshot of the ongoing living history of Australia. Many strands ran through it, reflecting the complexity of the realities it tried to express. By successfully reflecting on the pressing issues it raised we have some hope of getting beyond the vision of the Great South Land of 18th and 19th Century ambition towards a truly great nation of the 21st Century’, Unfinished histories – encountering ‘Encounters’.

Literature and languages – inaugural Indigenous literary festival sign of things to come
‘The inaugural Victorian Indigenous literary festival Blak & Bright in February 2016 was a a very important event for Australian cultural life. It aimed to promote and celebrate a diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices. It raised important questions about how the movement to revive and maintain Indigenous languages – surely one of the great positive unsung community movements in Australian history – is related to ‘Australian literature’. Australian culture as a whole is also inconceivable without the central role of Indigenous culture – how would Australian literature look seen in the same light?’, Literature and languages – inaugural Indigenous literary festival sign of things to come.

When universes collide – ‘Encounters’ exhibition at National Museum of Australia
‘The Encounters exhibition at the National Museum of Australia, a once in a lifetime event, makes you realise that astoundingly all this earth-shattering history happened only a few generations ago, so much so that descendants of the Gweagal, those first people Cook encountered, still talk about that encounter in 1770 as though it was yesterday. Despite the continuing concerns about the vast holdings of mostly looted cultural artefacts, the return of these objects, however briefly, will serve to emphasise how recently the British came to Australia, how much more we need to do to be fully at home in this country and how much part of a living, contemporary tradition Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are’, When universes collide – Encounters exhibition at National Museum of Australia.

Land of hope
‘There were times in our past when Australia was seen as the great hope of the world – when it offered a vision of a new democratic life free from the failures of the past and the old world. It seems we have turned from our history, from the bright vision of the nineteenth century and the great nation-building vision of the period after World War 2, with its sense of optimism and fairness, towards something much more pinched and narrow – mean and weak-willed. For such an optimistic nation we seem to have developed a ‘half empty’ rather than ‘half full’ view of the glass – and the world. If we want to live in a land to be proud of, a fair country that truly inherits the best of Australia’s traditions, while consciously abandoning the less desirable ones, we need to change course – otherwise we will have to rebadge Australia not as the land of hope but instead as the land without hope’, Land of hope.

A navigator on a Lancaster bomber
‘Sometimes I think Australia has lost its way. It’s like a ship that has sailed into the vast Pacific Ocean in search of gaudy treasure, glimpsed the beckoning coast of Asia and then lost its bearings, all its charts blown overboard in squalls and tempests. It seems to have turned from the great nation-building vision of the period after World War 2, with its sense of optimism and fairness, towards something much more pinched and narrow. It’s time to rediscover the Australian dream. We need a navigator – or perhaps many, one in every community – who can help us find our way, encourage us as we navigate from greed and complacency to a calmer shining ocean of generosity and optimism’, A navigator on a Lancaster bomber.

Valuing the intangible
‘We are surrounded by intangible cultural heritage – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – and often it’s incredibly important to us but we can’t seem to understand why or put a name to its importance. So many issues of paramount importance to Australia and its future are linked to the broad cultural agenda of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). In particular they are central to one of UNESCO’s key treaties, the International Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage,’ Valuing the intangible.

The Magna Carta – still a work in progress
‘You don’t have to be part of ‘Indigenous affairs’ in Australia to find yourself involved. You can’t even begin to think of being part of support for Australian arts and culture without encountering and interacting with Indigenous culture and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and individuals who make it and live it.’ The Magna Carta – still a work in progress.

Black diggers – telling war stories
‘If you are convinced you have heard all of Australia’s great stories, think again. If you consider you know something about Indigenous Australia you probably need to start from scratch. Black Diggers, “the untold story of WW1’s black diggers remembered” is a great Australian story. Why over a thousand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians left their communities in remote Australia or our regional cities or the big state capitals to travel overseas to fight and die in the European trenches far from home is part of a larger Australian story. Why they would bother when they were not even recognised as Australian citizens in their own land is a story all their own – but a story relevant to every Australian’, Black diggers – telling war stories.

Death by a thousand cuts what is happening to the Indigenous cultural programs of the Australian Government?
‘The Indigenous cultural programs of the Australian Government play a critical role in support for both Indigenous communities and for a diverse and dynamic Australian culture – what is happening to them?’ Death by a thousand cuts – what is happening to the Indigenous culture programs of the Australian Government?

The gap in Closing the Gap

‘Experience of many years of the Indigenous culture programs shows that involvement in arts and cultural activity often has powerful flow on social and economic effects.’ The gap in Closing the Gap.


The hidden universe of Australia’s own languages

‘I’ve travelled around much of Australia, by foot, by plane, by train and by bus, but mostly by car. As I travelled across all those kilometres and many decades, I never realised that, without ever knowing, I would be silently crossing from one country into another, while underneath the surface of the landscape flashing past, languages were changing like the colour and shape of the grasses or the trees. The parallel universe of Indigenous languages is unfortunately an unexpected world little-known to most Australians.’ The hidden universe of Australia’s own languages.

Real jobs in an unreal world
‘Subsidised Indigenous arts and cultural jobs are real jobs with career paths that deliver genuine skills and employment capability.’ Real jobs in an unreal world.

Like a long-lost masterpiece
‘Many decades ago when I was much younger and a student I used to march in National Aboriginal Day Observance Committee marches. They were shorthanded to NADOC marches, back in the days when Islanders hadn’t yet been included and there was no ‘I’ in the name. I realised a while back that I must have been marching under the new Aboriginal flag at its birth. I had a poster from those years which I used to cart around with me from city to city until one day when I was about to move yet again I decided to donate it to the National Library of Australia’, Like a long-lost masterpiece.

Understanding the economy of the future ­– innovation and its place in the knowledge economy, creative economy, creative industries and cultural economy

When we start to think about the economy of the future – and the clean and clever jobs that make it up – we encounter a confusing array of ideas and terms. Innovation, the knowledge economy, the creative economy, creative industries and the cultural economy are all used, often interchangeably. Over the years my own thinking about them has changed and I thought it would be useful to try to clarify how they are all related.

Knowledge economy, creative economy, creative industries and cultural economy
Increasingly the new industries in the knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape are both clever and clean. They are mainly service industries that make up the knowledge economy, based on intellectual inquiry and research and exhibiting both innovative services or products and often also new and innovative ways of doing business. At their heart are the developing creative industries which are based on the power of creativity and are a critical part of Australia’s future, in most cases centred on small business and closely linked to the profile of Australia as a clever country, both domestically and internationally.

Where the cultural economy (and to a lesser degree, creative industries) differ completely from other knowledge economy sectors is that, because they are based on content, they draw on, intersect with and contribute to Australia’s national and local culture and are a central part of projecting Australia’s story to ourselves and to the world ­– they help channel those who write the stories, paint the pictures and dance the dances that tell our story. In that sense they have a strategic importance that other sectors of the knowledge economy do not. As part of Australia’s culture sector and the cultural economy that derives from it, they share the critical function of managing the meaning of Australia and what being Australian means, which distinguishes this sector from other parts of the knowledge economy.

Artists, the arts and culture sector and the cultural economy
The cultural economy is underpinned by the arts and culture sector and the artists and arts and cultural organisations, mainly small, that make it up and create the content which often feeds into and inspires other sectors of the creative economy.

The cultural sector (including the arts sector and much of the heritage sector) can’t be reduced to economics, in fact the cultural economy may well be one of the less important aspects of the cultural sector and its role. However, the reality is that the cultural sector does have an associated cultural economy, which is an important part of the creative economy and overlaps with the creative industries. This interconnected economy also happens to be my main area of interest.

The work I did on creative industries, including while I was in the Research, Statistics and Technology Branch of the Department of Communications, established the parameters of my subsequent interest. Even though I went on to manage various aspects of the Indigenous cultural programs of the Commonwealth for almost six and a half years, I have always seen my primary area of interest as being creative industries (and their links to the cultural economy) and even my continuing interest in First Nations culture and languages has largely been from this perspective.

Creativity, culture and everyday life
Both economic relevance and a sense of being embedded with community are complementary aspects of contemporary creativity and culture that make it so strong a force. It links up both the economic role of culture and creativity and their community role of building resilience, well-being, social inclusion and liveable cities. What they have in common is that both spring from the reality that culture and creativity are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up.

If we start from a dynamic view of culture, we start to think about cultural diversity not as a static aggregate of many diverse cultures, but as the constantly evolving interaction between those cultures. Once we start with the reality of everyday life, then that abstract entity ‘the economy’, becomes the effort to make a living, society and community become the way people interact through living and expressing their culture. Recognising the central role of creativity involves seeing the full, rich, interconnected, dynamic picture of everyday life. It’s not about simply economics, it about something much more fundamental – making a living.

The main downside for those working in the creative economy is that though these industries may sometimes – but not often – pay relatively well, they, like most arts and culture jobs as well, tend to be short-term, project-based and, as with most small business environments, precarious and subject to the vagaries of international markets. The global COVID-19 pandemic has underlined this in a dramatic way.

Innovation is applied creativity and cultural diversity fosters innovation
The concept of innovation is important in this context. It helps place creativity firmly at the centre of economic and social development in the new knowledge economy which represents the future of Australia. All too often, creativity is confused with innovation. A number of writers about innovation have made the point that innovation and creativity are different. In their view, innovation involves taking a creative idea and commercialising it. If we look more broadly, we see that innovation may not necessarily involve only commercialising ideas. Instead the core feature is application—innovation is applied creativity. Cultural diversity fosters innovation because innovation occurs where cultures intersect and differing world-views come into contact and fixed ideas and old ways of doing things are challenged.

Addressing central social challenges
The focus of the cultural economy (and to some degree creative industries) on content has other implications. Creativity, culture and creative industries also show promise in helping address central social challenges Australia faces. In attempting to address the major issue of Indigenous disadvantage, to take just one example, it is critical to recognise that one of the most important economic resources possessed by First Nations communities is their culture. Creative firms are already developing which draw on that cultural content. Through the intellectual property that translates it into a form that can generate income in a contemporary economy, that culture is pivotal to jobs and to income. It may not be mining but they mine a far richer seam – authentic and rich content that has already been recognised internationally for its high value, just like our iron and coal.

See also

Updates on creativity and culture an email away
‘After many decades working across the Australian cultural sector, I have been regularly posting to my suite of blogs about creativity and culture, ever since I first set them up over 10 years ago. You can follow any of the blogs through email updates, which are sent from time to time. If you don’t already follow my blogs and you want to take advantage of this service, you can simply add your email address to the blog page, and then confirm that you want to receive updates when you receive the follow up email. If you want to make sure you don’t miss any of my updates, simply select the blogs you are interested in and set up the update by adding your email’, Updates on creativity and culture an email away.

‘indefinite article’ on Facebook – short arts updates and commentary
‘Short arts updates and irreverent cultural commentary about contemporary Australian society, popular culture, the creative economy and the digital and online world – life in the trenches and on the beaches of the information age’, ‘indefinite article’ on Facebook.

An everyday life worth living – indefinite articles for a clean, clever and creative future
‘My blog “indefinite article” is irreverent writing about contemporary Australian society, popular culture, the creative economy and the digital and online world – life in the trenches and on the beaches of the information age. Over the last ten years I have published 166 articles about creativity and culture on the blog. This is a list of all the articles I have published there, broken down into categories, with a brief summary of each article. They range from the national cultural landscape to popular culture, from artists and arts organisations to cultural institutions, cultural policy and arts funding, the cultural economy and creative industries, First Nations culture, cultural diversity, cities and regions, Australia society, government, Canberra and international issues – the whole range of contemporary Australian creativity and culture’, An everyday life worth living – indefinite articles for a clean, clever and creative future.

Beyond a joke – surviving troubled times (on ‘indefinite article’)
‘We live in troubled times – but then can anyone ever say that they lived in times that weren’t troubled? For most of my life Australia has suffered mediocre politicians and politics – with the odd brief exceptions – and it seems our current times are no different. Australia has never really managed to realise its potential. As a nation it seems to be two different countries going in opposite directions – one into the future and the other into the past. It looks as though we’ll be mired in this latest stretch of mediocrity for some time and the only consolation will be creativity, gardening and humour’, Beyond a joke – surviving troubled times.

Always was, always will be – a welcome long view in NAIDOC week
‘Being involved with Australian culture means being involved in one way or another with First Nations arts, culture and languages – it’s such a central and dynamic part of the cultural landscape. First Nations culture has significance for First Nations communities, but it also has powerful implications for Australian culture generally. NAIDOC Week is a central part of that cultural landscape’, Always was, always will be – a welcome long view in NAIDOC week.

Flight of the wild geese – Australia’s place in the world of global talent
‘As the global pandemic has unfolded, I have been struck by how out of touch a large number of Australians are with Australia’s place in the world. Before the pandemic many Australians had become used to travelling overseas regularly – and spending large amounts of money while there – but we seem to think that our interaction with the global world is all about discretionary leisure travel. In contrast, increasingly many Australians were travelling – and living – overseas because their jobs required it. Whether working for multinational companies that have branches in Australia or Australian companies trying to break into global markets, Australian talent often needs to be somewhere else than here to make the most of opportunities for Australia. Not only technology, but even more importantly, talent, will be crucial to the economy of the future’, Flight of the wild geese – Australia’s place in the world of global talent.

Remaking the world we know – for better or worse
‘Given the Government cannot avoid spending enormous sums of money if it is to be in any way capable and competent, this is an unparalleled opportunity to remake Australia for the future. Usually opportunities such as this only arise in rebuilding a country and an economy after a world war. It is a perfect moment to create the sort of clean, clever and creative economy that will take us forward in the global world for the next hundred years. Unfortunately a failure of imagination and a lack of innovative ambition will probably ensure this doesn’t happen any time soon’, Remaking the world we know – for better or worse.

The old normal was abnormal – survival lessons for a new riskier world
‘When I hear the call to get back to normal, I think ‘what was normal about the old normal?’ The sudden shutdown of large sectors of the economy highlighted drastically how precarious was the situation of vast chunks of Australian society, in particular but not exclusively, the creative sector. The business models implemented by the Government to help businesses survive and employees keep their jobs didn’t work at all for those who had already been happily left at – or even deliberately pushed to – the margins of society and the economy. In good times the creative sector is flexible and fast at responding. In bad times it is a disaster, as the failure of the COVID-19 support packages for the sector shows’, The old normal was abnormal – survival lessons for a new riskier world.

Cut to the bone – the accelerating decline of our major cultural institutions and its impact on Australia’s national heritage and economy
‘I always thought that long after all else has gone, after government has pruned and prioritised and slashed and bashed arts and cultural support, the national cultural institutions would still remain. They are one of the largest single items of Australian Government cultural funding and one of the longest supported and they would be likely to be the last to go, even with the most miserly and mean-spirited and short sighted of governments. However, in a finale to a series of cumulative cuts over recent years, they have seen their capabilities to carry out their essential core roles eroded beyond repair. The long term impact of these cumulative changes will be major and unexpected, magnifying over time as each small change reinforces the others. The likelihood is that this will lead to irreversible damage to the contemporary culture and cultural heritage of the nation at a crucial crossroads in its history’, Cut to the bone – the accelerating decline of our major cultural institutions and its impact on Australia’s national heritage and economy.

Better than sport? The tricky business of valuing Australia’s arts and culture
‘Understanding, assessing and communicating the broad value of arts and culture is a major and ongoing task. There has been an immense amount of work already carried out. The challenge is to understand some of the pitfalls of research and the mechanisms and motivations that underpin it. Research and evaluation is invaluable for all organisations but it is particularly important for Government. The experience of researching arts and culture in Government is of much broader relevance, as the arts and culture sector navigates the tricky task of building a comprehensive understanding in each locality of the broader benefits of arts and culture. The latest Arts restructure makes this even more urgent.’, Better than sport? The tricky business of valuing Australia’s arts and culture.

Crossing boundaries – the unlimited landscape of creativity
‘When I was visiting Paris last year, there was one thing I wanted to do before I returned home – visit the renowned French bakery that had trained a Melbourne woman who had abandoned the high stakes of Formula One racing to become a top croissant maker. She had decided that being an engineer in the world of elite car racing was not for her, but rather that her future lay in the malleable universe of pastry. Crossing boundaries of many kinds and traversing the borders of differing countries and cultures, she built a radically different future to the one she first envisaged’, Crossing boundaries – the unlimited landscape of creativity.

Creativity and culture in change: Change in creativity and culture
‘A vast transformation of contemporary culture not seen since the breakdown of traditional arts and crafts in the industrial revolution is under way due to the impact of the digital and online environment. Artists, culture managers and cultural specialists today are confronted with radically different challenges and opportunities to those they faced in the 20th Century. There are a number of strategic forces which we need to take account of in career planning and in working in or running cultural organisations’, Presentation at ‘Creative and Cultural Futures: Leadership and Change’ – a symposium exploring the critical issues driving change in the creative and cultural sector, University of Canberra, October 2018, Creativity and culture in change: Change in creativity and culture.

Full circle – where next for Australian national arts and culture support in the 21st Century?
‘With a Coalition Government which now stands a far better chance of being re-elected for a second term, the transfer of the Commonwealth’s Arts Ministry to Communications helps get arts and culture back onto larger and more contemporary agendas. This move reflects that fact that the new industries in the knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape, are both clever and clean. Where they differ completely from other knowledge economy sectors is that, because they are based on content, they draw on, intersect with and contribute to Australia’s national and local culture and are a central part of projecting Australia’s story to ourselves and to the world. In that sense they have a strategic importance that other sectors do not’, Full circle – where next for Australian national arts and culture support in the 21st Century?

After a fashion – creative industries from First Nations culture

‘When I first heard that Victorian regional gallery, Bendigo Art Gallery, was planning an exhibition about contemporary Indigenous fashion I was impressed. The Gallery has had a long history of fashion exhibitions, drawing on its own collection and in partnership with other institutions, notably the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It is fascinating to consider how a leading regional Australian museum and an internationally renowned museum on the global stage, while in many ways so different, have so much in common. The exhibition is far more than a single event in a Victorian regional centre – it is an expression of a much broader contemporary Indigenous fashion phenomenon nation-wide. It hints at the potential of the creative economy and creative industries to build stronger communities. Both the economic importance and the community and social importance of creativity and culture are tightly interlinked because of the way in which creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up’, After a fashion – creative industries from First Nations culture.
A world turned upside down – UNESCO Creative City of Design Wuhan
‘World-shaking events can completely reframe your perspective. When I drove from Canberra to Adelaide and Kangaroo Island in March this year, everyone was being urged to visit regional centres to help them recover from the devastating bushfires. Only weeks later, as I was heading home – via Victoria, a State entering lockdown as I passed through – everybody was being encouraged to stay home to help stop the spread of disease. Back in Canberra I had been involved in a long-running effort to have the city listed as a UNESCO City of Design. The new reality that threatened to overshadow that effort was the global COVID-19 pandemic. Ironically that pandemic had originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which as I discovered, was itself a City of Design in the global UNESCO Creative Cities Network’, A world turned upside down – UNESCO Creative City of Design Wuhan.

Creative and cultural futures – understanding the creative and cultural economy

‘Survival in the creative sector in a post-COVID world will require enhanced literacy in the opportunities of the new industries of the future, the clean and clever knowledge economy which is altering our world on a daily basis. Now a new short course delivered completely online in the new digital universe we are all increasingly inhabiting will look closely at the creative and cultural economy and the broader impacts of creativity and culture, both economic and social. It will outline the role of the creative sector in managing meaning and explain how telling Australian stories puts us on the international stage in an increasingly globalised world’, Creative and cultural futures – understanding the creative and cultural economy.
 

Making a living – building careers in creative and cultural futures
‘Making a living in the developing creative economy is no easy task. For a viable career, flexibility and creativity are crucial. For this a strategic outlook and a grasp of the major long-term forces shaping Australian creativity and culture is essential. To help foster this amongst emerging cultural sector practitioners, a new flagship course, a Master of Arts in Creative and Cultural Futures, was launched at the University of Canberra in 2019, building on earlier experiments in aligning research and analysis with real world cultural sector experience’, Making a living – building careers in creative and cultural futures.

Industries of the future help tell stories of the past – Weta at work in the shaky isles
‘After three weeks travelling round the North Island of New Zealand, I’ve had more time to reflect on the importance of the clean and clever industries of the future and the skilled knowledge workers who make them. In the capital, Wellington, instead of the traditional industries that once often dominated a town, like the railways or meatworks or the car plant or, in Tasmania, the Hydro Electricity Commission, there was Weta. It’s clear that the industries of the future can thrive in unexpected locations. Expertise, specialist skills and industry pockets can occur just about anywhere, as long as you have connectivity, talent and a framework of support that makes it possible. These skills which Weta depends on for its livelihood are also being used to tell important stories from the past’, Industries of the future help tell stories of the past – Weta at work in the shaky isles.

Designs on the future – how Australia’s designed city has global plans
‘In many ways design is a central part of the vocabulary of our time and integrally related to so many powerful social and economic forces – creative industries, popular culture, the digital transformation of society. Design is often misunderstood or overlooked and it’s universal vocabulary and pervasive nature is not widely understood, especially by government. In a rapidly changing world, there is a constant tussle between the local and the national (not to mention the international). This all comes together in the vision for the future that is Design Canberra, a celebration of all things design, with preparations well underway for a month long festival this year. The ultimate vision of Craft ACT for Canberra is to add another major annual event to Floriade, Enlighten and the Multicultural Festival, filling a gap between them and complementing them all’, Designs on the future – how Australia’s designed city has global plans.

Creativity at work – economic engine for our cities
‘It is becoming abundantly clear that in our contemporary world two critical things will help shape the way we make a living – and our economy overall. The first is the central role of cities in generating wealth. The second is the knowledge economy of the future and, more particularly, the creative industries that sit at its heart. In Sydney, Australia’s largest city, both of these come together in a scattering of evolving creative clusters – concentrations of creative individuals and small businesses, clumped together in geographic proximity. This development is part of a national and world-wide trend which has profound implications’, Creativity at work – economic engine for our cities.

The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival
‘Across Australia, local communities facing major economic and social challenges have become interested in the joint potential of regional arts and local creative industries to contribute to or often lead regional revival. This has paralleled the increasing importance of our major cities as economic hubs and centres of innovation’, The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival.

Design for policy innovation – from the world of design to designing the world

‘Design and the language of design is very broad – much broader than architecture or industrial or graphic design – the forms we are most conscious of. Design is also very much about processes and the development of concepts across almost all areas of human activity. This means it also has a high relevance to the development of policy to solve pressing social challenges, moving beyond the world of design to embrace the design of the world. In a highlight of DESIGN Canberra this year, respected Dutch presenter Ingrid Van der Wacht led discussion about the relevance of design to innovative policy – from local, highly specific policy to grand strategic policy designed to change whole regions and even nations’, Design for policy innovation – from the world of design to designing the world.

The clever business of creativity: the experience of supporting Australia’s industries of the future
‘The swan song of the Creative Industries Innovation Centre, ‘Creative Business in Australia’, outlines the experience of five years supporting Australia’s creative industries. Case studies and wide-ranging analysis explain the critical importance of these industries to Australia’s future. The knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape, is both clever and clean. Where the creative industries differ completely from other knowledge economy sectors is that, because they are based on content, they draw on, intersect with and contribute to Australia’s national and local culture’, The clever business of creativity: the experience of supporting Australia’s industries of the future.

My nephew just got a job with Weta – the long road of the interconnected world
‘My nephew just got a job in Wellington New Zealand with Weta Digital, which makes the digital effects for Peter Jackson’s epics. Expertise, specialist skills and industry pockets can occur just about anywhere, as long as you have connectivity, talent and a framework of support that makes it possible. This is part of the new knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape. Increasingly the industries of the future are both clever and clean. At their heart are the developing creative industries which are based on the power of creativity and are a critical part of Australia’s future – innovative, in most cases centred on small business and closely linked to the profile of Australia as a clever country, both domestically and internationally. This is transforming the political landscape of Australia, challenging old political franchises and upping the stakes in the offerings department’, My nephew just got a job with Weta – the long road of the interconnected world.

Creative industries critical to vitality of Australian culture
‘The developing creative industries are a critical part of Australia’s future – clean, innovative, at their core based on small business and closely linked to the profile of Australia as a clever country, both domestically and internationally.’ Creative industries critical to vitality of Australian culture.

Applied creativity
‘I have been dealing with the issue of creativity for as long as I can remember. Recently, I have had to deal with a new concept—innovation. All too often, creativity is confused with innovation. A number of writers about innovation have made the point that innovation and creativity are different. In their view, innovation involves taking a creative idea and commercialising it. If we look more broadly, we see that innovation may not necessarily involve only commercialising ideas. Instead the core feature is application—innovation is applied creativity. Even ideas that may seem very radical can slip into the wider culture in unexpected ways’, Applied creativity.

Creative industries – applied arts and sciences
‘The nineteenth century fascination with applied arts and sciences — the economic application of nature, arts and sciences — and the intersection of these diverse areas and their role in technological innovation are as relevant today for our creative industries. From the Garden Palace, home of Australia’s first international exhibition in 1879, to the Economic Gardens in Adelaide’s Botanic Gardens these collections and exhibitions lay the basis for modern Australian industry. The vast Garden Palace building in the Sydney Botanic Gardens was the Australian version of the great Victorian-era industrial expositions, where, in huge palaces of glass, steel and timber, industry, invention, science, the arts and nature all intersected and overlapped. Despite burning to the ground, it went on to become the inspiration for what eventually became the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences — the Powerhouse Museum’, Creative Industries.

Broader and deeper – the creativity and culture of everyday life

The Impact and Enterprise post-graduate course at the University of Canberra is unique in Australia in placing creative industries and the creative and cultural economy in the broader landscape of the wider impacts of creativity and culture – both economic and social. It starts from the premise that what the broader social and economic roles of creativity and culture have in common is that a focus on the economic role of creativity and culture is similar to the focus on its community role – both spring from recognition that creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up. In March 2021, as the course entered its third year, I gave a talk to the students about where it came from.

Increasingly I realise that everything is connected – if only we are able to recognise how and benefit accordingly. The ripple effects of creativity and culture reach far further than we might expect.

At one point one of my managers in the public service commented with a note of disapproval that I seemed to have done lots of different jobs in my career. What she didn’t realise was that I had done the same job, but in lots of different places. I was surprised that she didn’t see that because one of the things I loved most about my time in the Commonwealth public service was that every couple of years – if not months – you would find yourself doing something new.

You would never hear about this, but at the height of the pandemic, one of my former Arts colleagues found herself working around the clock in a task force set up to liaise with the major supermarkets to ensure that supplies didn’t run out, as a major attack of moronavirus stripped the shelves of toilet paper.

Working in the arts and cultural area of the Commonwealth, we were moved about on a regular basis, as governments and Ministers changed. I managed to traverse more departments than I can count without ever applying for a transfer – Communications; Environment; Regional; Prime Minister and Cabinet; and finally Attorney General’s. After I left the Commonwealth in early 2014, I saw that Arts had moved back to Communications, before Communications itself was folded into another bigger department. Arts felt like one of those comets that circle the heavens before finally coming back to where it started – while terrifying the inhabitants on the planet below.

I mention this because, I’m sure like most of you, one step leads to another in the diverse and dispersed creative and cultural sector we work in or are interested in working in – and it all makes sense, somehow.

I got interested in and moved into marketing when I realised that so much cultural production was never reaching the potential audiences it could. Many of my peers in community arts went on to establish and teach the very qualifications that had never existed when they first started in the field.

‘I’m sure like most of you, one step leads to another in the diverse and dispersed creative and cultural sector we work in or are interested in working in – and it all makes sense, somehow.’

Decades later I joined them by developing the Impact and Enterprise Unit at the urging of Professor Tracy Ireland, who recognised the need for the post-graduate course and came up with the very apt and expressive name. After all, why reinvent the wheel – that would definitely be wasted innovation. Better to learn what we can from what has already done and equip those coming forward to invent a completely new form of wheel.

Modern alchemy
In many ways the creative and cultural economy and creative industries remind me of that old quest of the ancient alchemists, seeking to convert base metals into gold. They went on to become chemists and pharmacists, converting medicines into a long, healthy life. My niece is a pharmacist at a major hospital in Adelaide and sometimes I think I expect her to wave a magic wand and make everyone better.

Creativity has that same slightly magical property, because it uncovers the connections between disparate things and makes one and one add up to three – when you’re not looking. 

The Impact and Enterprise Unit reflects that. It tries to thread together widely disparate elements – creativity, society and community, the economy and jobs – highlighting how they are interlinked in the messy business of everyday life.

For professionals working in the cultural sector, who will be responsible for the direction the sector takes over the next 20 years, it is important to understand how creativity and culture plays an essential central role in Australia’s social and economic life, and why it therefore needs to be included on the main national agenda, recognising its integral relationship with major economic and social factors such as economic development, education, innovation, community resilience, social and community identity and health and wellbeing. 

‘For professionals working in the cultural sector, who will be responsible for the direction the sector takes over the next 20 years, it is important to understand how creativity and culture plays an essential central role in Australia’s social and economic life.’

The concept of innovation is important in this context. It helps place creativity firmly at the centre of economic and social development in the new knowledge economy which represents the future of Australia. We need to bring our use of the term ‘innovation’ back down to earth, understanding that it is about applied creativity. I am wary about other ways the language of business has taken over the worlds of community and government, for example with the focus on ‘customer service’. There is much that the community and government sectors can learn from business – and vice versa – but they are not the same.

In the case of creative industries, where we are talking about commercial organisations and operations, the language of business is relevant – in fact these creative enterprises often have lessons for business overall, for example in their clever use of the digital and online environment.

Creativity and culture are also closely linked to central social challenges Australia faces, such as responding effectively and productively to cultural diversity and to Indigenous communities. Creative industries depend on innovation and innovation occurs where cultures intersect and differing world-views come into contact and fixed ideas and old ways of doing things are challenged and assessed.

The dynamic connections of everyday life
There are three key concepts here – recognising connections, adopting a dynamic view and starting with the reality of everyday life.

Once you start to recognise connections, you can gain insights in specific challenging areas. The quest for sustainable economic futures for First Nations communities looks quite different when you think about the central importance of culture in generating economic independence. As embodied in Intellectual Property, culture becomes a rich seam of meaning which can generate income streams – just like iron or coal. Instead of simply thinking about labouring jobs in quarries or mines, it directs attention to other kinds of jobs. 

You also see how cultural diversity is not a social problem to be solved, but a social and economic asset to be recognised and realised. 

‘Recognising the central role of creativity involves seeing the full, rich, interconnected, dynamic picture of everyday life. It’s not about simply economics, it about something much more fundamental – making a living.’

Once you adopt a dynamic view of culture, you start to think about cultural diversity not as a static aggregate of many diverse cultures, but as the constantly evolving interaction between those cultures.
Once you start with the reality of everyday life, then that abstract entity ‘the economy’, becomes the effort to make a living, society and community become the way people interact through living and expressing their culture. Recognising the central role of creativity involves seeing the full, rich, interconnected, dynamic picture of everyday life. It’s not about simply economics, it about something much more fundamental – making a living.

The broader impacts of creativity and culture
What the broader social and economic roles of creativity and culture have in common is that a focus on the economic role of creativity and culture is similar to the focus on its community role – both spring from recognition that creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up. One crucial sector where this manifests is arts and health, but there are many more.

Creativity and culture show important promise in helping face central social challenges in Australia.
Case studies and anecdotal evidence, coupled with the experience of many years of the Indigenous culture programs managed by the Australian Government, was that involvement in arts and cultural activity often has powerful flow on social and economic effects for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. By building self-esteem and generating a sense of achievement, by developing a stronger sense of community, by increasing skills and capabilities through involvement in engaging activities relevant to modern jobs and thereby increasing employability, and by helping to generate income streams, however small, cultural activity can have profound long-term effects. It’s no exaggeration to say in many cases it changes lives.

The super power of diversity
The importance of diversity, including cultural diversity, has been recognised by influential figures in the public service, such as Martin Parkinson. Parkinson was the senior public servant who survived a near death experience at the hands of Tony Abbott, only to be resurrected by the incoming Malcolm Turnbull to become his new head of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.  

When Parkinson ran Treasury he recognised that to increase policy flexibility and innovation, he needed to expand the range of mindsets around him. Accordingly, as Peter Martin, Economics Editor for ‘The Age’ newspaper pointed out in a 2015 article about the experiment, ‘Parkinson not only set targets for the proportion of women in the treasury senior executive, he set about changing what Treasury valued to bring this about. When picking candidates for promotion or special projects, more weight was to be given to co-ordination and people skills and less to conceptual and analytic skills.’ 

‘In a world where change is fast and widespread, can anyone afford not to mobilise all they have going for them – to survive, let alone to succeed? Diversity, including cultural diversity is a big part of that picture.’

Martin notes that this was because every enterprise needs both sets of attributes. Martin comments further, ‘Diversity matters because the more mindsets you can bring to creating something or solving a problem, the less likely it is you’ll miss something out.’

In a world where change is fast and widespread, can anyone afford not to mobilise all they have going for them – to survive, let alone to succeed? Diversity, including cultural diversity is a big part of that picture.

These are lessons relevant to those in the creative and cultural sector but they should also be front of mind for anyone trying to run the country right now.

Effective engagement requires clear understanding
Understanding the shape, dynamics and direction of this rapidly emerging creative and cultural sector is crucial to being part of it and to engaging with it from whatever perspective. One of the main reasons the Government response to the pandemic had such a disproportionately devastating impact on the creative and cultural sector was that the Government didn’t understand that it is a broad economic sector, that reaches far beyond the narrow universe of grant-funding that the Government is familiar with.  

Amongst all the bailouts, handouts and leg ups in response to the pandemic, the creative and cultural sector was largely omitted. The relief package did not cover most of those in it. Due to the Government restrictions to deal with the COVID-19 virus, within a short period 47% of the Arts and Recreation Services sector had closed down, higher than any other except for Accommodation and Food Services. This is not surprising, given the fact that the restrictions immediately impacted on performances and events. So many in the creative sector have employment patterns that consist of a life-time of short-terms contracts across a number of employers or do not work as companies with ABNs, that most are not eligible for what’s on offer. 

‘While everyone is locked down at home watching television, reading books and listening to music, at the same time the people who produce all these have been out of work indefinitely. The creative sector is called upon whenever it is needed, but the response in turn when it is under threat is sorely lacking.’

Simple research and forecasting might have shown this – if anyone cared. Ironically during disasters like bushfires, this same sector has risen to the occasion in many situations, playing an important role in helping community recovery. Even more ironic, while everyone is locked down at home watching television, reading books and listening to music, at the same time the people who produce all these have been out of work indefinitely. The creative sector is called upon whenever it is needed, but the response in turn when it is under threat is sorely lacking.

The Government didn’t completely ignore the creative sector. Yet its response showed a great deal about how it sees the sector and the Government’s relationship with it. It is almost completely along the lines of a funding source that provides grants to the arts – it is either grants funding or charity, as evidenced by its support for Support Act, the worthwhile body that assists performers in need. It relied to a large extent on the response of its main national arts funding body, the Australia Council, yet given the limitations of funding available through that organisation, it’s part of the whole arts funding model approach, rather than an industry sector approach.

The importance of regionalism in an increasingly globalised world
As globalism proceeds apace, the counter-balancing world of the local and regional is becoming more important, anchoring us firmly in the places where we reside and create, where culture is made and lived. This will be particularly the case as the longer-term impact of the global pandemic unfolds.

Australia culture as a whole is itself in many ways a fragile culture – in a world where American stories (and English historical dramas) are increasingly the shared stories of the world, or at least the English-speaking world. There is common ground in a two-sided culture, both dynamic and contemporary and local and also jostling to be seen amongst other cultures on the world stage. 

The 2016 Census showed that nearly half (49 per cent) of all Australians had either been born overseas or one or both parents had been born overseas. That number continues to increase each year, so it is likely already higher. Our cultural diversity, from the many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations, cultures and languages which underpin Australian culture, bolstered by the waves of migration, is an important national asset. 

‘As globalism proceeds apace, the counter-balancing world of the local and regional is becoming more important, anchoring us firmly in the places where we reside and create, where culture is made and lived. This will be particularly the case as the longer-term impact of the global pandemic unfolds.’

It also gives us an entrée into the countries and cultures from which migrants come. If we are indeed entering the Asian Century and a world where countries such as China will become increasingly important, we need every positive feature we have going for us to make the most of the opportunities presented.

In the tradition of building on our diverse histories we could do worse than follow the path of the ancient Yolngu people of East Arnhem Land, who built a thriving trade and cultural interchange with the Macassans from the northern islands which much later became Indonesia. We celebrate the Asian Century, yet it began much earlier than we realise.

Building creative regions and regional cities
Across Australia, local communities facing major economic and social challenges have become interested in the joint potential of regional arts and culture and local creative industries to contribute to or often lead regional revival. This has paralleled the increasing importance of our major cities as economic hubs and centres of innovation, though it will be interesting to see the longer-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our fascination with life in cities. 

In our local community here in Canberra – which of course just happens to also be the national capital – this issue is an immediate practical one. The potential role of creative industries, particularly design, in helping establish Canberra as a cool capital, both large enough and small enough to be a liveable city, has been a strategic focus of DESIGN Canberra, a major initiative of Craft ACT.

Near neighbour New Zealand has shown how smaller cities, remote from the traditional centres of film industry dominance, could establish a major, high profile niche in a global industry. In the contemporary globalised world, as long as countries and cities can survive the inevitable negative impact of the globalising process, expertise, specialist skills and industry pockets can occur just about anywhere, as long as you have connectivity, talent and a framework of support that makes it possible. 

In New Zealand landmarks of popular culture, like Lord of the Rings and remakes of Planet of the Apes, spring from the sprawling operations of creative firm, Weta, which based just outside the capital, Wellington, characterises the city. Instead of the traditional industries that often dominate a town and its imagination, like the railways or meatworks or the car plant or, in Tasmania, the Hydro Electricity Commission, there is Weta. My nephew works for Weta, after time in Vancouver producing special effects for US film companies for films you would all know. He is part of the contemporary global creative talent pool, which will become increasingly important, even with the setbacks and lesson of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

‘Near neighbour New Zealand has shown how smaller cities, remote from the traditional centres of film industry dominance, could establish a major, high profile niche in a global industry. In the contemporary globalised world, as long as countries and cities can survive the inevitable negative impact of the globalising process, expertise, specialist skills and industry pockets can occur just about anywhere, as long as you have connectivity, talent and a framework of support that makes it possible.’

The presence of these creative firms has unexpected spinoffs. Weta has also worked closely with the national flagship museum, Te Papa Tongarewa, on such things as an exhibition about the role of New Zealand troops in the Gallipoli Campaign. Weta Workshop has co-operated closely with Te Papa, applying contemporary digital film-making approaches, skills, techniques and technology to enliven and underline the personal stories underpinning exhibitions.

The New Zealand experience has been replicated elsewhere in different forms. A Marimekko exhibition at the Bendigo Gallery last year showed how a small country like Finland on the edges of the mainstream could become a global design force by staying true to its language, locality and culture – the things that make it distinctive in a crowded, noisy marketplace dominated by big, cashed up players.

Tomorrow is a different world
To meet the challenges of the digital world, those working in the creative and cultural sector have for the last few decades been making wholesale changes to the ways they produce, integrating new approaches and techniques across art-forms with reworked traditional ways to produce a new paradigm for artistic and cultural practice. As part of this an artist may move between their own practice, work in a community context and semi-commercial work as a designer. Traditional artform boundaries are also changing. The so-called 360 degree commissioning familiar to the film world is being more broadly applied across artforms as content is repurposed and reused to produce the book, the film, the game, the website and the T-shirt of the same content. 

These features of the digital world also point to a new integrated approach by cultural organisations to all aspects of their work. In the new environment artistic programs, membership, online presence, partnerships and marketing, and promotion and sales have to interact seamlessly so each reinforces the other, as a way of multiplying the impact and reach of relatively limited government support. The global pandemic has both required more of this and been better survived because of these decades of changing practice.

‘These features of the digital world also point to a new integrated approach by cultural organisations to all aspects of their work. In the new environment artistic programs, membership, online presence, partnerships and marketing, and promotion and sales have to interact seamlessly so each reinforces the other, as a way of multiplying the impact and reach of relatively limited government support.’

When I hear the call to get back to normal, I think ‘what was normal about the old normal?’ The sudden shutdown of large sectors of the economy highlighted drastically how precarious was the situation of large parts of Australian society, in particular but not exclusively, the creative sector.

The creative and cultural sector has been applying its lateral thinking to imagining how a new world post-pandemic might work. We can learn a lot from and contribute a lot to those in the hospitality sector, who in many ways are in a similar situation to those in the creative world. Both sectors depend on people coming together in crowds to share experiences.

Essential skills for the modern cultural professional
The modern emerging professional in the creative and cultural sector needs a strong grasp of a set of essential and interrelated skills which are likely to be invaluable wherever you work across the sector: building strong and diverse audiences, identifying potential partners and building broad partnerships and alliances, understanding the crucial importance of distribution for survival and growth, identifying funding sources and understanding the importance of intellectual property; broadening the financial base of organisations, extending entrepreneurial approaches.

In a period of great upheaval in the arts, we need to move away from thinking about leadership as a position (in a hierarchical structure, for example) and instead think about it as an approach or process.

Starting with an understanding of the issues that produces a need for policy, programs or projects, this understanding and the commitment which flows from it, makes it possible to build partnerships, engage stakeholders and achieve outcomes. A policy framework provides a way of seeing the social landscape and the relationships that cross it in different ways. It’s how organisations, parts of organisations, regions, governments and countries are transformed from one situation to another – hopefully an improved one. Leadership consists of providing direction and motivation to inform action to shape your part of the world to match a vision of possibilities. It makes a statement about valuing an area and being committed to doing something in that space.

While individuals will not necessarily be responsible for the whole range of development areas, they will need to be strategically literate in all of them.

It is also increasingly important to understand the importance of creative roles in organisations for which creativity and culture are not the core business. 

In trying to foresee the future, I’ve always been fascinated by the profound if simple taxonomy and its relationship to risk: ‘known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns’, which is relevant to anyone in their career – even if when I first heard it used it was by Donald Rumsfeld, one of the architects of the Iraq War, though it’s much older.

Importance of a strategic view
Above all, in a world that’s so often about the short-term, it’s important to have a strategic view and to think big, think broad and think creative. Asked what he thought was the long term impact of the French Revolution, former Premier of China, Chou En-Lai, reputedly replied ‘Too soon to tell’. Now that’s what a strategic view looks like.

See also

Updates on creativity and culture an email away
‘After many decades working across the Australian cultural sector, I have been regularly posting to my suite of blogs about creativity and culture, ever since I first set them up over 10 years ago. You can follow any of the blogs through email updates, which are sent from time to time. If you don’t already follow my blogs and you want to take advantage of this service, you can simply add your email address to the blog page, and then confirm that you want to receive updates when you receive the follow up email. If you want to make sure you don’t miss any of my updates, simply select the blogs you are interested in and set up the update by adding your email’, Updates on creativity and culture an email away

‘indefinite article’ on Facebook – short arts updates and commentary
‘Short arts updates and irreverent cultural commentary about contemporary Australian society, popular culture, the creative economy and the digital and online world – life in the trenches and on the beaches of the information age’, ‘indefinite article’ on Facebook.

An everyday life worth living – indefinite articles for a clean, clever and creative future
‘My blog “indefinite article” is irreverent writing about contemporary Australian society, popular culture, the creative economy and the digital and online world – life in the trenches and on the beaches of the information age. Over the last ten years I have published 166 articles about creativity and culture on the blog. This is a list of all the articles I have published there, broken down into categories, with a brief summary of each article. They range from the national cultural landscape to popular culture, from artists and arts organisations to cultural institutions, cultural policy and arts funding, the cultural economy and creative industries, First Nations culture, cultural diversity, cities and regions, Australia society, government, Canberra and international issues – the whole range of contemporary Australian creativity and culture’, An everyday life worth living – indefinite articles for a clean, clever and creative future

Beyond a joke – surviving troubled times
‘We live in troubled times – but then can anyone ever say that they lived in times that weren’t troubled? For most of my life Australia has suffered mediocre politicians and politics – with the odd brief exceptions – and it seems our current times are no different. Australia has never really managed to realise its potential. As a nation it seems to be two different countries going in opposite directions – one into the future and the other into the past. It looks as though we’ll be mired in this latest stretch of mediocrity for some time and the only consolation will be creativity, gardening and humour’, Beyond a joke – surviving troubled times

Flight of the wild geese – Australia’s place in the world of global talent
‘As the global pandemic has unfolded, I have been struck by how out of touch a large number of Australians are with Australia’s place in the world. Before the pandemic many Australians had become used to travelling overseas regularly – and spending large amounts of money while there – but we seem to think that our interaction with the global world is all about discretionary leisure travel. In contrast, increasingly many Australians were travelling – and living – overseas because their jobs required it. Whether working for multinational companies that have branches in Australia or Australian companies trying to break into global markets, Australian talent often needs to be somewhere else than here to make the most of opportunities for Australia. Not only technology, but even more importantly, talent, will be crucial to the economy of the future’, Flight of the wild geese – Australia’s place in the world of global talent

Understanding the economy of the future – innovation and its place in the knowledge economy, creative economy, creative industries and cultural economy
‘When we start to think about the economy of the future – and the clean and clever jobs that make it up – we encounter a confusing array of ideas and terms. Innovation, the knowledge economy, the creative economy, creative industries and the cultural economy are all used, often interchangeably. Over the years my own thinking about them has changed and I thought it would be useful to try to clarify how they are all related’, Understanding the economy of the future – innovation and its place in the knowledge economy, creative economy, creative industries and cultural economy.

Always was, always will be – a welcome long view in NAIDOC week
‘Being involved with Australian culture means being involved in one way or another with First Nations arts, culture and languages – it’s such a central and dynamic part of the cultural landscape. First Nations culture has significance for First Nations communities, but it also has powerful implications for Australian culture generally. NAIDOC Week is a central part of that cultural landscape’, Always was, always will be – a welcome long view in NAIDOC week.  

 
Remaking the world we know – for better or worse
‘Given the Government cannot avoid spending enormous sums of money if it is to be in any way capable and competent, this is an unparalleled opportunity to remake Australia for the future. Usually opportunities such as this only arise in rebuilding a country and an economy after a world war. It is a perfect moment to create the sort of clean, clever and creative economy that will take us forward in the global world for the next hundred years. Unfortunately a failure of imagination and a lack of innovative ambition will probably ensure this doesn’t happen any time soon’, Remaking the world we know – for better or worse.

The old normal was abnormal – survival lessons for a new riskier world
‘When I hear the call to get back to normal, I think ‘what was normal about the old normal?’ The sudden shutdown of large sectors of the economy highlighted drastically how precarious was the situation of vast chunks of Australian society, in particular but not exclusively, the creative sector. The business models implemented by the Government to help businesses survive and employees keep their jobs didn’t work at all for those who had already been happily left at – or even deliberately pushed to – the margins of society and the economy. In good times the creative sector is flexible and fast at responding. In bad times it is a disaster, as the failure of the COVID-19 support packages for the sector shows’, The old normal was abnormal – survival lessons for a new riskier world.

Cut to the bone – the accelerating decline of our major cultural institutions and its impact on Australia’s national heritage and economy
‘I always thought that long after all else has gone, after government has pruned and prioritised and slashed and bashed arts and cultural support, the national cultural institutions would still remain. They are one of the largest single items of Australian Government cultural funding and one of the longest supported and they would be likely to be the last to go, even with the most miserly and mean-spirited and short sighted of governments. However, in a finale to a series of cumulative cuts over recent years, they have seen their capabilities to carry out their essential core roles eroded beyond repair. The long term impact of these cumulative changes will be major and unexpected, magnifying over time as each small change reinforces the others. The likelihood is that this will lead to irreversible damage to the contemporary culture and cultural heritage of the nation at a crucial crossroads in its history’, Cut to the bone – the accelerating decline of our major cultural institutions and its impact on Australia’s national heritage and economy.

Better than sport? The tricky business of valuing Australia’s arts and culture
‘Understanding, assessing and communicating the broad value of arts and culture is a major and ongoing task. There has been an immense amount of work already carried out. The challenge is to understand some of the pitfalls of research and the mechanisms and motivations that underpin it. Research and evaluation is invaluable for all organisations but it is particularly important for Government. The experience of researching arts and culture in Government is of much broader relevance, as the arts and culture sector navigates the tricky task of building a comprehensive understanding in each locality of the broader benefits of arts and culture. The latest Arts restructure makes this even more urgent.’, Better than sport? The tricky business of valuing Australia’s arts and culture.

Crossing boundaries – the unlimited landscape of creativity
‘When I was visiting Paris last year, there was one thing I wanted to do before I returned home – visit the renowned French bakery that had trained a Melbourne woman who had abandoned the high stakes of Formula One racing to become a top croissant maker. She had decided that being an engineer in the world of elite car racing was not for her, but rather that her future lay in the malleable universe of pastry. Crossing boundaries of many kinds and traversing the borders of differing countries and cultures, she built a radically different future to the one she first envisaged’, Crossing boundaries – the unlimited landscape of creativity.

Creativity and culture in change: Change in creativity and culture
‘A vast transformation of contemporary culture not seen since the breakdown of traditional arts and crafts in the industrial revolution is under way due to the impact of the digital and online environment. Artists, culture managers and cultural specialists today are confronted with radically different challenges and opportunities to those they faced in the 20th Century. There are a number of strategic forces which we need to take account of in career planning and in working in or running cultural organisations’, Presentation at ‘Creative and Cultural Futures: Leadership and Change’ – a symposium exploring the critical issues driving change in the creative and cultural sector, University of Canberra, October 2018, Creativity and culture in change: Change in creativity and culture.

Full circle – where next for Australian national arts and culture support in the 21st Century?
‘With a Coalition Government which now stands a far better chance of being re-elected for a second term, the transfer of the Commonwealth’s Arts Ministry to Communications helps get arts and culture back onto larger and more contemporary agendas. This move reflects that fact that the new industries in the knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape, are both clever and clean. Where they differ completely from other knowledge economy sectors is that, because they are based on content, they draw on, intersect with and contribute to Australia’s national and local culture and are a central part of projecting Australia’s story to ourselves and to the world. In that sense they have a strategic importance that other sectors do not’, Full circle – where next for Australian national arts and culture support in the 21st Century?

Endless attrition at major collections institutions undermines our cultural future
‘The endless attrition of the ‘efficiency dividend’, with its long-term debilitating impact on our major national cultural institutions, continues to do harm. With the periodic announcement of job losses, more and more valuable expertise is increasingly lost and important programs affected. This will undermine the ability of these institutions to care for our heritage and to provide access to their collections for Australians across the country. The long term impact of these cumulative changes will be major and unexpected, magnifying over time as each small change reinforces the others. At some point Australians will ask where valued and important programs have gone and how critical institutions have managed to diminish to the point where return will not be possible,’ Endless attrition at major collections institutions undermines our cultural future.

Cut to the bone – the accelerating decline of our major cultural institutions and its impact on Australia’s national heritage and economy
‘I always thought that long after all else has gone, after government has pruned and prioritised and slashed and bashed arts and cultural support, the national cultural institutions would still remain. They are one of the largest single items of Australian Government cultural funding and one of the longest supported and they would be likely to be the last to go, even with the most miserly and mean-spirited and short sighted of governments. However, in a finale to a series of cumulative cuts over recent years, they have seen their capabilities to carry out their essential core roles eroded beyond repair. The long term impact of these cumulative changes will be major and unexpected, magnifying over time as each small change reinforces the others. The likelihood is that this will lead to irreversible damage to the contemporary culture and cultural heritage of the nation at a crucial crossroads in its history’, Cut to the bone – the accelerating decline of our major cultural institutions and its impact on Australia’s national heritage and economy.

After a fashion – creative industries from First Nations culture
‘When I first heard that Victorian regional gallery, Bendigo Art Gallery, was planning an exhibition about contemporary Indigenous fashion I was impressed. The Gallery has had a long history of fashion exhibitions, drawing on its own collection and in partnership with other institutions, notably the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It is fascinating to consider how a leading regional Australian museum and an internationally renowned museum on the global stage, while in many ways so different, have so much in common. The exhibition is far more than a single event in a Victorian regional centre – it is an expression of a much broader contemporary Indigenous fashion phenomenon nation-wide. It hints at the potential of the creative economy and creative industries to build stronger communities. Both the economic importance and the community and social importance of creativity and culture are tightly interlinked because of the way in which creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up’, After a fashion – creative industries from First Nations culture.
 
A world turned upside down – UNESCO Creative City of Design Wuhan
‘World-shaking events can completely reframe your perspective. When I drove from Canberra to Adelaide and Kangaroo Island in March this year, everyone was being urged to visit regional centres to help them recover from the devastating bushfires. Only weeks later, as I was heading home – via Victoria, a State entering lockdown as I passed through – everybody was being encouraged to stay home to help stop the spread of disease. Back in Canberra I had been involved in a long-running effort to have the city listed as a UNESCO City of Design. The new reality that threatened to overshadow that effort was the global COVID-19 pandemic. Ironically that pandemic had originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which as I discovered, was itself a City of Design in the global UNESCO Creative Cities Network’, A world turned upside down – UNESCO Creative City of Design Wuhan.
 
Creative and cultural futures – understanding the creative and cultural economy

‘Survival in the creative sector in a post-COVID world will require enhanced literacy in the opportunities of the new industries of the future, the clean and clever knowledge economy which is altering our world on a daily basis. Now a new short course delivered completely online in the new digital universe we are all increasingly inhabiting will look closely at the creative and cultural economy and the broader impacts of creativity and culture, both economic and social. It will outline the role of the creative sector in managing meaning and explain how telling Australian stories puts us on the international stage in an increasingly globalised world’, Creative and cultural futures – understanding the creative and cultural economy.

Making a living – building careers in creative and cultural futures
‘Making a living in the developing creative economy is no easy task. For a viable career, flexibility and creativity are crucial. For this a strategic outlook and a grasp of the major long-term forces shaping Australian creativity and culture is essential. To help foster this amongst emerging cultural sector practitioners, a new flagship course, a Master of Arts in Creative and Cultural Futures, was launched at the University of Canberra in 2019, building on earlier experiments in aligning research and analysis with real world cultural sector experience’, Making a living – building careers in creative and cultural futures.

Industries of the future help tell stories of the past – Weta at work in the shaky isles
‘After three weeks travelling round the North Island of New Zealand, I’ve had more time to reflect on the importance of the clean and clever industries of the future and the skilled knowledge workers who make them. In the capital, Wellington, instead of the traditional industries that once often dominated a town, like the railways or meatworks or the car plant or, in Tasmania, the Hydro Electricity Commission, there was Weta. It’s clear that the industries of the future can thrive in unexpected locations. Expertise, specialist skills and industry pockets can occur just about anywhere, as long as you have connectivity, talent and a framework of support that makes it possible. These skills which Weta depends on for its livelihood are also being used to tell important stories from the past’, Industries of the future help tell stories of the past – Weta at work in the shaky isles.

Designs on the future – how Australia’s designed city has global plans
‘In many ways design is a central part of the vocabulary of our time and integrally related to so many powerful social and economic forces – creative industries, popular culture, the digital transformation of society. Design is often misunderstood or overlooked and it’s universal vocabulary and pervasive nature is not widely understood, especially by government. In a rapidly changing world, there is a constant tussle between the local and the national (not to mention the international). This all comes together in the vision for the future that is Design Canberra, a celebration of all things design, with preparations well underway for a month long festival this year. The ultimate vision of Craft ACT for Canberra is to add another major annual event to Floriade, Enlighten and the Multicultural Festival, filling a gap between them and complementing them all’, Designs on the future – how Australia’s designed city has global plans.

Creativity at work – economic engine for our cities
‘It is becoming abundantly clear that in our contemporary world two critical things will help shape the way we make a living – and our economy overall. The first is the central role of cities in generating wealth. The second is the knowledge economy of the future and, more particularly, the creative industries that sit at its heart. In Sydney, Australia’s largest city, both of these come together in a scattering of evolving creative clusters – concentrations of creative individuals and small businesses, clumped together in geographic proximity. This development is part of a national and world-wide trend which has profound implications’, Creativity at work – economic engine for our cities.

The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival
‘Across Australia, local communities facing major economic and social challenges have become interested in the joint potential of regional arts and local creative industries to contribute to or often lead regional revival. This has paralleled the increasing importance of our major cities as economic hubs and centres of innovation’, The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival.


Design for policy innovation – from the world of design to designing the world

‘Design and the language of design is very broad – much broader than architecture or industrial or graphic design – the forms we are most conscious of. Design is also very much about processes and the development of concepts across almost all areas of human activity. This means it also has a high relevance to the development of policy to solve pressing social challenges, moving beyond the world of design to embrace the design of the world. In a highlight of DESIGN Canberra this year, respected Dutch presenter Ingrid Van der Wacht led discussion about the relevance of design to innovative policy – from local, highly specific policy to grand strategic policy designed to change whole regions and even nations’, Design for policy innovation – from the world of design to designing the world.

The clever business of creativity: the experience of supporting Australia’s industries of the future
‘The swan song of the Creative Industries Innovation Centre, ‘Creative Business in Australia’, outlines the experience of five years supporting Australia’s creative industries. Case studies and wide-ranging analysis explain the critical importance of these industries to Australia’s future. The knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape, is both clever and clean. Where the creative industries differ completely from other knowledge economy sectors is that, because they are based on content, they draw on, intersect with and contribute to Australia’s national and local culture’, The clever business of creativity: the experience of supporting Australia’s industries of the future.

My nephew just got a job with Weta – the long road of the interconnected world
‘My nephew just got a job in Wellington New Zealand with Weta Digital, which makes the digital effects for Peter Jackson’s epics. Expertise, specialist skills and industry pockets can occur just about anywhere, as long as you have connectivity, talent and a framework of support that makes it possible. This is part of the new knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape. Increasingly the industries of the future are both clever and clean. At their heart are the developing creative industries which are based on the power of creativity and are a critical part of Australia’s future – innovative, in most cases centred on small business and closely linked to the profile of Australia as a clever country, both domestically and internationally. This is transforming the political landscape of Australia, challenging old political franchises and upping the stakes in the offerings department’, My nephew just got a job with Weta – the long road of the interconnected world.

Creative industries critical to vitality of Australian culture
‘The developing creative industries are a critical part of Australia’s future – clean, innovative, at their core based on small business and closely linked to the profile of Australia as a clever country, both domestically and internationally.’ Creative industries critical to vitality of Australian culture.

Applied creativity
‘I have been dealing with the issue of creativity for as long as I can remember. Recently, I have had to deal with a new concept—innovation. All too often, creativity is confused with innovation. A number of writers about innovation have made the point that innovation and creativity are different. In their view, innovation involves taking a creative idea and commercialising it. If we look more broadly, we see that innovation may not necessarily involve only commercialising ideas. Instead the core feature is application—innovation is applied creativity. Even ideas that may seem very radical can slip into the wider culture in unexpected ways’, Applied creativity.

Creative industries – applied arts and sciences
‘The nineteenth century fascination with applied arts and sciences — the economic application of nature, arts and sciences — and the intersection of these diverse areas and their role in technological innovation are as relevant today for our creative industries. From the Garden Palace, home of Australia’s first international exhibition in 1879, to the Economic Gardens in Adelaide’s Botanic Gardens these collections and exhibitions lay the basis for modern Australian industry. The vast Garden Palace building in the Sydney Botanic Gardens was the Australian version of the great Victorian-era industrial expositions, where, in huge palaces of glass, steel and timber, industry, invention, science, the arts and nature all intersected and overlapped. Despite burning to the ground, it went on to become the inspiration for what eventually became the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences — the Powerhouse Museum’, Creative Industries.

Beyond boundaries – Dr Terry Cutler and how to connect everything

The global pandemic has so upended the world we knew that everyday matters, like relationships, birthdays, births and deaths have often slipped by unnoticed and uncelebrated. In a world of pandemic and lockdowns – and shakedowns by government – such things seem to go unnoticed. In such a way the departures – through retirement or death – of those who have made unparalleled contributions to our future have often passed before we even notice. This was certainly the case with strategic creative and cultural thinker, Dr Terry Cutler, who died during the pandemic lockdown last year, when the focus of most of the world was on other things. 

I was listening to a talk about innovation by Professor Stuart Cunningham at the University of Canberra when I was shocked to hear that Dr Terry Cutler had died last year. In a world of pandemic and lockdowns – and shakedowns by government – such things seem to go unnoticed. Terry Cutler did so many things, across so many areas, that it’s difficult to even skim across them all – strategist at Telecom Australia in the early days of the digital revolution, key figure on the board of the respected science and technology body, the CSIRO, President of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, to name just a few of his many roles.

Terry Cutler crossed boundaries with his interest in the potential of the content of cultural institutions for creative industries. One of his later roles was President of the ground-breaking Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

Too soon to tell
What I want to touch on is only a part of this, in a period when I worked with him. It is only part, but it is extremely important. I regularly come back to much of it in my blog articles about innovation, cultural institutions, content and the digital universe. It has informed ‘Impact and Enterprise’, the post-graduate Unit I developed at the University of Canberra. This focuses on the interrelationship of the broader economic and social impacts of creativity and culture, arising from the way creativity and culture is a central part of everyday life and the activities that make it up.

‘When asked what he saw as the long term effects of the French Revolution, [he replied] that it was too soon to tell.’

The longer term impact of this body of work reminds me of the apocryphal story about Chou En-Lai, the legendary Premier of China, who once famously (and perhaps actually) said when asked what he saw as the long term effects of the French Revolution, that it was too soon to tell. I like that sort of sense of history – it exhibits a long-term strategic vision, so often missing amongst political leaders in Australia, particularly lately. It was the sort of vision that Terry Cutler exhibited often. Certainly the research work that Cutler was involved in when I worked with him showed that long term potential for surprises, connecting areas that didn’t at first sight seem linked.

Exploring the potential
Soon after a brief stint as Chair of the Australia Council (after a longer one as Chair of its New Media Arts Board) he addressed the inaugural OZeCulture Conference that I organised in Melbourne. The conference – which continued annually for several years after the first one – aimed to bring together artists, cultural institutions and information technology companies to explore the potential of the Internet, the online environment and the digital universe. Amongst many other things he talked about the untapped potential of the content held by cultural institutions for the growth of Australia’s creative industries. 

‘Amongst many other things he talked about the untapped potential of the content held by cultural institutions for the growth of Australia’s creative industries.’

He then went on to work on the multi-stage Creative Industries Cluster Study, a wide-ranging two year research project to lay the groundwork to engage national and state government, industry bodies and cultural organisations in developing policies to support the growth of major, globally competitive Australian Creative Industries. This flowed into the Digital Content Industry Action Agenda, which brought together industry leaders to present recommendations to Cabinet that underlined digital content as important in the same way as the emerging areas of biotechnology and nanotechnology. It also fed into the Prime Ministers Science, Engineering and Innovation Council Enquiry into the Role of Creativity in the Innovation Economy aiming to present its work to Cabinet in a way which would engage all Ministers, by focusing on the role of digital content and applications as an input to broader industries such as Agriculture, Defence, Mining and Health.

Wider and longer reverberations
There was a lot happening, but it wasn’t translating into policy advances. At one point asked why his work had not produced a greater response from Coalition Governments, he commented ‘I failed’. However, ironically the work of the Cluster Study led to the establishment by the incoming Rudd Labor Government of the wildly successful Creative Industries Innovation Centre. In many other ways the work that Cutler was involved in led to many wider and longer developments that still reverberate today.

‘At one point asked why his work had not produced a greater response from Coalition Governments, he commented ‘I failed’. However, ironically the work of the Cluster Study led to the establishment by the incoming Rudd Labor Government of the wildly successful Creative Industries Innovation Centre.’

One crucial project was a three year ARC-funded National Creative Digital Industries Mapping Project, involving the Creative Industries Research and Applications Centre of Queensland University of Technology, with industry partners at the time, the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, the National Office for the Information Economy and the Australian Film Commission. I worked as a Partner Investigator on the project to ensure that what was produced could inform government in useful ways. Due to the partnership with government, the project was able to gain access to critical Australian Tax Office data, which enabled more accurate analysis of the nature and composition of the creative sector.

Feeding directly into government
The research from this project was used to feed directly into government policy development and briefings for Ministers. The partnership led to the establishment of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation at the Queensland University of Technology – the first ARC centre of excellence in the humanities and creative arts. It undertook research in media studies, cultural studies, communication studies, law, education, economics, business technology, and information technology, related to the creative economy, between 2005 and 2013. Cutler continued his contribution, as Chair of the Advisory Board for the new body, continuing his long-term collaboration with its Director, Professor Stuart Cunningham. Professor Cunningham recognised the crucial role of Terry Cutler in an obituaryat the time of his death.

With so much going on it’s often the small things that stick in your memory of the time. During this project, as we worked to categorise and map ways digital content and applications had wider reverberations across the economy generally, I discovered that Terry Cutler and I had a shared enthusiasm for taxonomies. But then Cutler had an enthusiasm for so many things that you could easily lose count. He made major contributions to Australia’s creative sector, many of which are still continuing. I don’t know what he would have made of some of the narrow, mediocre and short-sighted thinking we are seeing in Government today, but he did show what could be done by Government, education and industry in partnership, given half a chance.

See also

Broader and deeper – the creativity and culture of everyday life
‘The Impact and Enterprise post-graduate course at the University of Canberra course is unique in Australia in placing creative industries and the creative and cultural economy in the broader landscape of the wider impacts of creativity and culture – both economic and social. It starts from the premise that what the broader social and economic roles of creativity and culture have in common is that a focus on the economic role of creativity and culture is similar to the focus on its community role – both spring from recognition that creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up. In March 2021, as the course entered its third year, I gave a talk to the students about where it came from,’ Broader and deeper – the creativity and culture of everyday life

Flight of the wild geese – Australia’s place in the world of global talent
‘As the global pandemic has unfolded, I have been struck by how out of touch a large number of Australians are with Australia’s place in the world. Before the pandemic many Australians had become used to travelling overseas regularly – and spending large amounts of money while there – but we seem to think that our interaction with the global world is all about discretionary leisure travel. In contrast, increasingly many Australians were travelling – and living – overseas because their jobs required it. Whether working for multinational companies that have branches in Australia or Australian companies trying to break into global markets, Australian talent often needs to be somewhere else than here to make the most of opportunities for Australia. Not only technology, but even more importantly, talent, will be crucial to the economy of the future’, Flight of the wild geese – Australia’s place in the world of global talent.

Understanding the economy of the future – innovation and its place in the knowledge economy, creative economy, creative industries and cultural economy 
‘When we start to think about the economy of the future – and the clean and clever jobs that make it up – we encounter a confusing array of ideas and terms. Innovation, the knowledge economy, the creative economy, creative industries and the cultural economy are all used, often interchangeably. Over the years my own thinking about them has changed and I thought it would be useful to try to clarify how they are all related’, Understanding the economy of the future – innovation and its place in the knowledge economy, creative economy, creative industries and cultural economy

 Better than sport? The tricky business of valuing Australia’s arts and culture
‘Understanding, assessing and communicating the broad value of arts and culture is a major and ongoing task. There has been an immense amount of work already carried out. The challenge is to understand some of the pitfalls of research and the mechanisms and motivations that underpin it. Research and evaluation is invaluable for all organisations but it is particularly important for Government. The experience of researching arts and culture in Government is of much broader relevance, as the arts and culture sector navigates the tricky task of building a comprehensive understanding in each locality of the broader benefits of arts and culture. The latest Arts restructure makes this even more urgent.’, Better than sport? The tricky business of valuing Australia’s arts and culture.

Crossing boundaries – the unlimited landscape of creativity
‘When I was visiting Paris last year, there was one thing I wanted to do before I returned home – visit the renowned French bakery that had trained a Melbourne woman who had abandoned the high stakes of Formula One racing to become a top croissant maker. She had decided that being an engineer in the world of elite car racing was not for her, but rather that her future lay in the malleable universe of pastry. Crossing boundaries of many kinds and traversing the borders of differing countries and cultures, she built a radically different future to the one she first envisaged’, Crossing boundaries – the unlimited landscape of creativity.

Creativity and culture in change: Change in creativity and culture
‘A vast transformation of contemporary culture not seen since the breakdown of traditional arts and crafts in the industrial revolution is under way due to the impact of the digital and online environment. Artists, culture managers and cultural specialists today are confronted with radically different challenges and opportunities to those they faced in the 20th Century. There are a number of strategic forces which we need to take account of in career planning and in working in or running cultural organisations’, Presentation at ‘Creative and Cultural Futures: Leadership and Change’ – a symposium exploring the critical issues driving change in the creative and cultural sector, University of Canberra, October 2018, Creativity and culture in change: Change in creativity and culture.

Full circle – where next for Australian national arts and culture support in the 21st Century?
‘With a Coalition Government which now stands a far better chance of being re-elected for a second term, the transfer of the Commonwealth’s Arts Ministry to Communications helps get arts and culture back onto larger and more contemporary agendas. This move reflects that fact that the new industries in the knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape, are both clever and clean. Where they differ completely from other knowledge economy sectors is that, because they are based on content, they draw on, intersect with and contribute to Australia’s national and local culture and are a central part of projecting Australia’s story to ourselves and to the world. In that sense they have a strategic importance that other sectors do not’, Full circle – where next for Australian national arts and culture support in the 21st Century?

Endless attrition at major collections institutions undermines our cultural future
‘The endless attrition of the ‘efficiency dividend’, with its long-term debilitating impact on our major national cultural institutions, continues to do harm. With the periodic announcement of job losses, more and more valuable expertise is increasingly lost and important programs affected. This will undermine the ability of these institutions to care for our heritage and to provide access to their collections for Australians across the country. The long term impact of these cumulative changes will be major and unexpected, magnifying over time as each small change reinforces the others. At some point Australians will ask where valued and important programs have gone and how critical institutions have managed to diminish to the point where return will not be possible,’ Endless attrition at major collections institutions undermines our cultural future.

Cut to the bone – the accelerating decline of our major cultural institutions and its impact on Australia’s national heritage and economy
‘I always thought that long after all else has gone, after government has pruned and prioritised and slashed and bashed arts and cultural support, the national cultural institutions would still remain. They are one of the largest single items of Australian Government cultural funding and one of the longest supported and they would be likely to be the last to go, even with the most miserly and mean-spirited and short sighted of governments. However, in a finale to a series of cumulative cuts over recent years, they have seen their capabilities to carry out their essential core roles eroded beyond repair. The long term impact of these cumulative changes will be major and unexpected, magnifying over time as each small change reinforces the others. The likelihood is that this will lead to irreversible damage to the contemporary culture and cultural heritage of the nation at a crucial crossroads in its history’, Cut to the bone – the accelerating decline of our major cultural institutions and its impact on Australia’s national heritage and economy.

After a fashion – creative industries from First Nations culture
‘When I first heard that Victorian regional gallery, Bendigo Art Gallery, was planning an exhibition about contemporary Indigenous fashion I was impressed. The Gallery has had a long history of fashion exhibitions, drawing on its own collection and in partnership with other institutions, notably the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It is fascinating to consider how a leading regional Australian museum and an internationally renowned museum on the global stage, while in many ways so different, have so much in common. The exhibition is far more than a single event in a Victorian regional centre – it is an expression of a much broader contemporary Indigenous fashion phenomenon nation-wide. It hints at the potential of the creative economy and creative industries to build stronger communities. Both the economic importance and the community and social importance of creativity and culture are tightly interlinked because of the way in which creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up’, After a fashion – creative industries from First Nations culture.
 
A world turned upside down – UNESCO Creative City of Design Wuhan
‘World-shaking events can completely reframe your perspective. When I drove from Canberra to Adelaide and Kangaroo Island in March this year, everyone was being urged to visit regional centres to help them recover from the devastating bushfires. Only weeks later, as I was heading home – via Victoria, a State entering lockdown as I passed through – everybody was being encouraged to stay home to help stop the spread of disease. Back in Canberra I had been involved in a long-running effort to have the city listed as a UNESCO City of Design. The new reality that threatened to overshadow that effort was the global COVID-19 pandemic. Ironically that pandemic had originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which as I discovered, was itself a City of Design in the global UNESCO Creative Cities Network’, A world turned upside down – UNESCO Creative City of Design Wuhan.
 
Creative and cultural futures – understanding the creative and cultural economy

‘Survival in the creative sector in a post-COVID world will require enhanced literacy in the opportunities of the new industries of the future, the clean and clever knowledge economy which is altering our world on a daily basis. Now a new short course delivered completely online in the new digital universe we are all increasingly inhabiting will look closely at the creative and cultural economy and the broader impacts of creativity and culture, both economic and social. It will outline the role of the creative sector in managing meaning and explain how telling Australian stories puts us on the international stage in an increasingly globalised world’, Creative and cultural futures – understanding the creative and cultural economy.

Making a living – building careers in creative and cultural futures
‘Making a living in the developing creative economy is no easy task. For a viable career, flexibility and creativity are crucial. For this a strategic outlook and a grasp of the major long-term forces shaping Australian creativity and culture is essential. To help foster this amongst emerging cultural sector practitioners, a new flagship course, a Master of Arts in Creative and Cultural Futures, was launched at the University of Canberra in 2019, building on earlier experiments in aligning research and analysis with real world cultural sector experience’, Making a living – building careers in creative and cultural futures.

Industries of the future help tell stories of the past – Weta at work in the shaky isles
‘After three weeks travelling round the North Island of New Zealand, I’ve had more time to reflect on the importance of the clean and clever industries of the future and the skilled knowledge workers who make them. In the capital, Wellington, instead of the traditional industries that once often dominated a town, like the railways or meatworks or the car plant or, in Tasmania, the Hydro Electricity Commission, there was Weta. It’s clear that the industries of the future can thrive in unexpected locations. Expertise, specialist skills and industry pockets can occur just about anywhere, as long as you have connectivity, talent and a framework of support that makes it possible. These skills which Weta depends on for its livelihood are also being used to tell important stories from the past’, Industries of the future help tell stories of the past – Weta at work in the shaky isles.

Designs on the future – how Australia’s designed city has global plans
‘In many ways design is a central part of the vocabulary of our time and integrally related to so many powerful social and economic forces – creative industries, popular culture, the digital transformation of society. Design is often misunderstood or overlooked and it’s universal vocabulary and pervasive nature is not widely understood, especially by government. In a rapidly changing world, there is a constant tussle between the local and the national (not to mention the international). This all comes together in the vision for the future that is Design Canberra, a celebration of all things design, with preparations well underway for a month long festival this year. The ultimate vision of Craft ACT for Canberra is to add another major annual event to Floriade, Enlighten and the Multicultural Festival, filling a gap between them and complementing them all’, Designs on the future – how Australia’s designed city has global plans.

Creativity at work – economic engine for our cities
‘It is becoming abundantly clear that in our contemporary world two critical things will help shape the way we make a living – and our economy overall. The first is the central role of cities in generating wealth. The second is the knowledge economy of the future and, more particularly, the creative industries that sit at its heart. In Sydney, Australia’s largest city, both of these come together in a scattering of evolving creative clusters – concentrations of creative individuals and small businesses, clumped together in geographic proximity. This development is part of a national and world-wide trend which has profound implications’, Creativity at work – economic engine for our cities.

The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival
‘Across Australia, local communities facing major economic and social challenges have become interested in the joint potential of regional arts and local creative industries to contribute to or often lead regional revival. This has paralleled the increasing importance of our major cities as economic hubs and centres of innovation’, The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival.


Design for policy innovation – from the world of design to designing the world

‘Design and the language of design is very broad – much broader than architecture or industrial or graphic design – the forms we are most conscious of. Design is also very much about processes and the development of concepts across almost all areas of human activity. This means it also has a high relevance to the development of policy to solve pressing social challenges, moving beyond the world of design to embrace the design of the world. In a highlight of DESIGN Canberra this year, respected Dutch presenter Ingrid Van der Wacht led discussion about the relevance of design to innovative policy – from local, highly specific policy to grand strategic policy designed to change whole regions and even nations’, Design for policy innovation – from the world of design to designing the world.

The clever business of creativity: the experience of supporting Australia’s industries of the future
‘The swan song of the Creative Industries Innovation Centre, ‘Creative Business in Australia’, outlines the experience of five years supporting Australia’s creative industries. Case studies and wide-ranging analysis explain the critical importance of these industries to Australia’s future. The knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape, is both clever and clean. Where the creative industries differ completely from other knowledge economy sectors is that, because they are based on content, they draw on, intersect with and contribute to Australia’s national and local culture’, The clever business of creativity: the experience of supporting Australia’s industries of the future.

My nephew just got a job with Weta – the long road of the interconnected world
‘My nephew just got a job in Wellington New Zealand with Weta Digital, which makes the digital effects for Peter Jackson’s epics. Expertise, specialist skills and industry pockets can occur just about anywhere, as long as you have connectivity, talent and a framework of support that makes it possible. This is part of the new knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape. Increasingly the industries of the future are both clever and clean. At their heart are the developing creative industries which are based on the power of creativity and are a critical part of Australia’s future – innovative, in most cases centred on small business and closely linked to the profile of Australia as a clever country, both domestically and internationally. This is transforming the political landscape of Australia, challenging old political franchises and upping the stakes in the offerings department’, My nephew just got a job with Weta – the long road of the interconnected world.

Creative industries critical to vitality of Australian culture
‘The developing creative industries are a critical part of Australia’s future – clean, innovative, at their core based on small business and closely linked to the profile of Australia as a clever country, both domestically and internationally.’ Creative industries critical to vitality of Australian culture.

Applied creativity
‘I have been dealing with the issue of creativity for as long as I can remember. Recently, I have had to deal with a new concept—innovation. All too often, creativity is confused with innovation. A number of writers about innovation have made the point that innovation and creativity are different. In their view, innovation involves taking a creative idea and commercialising it. If we look more broadly, we see that innovation may not necessarily involve only commercialising ideas. Instead the core feature is application—innovation is applied creativity. Even ideas that may seem very radical can slip into the wider culture in unexpected ways’, Applied creativity.

Creative industries – applied arts and sciences
‘The nineteenth century fascination with applied arts and sciences — the economic application of nature, arts and sciences — and the intersection of these diverse areas and their role in technological innovation are as relevant today for our creative industries. From the Garden Palace, home of Australia’s first international exhibition in 1879, to the Economic Gardens in Adelaide’s Botanic Gardens these collections and exhibitions lay the basis for modern Australian industry. The vast Garden Palace building in the Sydney Botanic Gardens was the Australian version of the great Victorian-era industrial expositions, where, in huge palaces of glass, steel and timber, industry, invention, science, the arts and nature all intersected and overlapped. Despite burning to the ground, it went on to become the inspiration for what eventually became the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences — the Powerhouse Museum’, Creative Industries.


 

After a fashion – creative industries from First Nations culture

When I first heard that Victorian regional gallery, Bendigo Art Gallery, was planning an exhibition about contemporary Indigenous fashion I was impressed. The Gallery has had a long history of fashion exhibitions, drawing on its own collection and in partnership with other institutions, notably the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It is fascinating to consider how a leading regional Australian museum and an internationally renowned museum on the global stage, while in many ways so different, have so much in common. The exhibition is far more than a single event in a Victorian regional centre – it is an expression of a much broader contemporary Indigenous fashion phenomenon nation-wide. It hints at the potential of the creative economy and creative industries to build stronger communities. Both the economic importance and the community and social importance of creativity and culture are tightly interlinked because of the way in which creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up.

I have been to both museums quite a few times and it is fascinating to consider how a leading regional Australian museum and an internationally renowned museum on the global stage, while in many ways so different, have so much in common. Previous fashion exhibitions included Marimekko: Design Icon 1951 to 2018’, ‘Grace Kelly: Style Icon’ and ‘The Golden Age of Couture’, all of which I managed to see and thoroughly enjoyed. There were many more which I didn’t see: Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion’, ‘Desert Lines: Batik from Central Australia’, ‘Undressed: 350 years of fashion in underwear’ and ‘The White Wedding Dress: 200 years of wedding fashions’ to name a few.

Earlier days in a national phenomenon – fashion parade, Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, 2013.

As the Gallery website notes ‘Piinpi: Contemporary Indigenous Fashion ‘brings together a selection of garments and textiles by First Nations designers and artists from around Australia. The first major survey of contemporary Indigenous Australian fashion to be undertaken in this country, Piinpi sheds lights on a growing industry which is blossoming and set to become Australia’s major fashion movement. ‘Piinpi: Contemporary Indigenous Fashion’ celebrates Indigenous art, history and culture through the lens of contemporary fashion.’

The language of fashion
The name of the exhibition is derived from a word commonly used across regions of East Coast Cape York Peninsula to refer to Indigenous seasonal changes and the regeneration of Country. In fact the importance of changing seasons for communities located across Australia is a central idea in the exhibition. In incorporating Indigenous languages into the exhibition, it is another part of the enormous long-term community effort to revive and maintain Australia’s own languages, those spoken nowhere else in the world. In many ways, happening as it does at community level, this is almost invisible – yet it is one of the most inspiring community movements I have encountered, offering inspiration to other Australian communities for their own challenges and ambitions.

‘Piinpi: Contemporary Indigenous Fashionbrings together a selection of garments and textiles by First Nations designers and artists from around Australia. The first major survey of contemporary Indigenous Australian fashion to be undertaken in this country, Piinpi sheds lights on a growing industry which is blossoming and set to become Australia’s major fashion movement.’

Previous major exhibitions about First Nations culture and history have included references to Indigenous fashion and I’ve taken note of those examples in the various exhibitions over the years. These have included Songlines, which presented an ancient culture for a contemporary world and Encounters, with its unfinished histories, as well as many exhibitions more specifically focused on visual arts. However, to my knowledge this is the first comprehensive exhibition devoted solely to contemporary Indigenous fashion.

Potential of creative economy and creative industries to build stronger communities
The news of the exhibition was extremely exciting because my long-term area of interest and expertise is the creative economy and creative industries. However, by some happy accident I also found myself working for over six years in the Indigenous cultural programs of the Australian Government. Here I was responsible for programs that supported First Nations languages and culture. I became particularly interested in the potential of the creative economy and creative industries to build stronger communities.

‘Both the economic role and the community and social role of creativity and culture are linked because of the way in which creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up.’

At one stage I was also responsible for the Indigenous cultural programs in that ACT, NSW and Queensland. In this role I began to appreciate how major events such as the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair played a role in highlighting and promoting Indigenous fashion. This involved presenting designs that had evolved from collaborations between community-based Indigenous art centres, often in remote areas, and educational institutions, such as the School of Design at the Queensland University of Technology, with its focus on fashion. In 2013, the year I attended the Fair, an inaugural fashion parade of work was presented by young Indigenous models.

Early fashion parade, Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, 2013
 
Broader impacts – creativity and culture integral to everyday life
What interests me are the broader impacts of creativity and culture. Both the economic importance and the community and social importance of creativity and culture are tightly interlinked because of the way in which creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up. This is the basis of Impact and Enterprise, the unit I teach at the University of Canberra, part of the Master of Arts in Creative and Cultural Futures.

The exhibition manages to combine several of my related interests in one. I was very keen to see it but as events unfolded, it was becoming less and less likely. At first it was possible that the exhibition might not go ahead at all, then it was due to occur in a state still locked down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At that point a friend announced that she was poised to cross the border into Victoria the moment restrictions were eased, following the State’s world-beating performance in battening down its COVID-19 second wave. She was visiting family in regional Victoria and planned to stop in Bendigo and visit the Gallery. I remembered that the exhibition was supposed to be on around that time. As a result she was able to visit the exhibition and obtain a catalogue for me. At least I could experience the exhibition remotely – as is so common with cultural experiences in our current disordered times.

Much less known success story

Coincidentally Victoria’s success in turning back a rising tide of infections reflected a much less publicised success story with the pandemic – the way in which by acting resolutely and engaging communities, First Nations leaders managed to halt the entry of COVID-19 into remote communities. If the virus had gained a foothold amongst often vulnerable community members, it could have been a disaster. Yet the First Nations experience showed how Australia could be an example to the rest of the world in many ways not always obvious to the wider public.

I understand the Gallery has made a conscious strategic decision to build on its previous fashion and design strengths and to expand its Indigenous representation. Many of the 106 works in the exhibition are drawn from the Gallery collection. It is a sign of the strength of this community-based phenomenon that the designers and artists are drawn from language groups across the country. It is interesting that some of the work in the exhibition is drawn from ongoing collaborations presented at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair long after my visit there for the first fashion parade.

‘Coincidentally Victoria’s success in turning back a rising tide of infections reflected a much less publicised success story with the pandemic – the way in which by acting resolutely and engaging communities, First Nations leaders managed to halt the entry of COVID-19 into remote communities. If the virus had gained a foothold amongst often vulnerable community members, it could have been a disaster. Yet the First Nations experience showed how Australia could be an example to the rest of the world in many ways not always obvious to the wider public.’

The exhibition is far more than a single event in a Victorian regional centre – it is an expression of a much broader contemporary Indigenous fashion phenomenon nation-wide. It hints at the potential of the creative economy and creative industries to build stronger communities. The exhibition runs until 17 January 2021, so you have until early next year to see it. Whether you are able to see it or not, its national and international significance will still be of massive relevance to not only First Nations communities, but also to Australian culture and its creative economy more generally. If you are able to see it, I am sure you will have managed to be part of what will be seen in years to come as a major defining event for Australian culture. 

Update
There is some excellent news about the exhibition on contemporary Indgenous fashion, recently at the Bendigo Art Gallery. It is coming to the National Museum of Australia from 20 February (in two days time) until 8 August 2021. How fabulous – I will get to see it after all, and you can too. Explore some great design and see the potential of the creative economy and creative industries to build stronger communities. https://www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/piinpi-contemporary-indigenous-fashion#.

See also

Updates on creativity and culture an email away
‘After many decades working across the Australian cultural sector, I have been regularly posting to my suite of blogs about creativity and culture, ever since I first set them up over 10 years ago. You can follow any of the blogs through email updates, which are sent from time to time. If you don’t already follow my blogs and you want to take advantage of this service, you can simply add your email address to the blog page, and then confirm that you want to receive updates when you receive the follow up email. If you want to make sure you don’t miss any of my updates, simply select the blogs you are interested in and set up the update by adding your email’, Updates on creativity and culture an email away

Always was, always will be – a welcome long view in NAIDOC week
‘Being involved with Australian culture means being involved in one way or another with First Nations arts, culture and languages – it’s such a central and dynamic part of the cultural landscape. First Nations culture has significance for First Nations communities, but it also has powerful implications for Australian culture generally. NAIDOC Week is a central part of that cultural landscape’, Always was, always will be – a welcome long view in NAIDOC week.

 
Contemporary Indigenous fashion – where community culture and economics meet
The recent exhibition ‘Piinpi’, about contemporary Indigenous fashion, has a significance for Australian culture that is yet to be fully revealed. The themes covered by the exhibition are important because they demonstrate the intersection of the culture of First Nations communities with creative industries and the cultural economy. In attempting to address the major issue of Indigenous disadvantage, for example, it is critical to recognise that one of the most important economic resources possessed by First Nations communities is their culture. Through the intellectual property that translates it into a form that can generate income in a contemporary economy, that culture is pivotal to jobs and to income. It may not be mining but it mines a far richer seam – authentic and rich content that has already been recognised internationally for its high value, just like our iron and coal. At a time when First Nations communities are talking increasingly about gaining greater control over their economic life, this is highly relevant’, Contemporary Indigenous fashion – where community culture and economics meet

Standing out in the crowd – a regional road tour of arts and culture
A recent regional road tour through Victoria to South Australia showed how a focus on arts and culture is a pointer for how regional centres can take a path other than slow decline. It also showed how a small country on the edges of the mainstream can become a global design force by staying true to its language, locality and culture – the things that make it distinctive in a crowded, noisy marketplace dominated by big, cashed up players, Standing out in the crowd – a regional road tour of arts and culture.

Regional Australia recognised with City of Culture listing for Bendigo and surrounds
‘It’s been apparent for some time that regional centres and smaller cities and towns can be interesting and creative places and that cities that have missed out on the benefits of globalisation in the era of neo-liberalism can be brought back by community action and imagination. It’s certainly not happening everywhere but it’s true of many lucky regional towns and cities and some suburban and outer suburban areas – witness Sydney, where it’s increasingly clear that the excitement never really stopped at the edges of the inner city. The regional rollout of interesting keeps on happening’, Regional Australia recognised with City of Culture listing for Bendigo and surrounds.

Designs on the future – how Australia’s designed city has global plans

‘In many ways design is a central part of the vocabulary of our time and integrally related to so many powerful social and economic forces – creative industries, popular culture, the digital transformation of society. Design is often misunderstood or overlooked and it’s universal vocabulary and pervasive nature is not widely understood, especially by government. In a rapidly changing world, there is a constant tussle between the local and the national (not to mention the international). This all comes together in the vision for the future that is Design Canberra, a celebration of all things design, with preparations well underway for a month long festival this year. The ultimate vision of Craft ACT for Canberra is to add another major annual event to Floriade, Enlighten and the Multicultural Festival, filling a gap between them and complementing them all’, Designs on the future – how Australia’s designed city has global plans.
 

Out of sight, out of mind – building knowledge on sustaining the creative and cultural sector in regional and remote Australia
‘Creative organisations and artists often collect information and research in order to report to funding bodies about how grant funding has been used. Apart from the need to report on funding or to make a case to government, or society in general, the creative and cultural sector also needs evidence and understanding for its own purposes. While government funding bodies might need the sort of information collected from funded organisations, the organisations need it far more – for their planning and to report to their Boards and their communities. They need it to know whether what they are doing is effective and worthwhile – or whether they should be doing something else.’ Out of sight, out of mind – building knowledge on sustaining the creative and cultural sector in regional and remote Australia.

 
The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival
‘Across Australia, local communities facing major economic and social challenges have become interested in the joint potential of regional arts and local creative industries to contribute to or often lead regional revival. This has paralleled the increasing importance of our major cities as economic hubs and centres of innovation’, The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival.
 
Growing up across many worlds – the daily life of ‘In My Blood it Runs’

‘An important new film about Dujuan, a young Aboriginal boy living in Alice Springs in the centre of Australia, is both engaging and challenging, raising major issues about growing up Aboriginal in modern Australia. ‘In my blood it runs’ is a film for our troubled times, that tackles the challenges of a culturally divided country, but also finds the hope that this cultural diversity can offer us all for our overlapping futures’, Growing up across many worlds – the daily life of ‘In My Blood it Runs’.
 
Changing the landscape of the future – a new focus on cultural rights
‘The arts and culture sector has spent far too many years pressing the case for why Australian culture is crucial to Australia’s future, without seeming to shift the public policy landscape to any great degree. Perhaps a proposed fresh approach focusing on cultural rights may offer some hope of a breakthrough. What makes this approach so important and so potentially productive is that it starts with broad principles, linked to fundamental issues, such as human rights, which makes it a perfect foundation for the development of sound and well-thought out policies – something that currently we sadly lack’, Changing the landscape of the future – a new focus on cultural rights.

 

Songlines – an ancient culture for a contemporary world
‘What interests me in exhibitions about Aboriginal Australia is what they mean for Australians generally, even if most Australians won’t ever see them. After a mere 220 years, in many ways we are still only part way through making our home here. We haven’t yet figured out how to navigate this land properly. When I was at school we learned about so many doomed explorers misinterpreting the country, unable to find their way. Burke and Wills were the perfect examples, undone because they were unable to learn simple lessons offered by the local people on how to make edible the vast supplies of food surrounding them. They starved to death in a field of plenty. It made me realise that we can gain a much richer grasp of Australia through recognising that First Nations culture and heritage is part and parcel of our own Australian heritage’, Songlines – an ancient culture for a contemporary world.

History all around us – the long term practical impact of cultural research
‘Cultural research has long term impacts in terms of our developing body of knowledge which stretch far into the future. Researchers are finding stories in our major cultural collections that were never envisaged by those originally assembling them – a process that will continue long into the future. The collections of our major cultural institutions are becoming increasingly accessible to the very people the collections are drawn from and reflect. In the process they are generating greater understanding about some of the major contemporary issues we face’, History all around us – the long term practical impact of cultural research.

The language of success ­– recognising a great unsung community movement
‘What is especially significant about the Prime Minister, in his Closing the Gap address, recognising the importance of Indigenous languages is that this is the first time a Liberal leader has expressed such views. It’s exciting because for progress to be made it is essential that there is a jointly agreed position. This moment arises from the tireless work over many decades of hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language revivalists – surely one of the great positive unsung community movements in Australian history. By their hard work they have managed to change the profile of Indigenous languages in Australia. Unfortunately the address reinforced the tendency of government to overlook the success stories that are already happening in local communities and look for big institutional solutions. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be a missed opportunity’, The language of success – recognising a great unsung community movement.

Unfinished histories – encountering ‘Encounters’
‘A single exhibition can sum up many things. By bringing together so many histories, stories and objects – particularly long-absent ones from the British Museum – the ‘Encounters’ exhibition at the National Museum presented a snapshot of the ongoing living history of Australia. Many strands ran through it, reflecting the complexity of the realities it tried to express. By successfully reflecting on the pressing issues it raised we have some hope of getting beyond the vision of the Great South Land of 18th and 19th Century ambition towards a truly great nation of the 21st Century’, Unfinished histories – encountering ‘Encounters’.

Literature and languages – inaugural Indigenous literary festival sign of things to come
‘The inaugural Victorian Indigenous literary festival Blak & Bright in February 2016 was a a very important event for Australian cultural life. It aimed to promote and celebrate a diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices. It raised important questions about how the movement to revive and maintain Indigenous languages – surely one of the great positive unsung community movements in Australian history – is related to ‘Australian literature’. Australian culture as a whole is also inconceivable without the central role of Indigenous culture – how would Australian literature look seen in the same light?’, Literature and languages – inaugural Indigenous literary festival sign of things to come.

When universes collide – ‘Encounters’ exhibition at National Museum of Australia
‘The Encounters exhibition at the National Museum of Australia, a once in a lifetime event, makes you realise that astoundingly all this earth-shattering history happened only a few generations ago, so much so that descendants of the Gweagal, those first people Cook encountered, still talk about that encounter in 1770 as though it was yesterday. Despite the continuing concerns about the vast holdings of mostly looted cultural artefacts, the return of these objects, however briefly, will serve to emphasise how recently the British came to Australia, how much more we need to do to be fully at home in this country and how much part of a living, contemporary tradition Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are’, When universes collide – Encounters exhibition at National Museum of Australia.

Land of hope
‘There were times in our past when Australia was seen as the great hope of the world – when it offered a vision of a new democratic life free from the failures of the past and the old world. It seems we have turned from our history, from the bright vision of the nineteenth century and the great nation-building vision of the period after World War 2, with its sense of optimism and fairness, towards something much more pinched and narrow – mean and weak-willed. For such an optimistic nation we seem to have developed a ‘half empty’ rather than ‘half full’ view of the glass – and the world. If we want to live in a land to be proud of, a fair country that truly inherits the best of Australia’s traditions, while consciously abandoning the less desirable ones, we need to change course – otherwise we will have to rebadge Australia not as the land of hope but instead as the land without hope’, Land of hope.

A navigator on a Lancaster bomber
‘Sometimes I think Australia has lost its way. It’s like a ship that has sailed into the vast Pacific Ocean in search of gaudy treasure, glimpsed the beckoning coast of Asia and then lost its bearings, all its charts blown overboard in squalls and tempests. It seems to have turned from the great nation-building vision of the period after World War 2, with its sense of optimism and fairness, towards something much more pinched and narrow. It’s time to rediscover the Australian dream. We need a navigator – or perhaps many, one in every community – who can help us find our way, encourage us as we navigate from greed and complacency to a calmer shining ocean of generosity and optimism’, A navigator on a Lancaster bomber.

Valuing the intangible
‘We are surrounded by intangible cultural heritage – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – and often it’s incredibly important to us but we can’t seem to understand why or put a name to its importance. So many issues of paramount importance to Australia and its future are linked to the broad cultural agenda of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). In particular they are central to one of UNESCO’s key treaties, the International Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage,’ Valuing the intangible.

The Magna Carta – still a work in progress
‘You don’t have to be part of ‘Indigenous affairs’ in Australia to find yourself involved. You can’t even begin to think of being part of support for Australian arts and culture without encountering and interacting with Indigenous culture and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and individuals who make it and live it.’ The Magna Carta – still a work in progress.

Black diggers – telling war stories
‘If you are convinced you have heard all of Australia’s great stories, think again. If you consider you know something about Indigenous Australia you probably need to start from scratch. Black Diggers, “the untold story of WW1’s black diggers remembered” is a great Australian story. Why over a thousand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians left their communities in remote Australia or our regional cities or the big state capitals to travel overseas to fight and die in the European trenches far from home is part of a larger Australian story. Why they would bother when they were not even recognised as Australian citizens in their own land is a story all their own – but a story relevant to every Australian’, Black diggers – telling war stories.

Death by a thousand cuts what is happening to the Indigenous cultural programs of the Australian Government?
‘The Indigenous cultural programs of the Australian Government play a critical role in support for both Indigenous communities and for a diverse and dynamic Australian culture – what is happening to them?’ Death by a thousand cuts – what is happening to the Indigenous culture programs of the Australian Government?

The gap in Closing the Gap

‘Experience of many years of the Indigenous culture programs shows that involvement in arts and cultural activity often has powerful flow on social and economic effects.’ The gap in Closing the Gap.


The hidden universe of Australia’s own languages

‘I’ve travelled around much of Australia, by foot, by plane, by train and by bus, but mostly by car. As I travelled across all those kilometres and many decades, I never realised that, without ever knowing, I would be silently crossing from one country into another, while underneath the surface of the landscape flashing past, languages were changing like the colour and shape of the grasses or the trees. The parallel universe of Indigenous languages is unfortunately an unexpected world little-known to most Australians.’ The hidden universe of Australia’s own languages.

Real jobs in an unreal world
‘Subsidised Indigenous arts and cultural jobs are real jobs with career paths that deliver genuine skills and employment capability.’ Real jobs in an unreal world.

Like a long-lost masterpiece
‘Many decades ago when I was much younger and a student I used to march in National Aboriginal Day Observance Committee marches. They were shorthanded to NADOC marches, back in the days when Islanders hadn’t yet been included and there was no ‘I’ in the name. I realised a while back that I must have been marching under the new Aboriginal flag at its birth. I had a poster from those years which I used to cart around with me from city to city until one day when I was about to move yet again I decided to donate it to the National Library of Australia’, Like a long-lost masterpiece.

Always was, always will be – a welcome long view in NAIDOC week

Being involved with Australian culture means being involved in one way or another with First Nations arts, culture and languages – it’s such a central and dynamic part of the cultural landscape. First Nations culture has significance for First Nations communities, but it also has powerful implications for Australian culture generally. NAIDOC Week is a central and continuing part of that cultural landscape.

This year NAIDOC week coincides with the first week of DESIGN Canberra, so two of my major interests come together at the same time. NAIDOC Week is an annual series of events that celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The name originally derives from the National Aborigines Day Observance Committee that organised the earliest celebrations, with ‘Islander’ added in the early 1990s to encompass Torres Strait Islanders. The NAIDOC theme this year is ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’, to recognise that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years. 

Many overlapping anniversaries
Today is the focus of many overlapping anniversaries – NAIDOC Week, DESIGN Canberra and the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It was a time when humanity stood at the eleventh hour, a moment that recognises a bright but vain hope at the end of World War I that the world might have seen the war to end all wars. It is especially significant in NAIDOC Week because so many First Nations volunteers joined the armed forces. It’s a good moment to look back and take stock of where Australia has managed to come in its relatively short history as a global nation and to think forward to what we might be able to become.

Musician and songwriter, Jessie Lloyd, lights up the room with Mission Songs, at the National Folk Festival in 2017.

All of us immigrants, both new and older arrivals, and their descendants are still only part way through making our home here. We haven’t yet figured out how to navigate this land properly. When I was at school we learned about so many doomed explorers misinterpreting the country, unable to find their way. Burke and Wills were the perfect example, undone because they were incapable of learning simple lessons offered by the local people on how to make edible the vast supplies of food surrounding them. They starved to death in a field of plenty. Is this our future, too?

What is striking is how much valuable traditional knowledge had been passed on, from as far back as the 19th century, to those interested in listening. Will we also be determined to ignore offers of expertise about how to live on this continent as we try to absorb knowledge which could save us? Or won’t we know how to do so successfully because we don’t really know how to learn new things, no matter how old they might be?

Birth of the Aboriginal flag
First Nations culture also has a personal significance for me because I have had some involvement since my much younger days as a student. I still remember the Aboriginal Tent Embassy set up in North Adelaide when the main Tent Embassy was originally established in Canberra.

At the time support was being marshalled for the Gurindji people, who in a landmark event in Australian history, had walked off Wave Hill Station only a short time before. I must have walked Adelaide streets in NADOC marches under the new Aboriginal flag, designed in 1971 by Harold Thomas, who studied at the South Australian School of Art

‘Many years later, by a strange twist of fate, I found myself managing Australian Government programs that supported First Nations communities to maintain their culture and languages, after many decades of neglect and active suppression by Government.’

Many years later, by a strange twist of fate, I found myself managing Australian Government programs that supported First Nations communities to maintain their culture and languages, after many decades of neglect and active suppression by Government. I had been involved with community arts in South Australia, including working as Community Arts Officer at Noarlunga Council South of Adelaide for several years. Coming to the Indigenous cultural programs reminded me of the spirit of those tremendous years.

DESIGN Canberra

In the DESIGN Canberra program this year there are a string of First Nations artists. These include Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello, Krystal Hurst, James Tylor, Samantha Rich, Kayannie Denigan, Jenna Lee, Eunice Napanangka Jack, Mavis Nampitjinpa Marks, Keturah Zimran, Daniel Boyd, Samuel Radoll, Beverly Smith, Sophi Suttor, Rozlyn de Bussey, Mackenzie Saddler, Paul House and Ikuntji Artists. I expect this presence will grow even stronger in future years.

Over the last ten years, amongst my main body of some 167 articles I have published a range of articles about the importance of aspects of First Nations culture for Australia. Here I’ve listed 20 articles that touch on aspects of First Nations culture and give some sense of the breadth and importance of the area for Australians generally.

After a fashion – creative industries from First Nations culture 5 Dec 2020
‘When I first heard that Victorian regional gallery, Bendigo Art Gallery, was planning an exhibition about contemporary Indigenous fashion I was impressed. The Gallery has had a long history of fashion exhibitions, drawing on its own collection and in partnership with other institutions, notably the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It is fascinating to consider how a leading regional Australian museum and an internationally renowned museum on the global stage, while in many ways so different, have so much in common. The exhibition is far more than a single event in a Victorian regional centre – it is an expression of a much broader contemporary Indigenous fashion phenomenon nation-wide. It hints at the potential of the creative economy and creative industries to build stronger communities. Both the economic importance and the community and social importance of creativity and culture are tightly interlinked because of the way in which creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up’, After a fashion – creative industries from First Nations culture.

Out of sight, out of mind – building knowledge on sustaining the creative and cultural sector in regional and remote Australia 1 Aug 2020
‘Creative organisations and artists often collect information and research in order to report to funding bodies about how grant funding has been used. Apart from the need to report on funding or to make a case to government, or society in general, the creative and cultural sector also needs evidence and understanding for its own purposes. While government funding bodies might need the sort of information collected from funded organisations, the organisations need it far more – for their planning and to report to their Boards and their communities. They need it to know whether what they are doing is effective and worthwhile – or whether they should be doing something else.’ Out of sight, out of mind – building knowledge on sustaining the creative and cultural sector in regional and remote Australia.

Growing up across many worlds – the daily life of ‘In My Blood it Runs’ 26 Feb 2020
‘An important new film about Dujuan, a young Aboriginal boy living in Alice Springs in the centre of Australia, is both engaging and challenging, raising major issues about growing up Aboriginal in modern Australia. ‘In my blood it runs’ is a film for our troubled times, that tackles the challenges of a culturally divided country, but also finds the hope that this cultural diversity can offer us all for our overlapping futures’, Growing up across many worlds – the daily life of ‘In My Blood it Runs’.

Changing the landscape of the future – a new focus on cultural rights 13 Oct 2018
‘The arts and culture sector has spent far too many years pressing the case for why Australian culture is crucial to Australia’s future, without seeming to shift the public policy landscape to any great degree. Perhaps a proposed fresh approach focusing on cultural rights may offer some hope of a breakthrough. What makes this approach so important and so potentially productive is that it starts with broad principles, linked to fundamental issues, such as human rights, which makes it a perfect foundation for the development of sound and well-thought out policies – something that currently we sadly lack’, Changing the landscape of the future – a new focus on cultural rights.

 

Songlines – an ancient culture for a contemporary world 6 Mar 2018
‘What interests me in exhibitions about Aboriginal Australia is what they mean for Australians generally, even if most Australians won’t ever see them. After a mere 220 years, in many ways we are still only part way through making our home here. We haven’t yet figured out how to navigate this land properly. When I was at school we learned about so many doomed explorers misinterpreting the country, unable to find their way. Burke and Wills were the perfect examples, undone because they were unable to learn simple lessons offered by the local people on how to make edible the vast supplies of food surrounding them. They starved to death in a field of plenty. It made me realise that we can gain a much richer grasp of Australia through recognising that First Nations culture and heritage is part and parcel of our own Australian heritage’, Songlines – an ancient culture for a contemporary world.

History all around us – the long term practical impact of cultural research 14 Jun 2017
‘Cultural research has long term impacts in terms of our developing body of knowledge which stretch far into the future. Researchers are finding stories in our major cultural collections that were never envisaged by those originally assembling them – a process that will continue long into the future. The collections of our major cultural institutions are becoming increasingly accessible to the very people the collections are drawn from and reflect. In the process they are generating greater understanding about some of the major contemporary issues we face’, History all around us – the long term practical impact of cultural research.

The language of success ­– recognising a great unsung community movement 1 Mar 2016
‘What is especially significant about the Prime Minister, in his Closing the Gap address, recognising the importance of Indigenous languages is that this is the first time a Liberal leader has expressed such views. It’s exciting because for progress to be made it is essential that there is a jointly agreed position. This moment arises from the tireless work over many decades of hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language revivalists – surely one of the great positive unsung community movements in Australian history. By their hard work they have managed to change the profile of Indigenous languages in Australia. Unfortunately the address reinforced the tendency of government to overlook the success stories that are already happening in local communities and look for big institutional solutions. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be a missed opportunity’, The language of success – recognising a great unsung community movement.

Unfinished histories – encountering ‘Encounters’ 29 Mar 2016
‘A single exhibition can sum up many things. By bringing together so many histories, stories and objects – particularly long-absent ones from the British Museum – the ‘Encounters’ exhibition at the National Museum presented a snapshot of the ongoing living history of Australia. Many strands ran through it, reflecting the complexity of the realities it tried to express. By successfully reflecting on the pressing issues it raised we have some hope of getting beyond the vision of the Great South Land of 18th and 19th Century ambition towards a truly great nation of the 21st Century’, Unfinished histories – encountering ‘Encounters’.

Literature and languages – inaugural Indigenous literary festival sign of things to come 20 Feb 2016
‘The inaugural Victorian Indigenous literary festival Blak & Bright in February 2016 was a a very important event for Australian cultural life. It aimed to promote and celebrate a diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices. It raised important questions about how the movement to revive and maintain Indigenous languages – surely one of the great positive unsung community movements in Australian history – is related to ‘Australian literature’. Australian culture as a whole is also inconceivable without the central role of Indigenous culture – how would Australian literature look seen in the same light?’, Literature and languages – inaugural Indigenous literary festival sign of things to come.

When universes collide – ‘Encounters’ exhibition at National Museum of Australia 11 Dec 2015
‘The Encounters exhibition at the National Museum of Australia, a once in a lifetime event, makes you realise that astoundingly all this earth-shattering history happened only a few generations ago, so much so that descendants of the Gweagal, those first people Cook encountered, still talk about that encounter in 1770 as though it was yesterday. Despite the continuing concerns about the vast holdings of mostly looted cultural artefacts, the return of these objects, however briefly, will serve to emphasise how recently the British came to Australia, how much more we need to do to be fully at home in this country and how much part of a living, contemporary tradition Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are’, When universes collide – Encounters exhibition at National Museum of Australia.

Land of hope 13 Aug 2015
‘There were times in our past when Australia was seen as the great hope of the world – when it offered a vision of a new democratic life free from the failures of the past and the old world. It seems we have turned from our history, from the bright vision of the nineteenth century and the great nation-building vision of the period after World War 2, with its sense of optimism and fairness, towards something much more pinched and narrow – mean and weak-willed. For such an optimistic nation we seem to have developed a ‘half empty’ rather than ‘half full’ view of the glass – and the world. If we want to live in a land to be proud of, a fair country that truly inherits the best of Australia’s traditions, while consciously abandoning the less desirable ones, we need to change course – otherwise we will have to rebadge Australia not as the land of hope but instead as the land without hope’, Land of hope.

A navigator on a Lancaster bomber 5 Jun 2015
‘Sometimes I think Australia has lost its way. It’s like a ship that has sailed into the vast Pacific Ocean in search of gaudy treasure, glimpsed the beckoning coast of Asia and then lost its bearings, all its charts blown overboard in squalls and tempests. It seems to have turned from the great nation-building vision of the period after World War 2, with its sense of optimism and fairness, towards something much more pinched and narrow. It’s time to rediscover the Australian dream. We need a navigator – or perhaps many, one in every community – who can help us find our way, encourage us as we navigate from greed and complacency to a calmer shining ocean of generosity and optimism’, A navigator on a Lancaster bomber.

Valuing the intangible 11 May 2015
‘We are surrounded by intangible cultural heritage – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – and often it’s incredibly important to us but we can’t seem to understand why or put a name to its importance. So many issues of paramount importance to Australia and its future are linked to the broad cultural agenda of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). In particular they are central to one of UNESCO’s key treaties, the International Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage,’ Valuing the intangible.

The Magna Carta – still a work in progress 4 May 2015
‘You don’t have to be part of ‘Indigenous affairs’ in Australia to find yourself involved. You can’t even begin to think of being part of support for Australian arts and culture without encountering and interacting with Indigenous culture and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and individuals who make it and live it.’ The Magna Carta – still a work in progress.

Black diggers – telling war stories 29 Mar 2015
‘If you are convinced you have heard all of Australia’s great stories, think again. If you consider you know something about Indigenous Australia you probably need to start from scratch. Black Diggers, “the untold story of WW1’s black diggers remembered” is a great Australian story. Why over a thousand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians left their communities in remote Australia or our regional cities or the big state capitals to travel overseas to fight and die in the European trenches far from home is part of a larger Australian story. Why they would bother when they were not even recognised as Australian citizens in their own land is a story all their own – but a story relevant to every Australian’, Black diggers – telling war stories.

Death by a thousand cuts what is happening to the Indigenous cultural programs of the Australian Government? 3 Dec 2014
‘The Indigenous cultural programs of the Australian Government play a critical role in support for both Indigenous communities and for a diverse and dynamic Australian culture – what is happening to them?’ Death by a thousand cuts – what is happening to the Indigenous culture programs of the Australian Government?

The gap in Closing the Gap 14 Nov 2014

‘Experience of many years of the Indigenous culture programs shows that involvement in arts and cultural activity often has powerful flow on social and economic effects.’ The gap in Closing the Gap.


The hidden universe of Australia’s own languages 15 Jul 2014

‘I’ve travelled around much of Australia, by foot, by plane, by train and by bus, but mostly by car. As I travelled across all those kilometres and many decades, I never realised that, without ever knowing, I would be silently crossing from one country into another, while underneath the surface of the landscape flashing past, languages were changing like the colour and shape of the grasses or the trees. The parallel universe of Indigenous languages is unfortunately an unexpected world little-known to most Australians.’ The hidden universe of Australia’s own languages.

Real jobs in an unreal world 16 Apr 2014
‘Subsidised Indigenous arts and cultural jobs are real jobs with career paths that deliver genuine skills and employment capability.’ Real jobs in an unreal world.

Like a long-lost masterpiece 26 Mar 2011
‘Many decades ago when I was much younger and a student I used to march in National Aboriginal Day Observance Committee marches. They were shorthanded to NADOC marches, back in the days when Islanders hadn’t yet been included and there was no ‘I’ in the name. I realised a while back that I must have been marching under the new Aboriginal flag at its birth. I had a poster from those years which I used to cart around with me from city to city until one day when I was about to move yet again I decided to donate it to the National Library of Australia’, Like a long-lost masterpiece.

 

 

Beyond a joke – surviving troubled times

We live in troubled times – but then can anyone ever say that they lived in times that weren’t troubled? For most of my life Australia has suffered mediocre politicians and politics – with the odd brief exceptions – and it seems our current times are no different. Australia has never really managed to realise its potential. As a nation it seems to be two different countries going in opposite directions – one into the future and the other into the past. It looks as though we’ll be mired in this latest stretch of mediocrity for some time and the only consolation will be creativity, gardening and humour.

A land of bushfires and choking smoke, drought and floods – and plague
Over the last 12 months we have endured bushfires and choking smoke, plague, drought and floods. Australia’s creativity and culture and the whole creative sector have been hammered and it will be the last thing to recover as we move into the new post-pandemic world. At times like this there are a few things you can rely on for consolation – the pleasure of creativity and gardening and the distractions of humour.

Fire-ravaged landscapes in the Snowy Mountains.
 
Over the last decade I seem to have spent most of my writing career producing articles about Australian creativity and culture. Lately some of it has been a bit grim, given the way the current Coalition Government has largely abandoned both the creative sector and the higher education sector. Together they comprise much of the clean and clever economy which should underpin a bright global future for Australia. The creative sector has responded to being sidelined by generously sharing a huge amount of advice and experience about how to survive behind enemy lines. Some days I think I should have been an economist, but instead I intend to focus on being a humourist. After all, it’s a bit like those who have written about Trump in America – at some stage you have to think ‘what more can you say?’
 
Life in the trenches and on the beaches of the information age
I write several blogs that range across many different topics, as well as a Facebook page, for shorter, more topical updates. My main blog, indefinite article, is irreverent writing about contemporary Australian society, popular culture, the creative economy and the digital and online world – life in the trenches and on the beaches of the information age. In contrast balloon consists of thought balloons for our strange and unsettled times – short quirky articles about the eccentricities of everyday life, almost always with a sense of short black humour. Sometimes, given the crazy world we live in, they overlap.

 
In times like this, after an enforced form of house arrest during a pandemic, I want to write short, humorous stuff for a change. I knew something good would have to come out of this unexpected leisure. Here is a guide to all the short, quirky and sometimes humorous articles spread across both blogs.

From balloon, thought balloons for our strange and unsettled times – brief quirky articles about the eccentricities of everyday life, almost always with a sense of short black humour

The island to the North series
Celebrating the ties between large and small islands, my original island home and the vast Pacific Ocean that laps and links them.

The island to the North – a nearby foreign country 14 Jun 2012
‘Sitting by a roaring fire in a wintry pub in Tarraleah I found Tasmanians liked to call Australia “the island to the North”. We are neighbours but sometimes I wonder if I am behind enemy lines’, The island to the North – a nearby foreign country.

 The island to the North – disappearing worlds 5 Aug 2012
‘Islands are easily overlooked – Tasmania is an island that periodically disappears off maps, sometimes there, sometimes not, at the edge of consciousness, at the end of space’, The island to the North – disappearing worlds.

The island to the North – turning the map upside down 25 Jun 2014
‘Our geography teacher taught us about the Australian fear of the Yellow Peril, ready to pour down from Asia and inundate the almost empty island to the South’, The island to the North – turning the map upside down.

 
The island to the North – the islands to the North East 26 Nov 2014
‘The awkward relationship between Tasmania and the island to the North is not the only clumsy relationship between islands in this part of the world. The history of the ties between the island to the North and the islands of the Pacific is even more troubled.’ The island to the North – the islands to the North East.

The island to the North – rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic 17 Nov 2015
‘When Australia finally ceased to be a rabble of competing colonies and instead became a nation comprising a rabble of competing states and territories, it still seemed possible that New Zealand might join the new Federation. Both New Zealand and Tasmania have long been an afterthought for the island to the North. But lots of mountains, clean water, high quality untainted produce, dramatic landscapes and acres of ocean all mark Tasmania as suitable for New Zealandership. It’s a partnership waiting to happen. It’s clear that the future for Tasmania lies with New Zealand, the islands to the East rather than the island to the North. In a form of Federation in reverse, Tasmania should join its neighbouring islands to make New Zealand three islands instead of two – the North Island, the South Island and the West Island. New Tazealand forever’, The island to the North – rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic

Early onset forgetfulness – what day of the week is it? 7 Jul 2021
‘There used to be a time when a test for dementia amongst the elderly involved a series of questions. The first one was ‘who was the Prime Minister of Australia?’ After one too many leadership spills, this fairly quickly went out the window. The other question was ‘what day of the week is it?’ I must admit that increasingly I am losing the ability to answer this question correctly’, Early onset forgetfulness – what day of the week is it?  

Holed up in the mountains 17 May 2020
‘In a time of pandemic, if you can’t be on a small island off another island, then being holed up in the mountains might just be the next best thing. While there are some daily things I miss – coffee sitting down in cafes, a quite drink or meal out – in many ways life in lockdown is not all that different to how I lived before. Perhaps I need to take a closer look at what I really miss’, Holed up in the mountains.

Raiding the pantry 25 Apr 2020
‘A few weeks back I returned from a two and a half week regional road trip through Victoria to Adelaide and Kangaroo Island. When we left, people were being encouraged to visit fire-ravaged regional centres to help boost local economies. By the time we were on the way back everyone was being urged to stay home to help reduce the spread of pestilence. We had heard about hoarding and food shortages and we had seen the empty shelves, usually filled with toilet paper, everywhere we passed. As we headed home, I pondered exactly how long we could survive on what was already in our pantry – how many meals we were already sitting on as a result of routine shopping before that time of hoarding and excess,’ Raiding the pantry.

Noise-cancelling the modern world 29 Dec 2019
‘For Christmas this year I received a novel present – a pair of some of the best noise-cancelling headphones in existence. They are extremely effective. Given the state of the world, I am happy not to hear any of the noise it produces’, Noise-cancelling the modern world.

Australia – 7-day weather forecast 14 Dec 2019
‘A distraction from the heat, fire, and smoke that have become the new normal in Australia, Internet memes track the ongoing failure of our mediocre political masters. After a Christmas of bushfires, everything is black, particularly the humour’, Australia – 7-day weather forecast.

Feast of Stephen revisited 25 Sep 2019
‘As Christmas seems to be speeding towards us once again – with all the hope it holds out for the survival of the embattled retail sector, it got me thinking. In ‘Good King Wencelaus’, that carol from my distant childhood, there is an intriguing line, ‘good King Wencelaus looked out, on the Feast of Stephen’. I thought, what is this feast, which happens to bear my name? When exactly is it? Well…it is Boxing Day. Now I do realise it, I am determined to celebrate it in the style it deserves’, Feast of Stephen.

Adjusting to Reality #2 – modern times, modern crimes 17 Feb 2017
‘Modern times, modern crimes. The current dysfunctional world of Australian politics is beyond comprehension. It makes you wonder and probably drives you to drink. Unfortunately, unlike the far too many mediocre politicians, we’re not being chauffeur-driven there. It’s beyond a joke, so a good way to talk about it is through the language of jokes. It’s a world of short attention spans, media grabs and talking points, so I’m responding in kind’, Adjusting to Reality #2 – modern times, modern crimes.

Adjusting to reality #1 – peaks, troughs and snouts 21 May 2016
‘It seems government allows just enough time to forget what it has done before it begins to repeat it. It would be easy to go along with popular prejudice and believe that the private sector is more efficient than the public sector. Unfortunately both are efficient and also hopeless in their own way. At least we get to vote about the broad outline of what the public sector does – and laugh at it. With the private sector, all we get is to laugh at it. Or cry’, Adjusting to reality #1 – peaks, troughs and snouts.

Internet memes – swirling around the virtual universe 11 Mar 2016
‘Internet memes seem to appear and disappear on the web, digital visitors swirling around the virtual universe. Where they come from or who created them is hard to tell There are no secrets or possessions on the Internet. Seeing some of these memes got me thinking. I thought perhaps I could produce my own memes and have some fun. Perhaps it’s the new future for the arts – social media postcards – but with humour and creativity’, Internet memes – swirling around the virtual universe.
 
Bring back the Romans 21 Feb 2016
‘Our political system is having a lot of problems and lately I’ve been thinking that we could do a lot worse than bring back the Romans. Since they were around no-one has managed to do a good job of empire. The Americans had their moment but they seem to be making a real mess of it nowadays. Politically the Senate wouldn’t be much different. The Emperor Caligula made his horse a Senator and we’ve done better than that. So, no change there. No, on reflection it would be a good move. I think we should bring it on and the sooner the better. Now all we need to do is find some Romans and get the ball rolling’, Bring back the Romans.
Playing Gasworks Red 10 Apr 2015
‘Many decades ago in a land far, far away (well, Adelaide), I used to play basketball. We played against teams like Gasworks Red. Gasworks Red weren’t actually a basketball team. They were a football team keeping in shape in the off season by playing basketball. After Gasworks Red had bounced off you for an hour or so, you needed a drink. Then you needed another one. Then you needed to go home’, Playing Gasworks Red.

Wide brown landing 12 Aug 2012
‘Some days you realise suddenly that Canberra was deliberately located in the mountains. Perhaps it was fear of Russian invasion – imperial rather than communist. Perhaps it was to avoid overlap with the two warring imperial powers of the time – NSW and Victoria. Whatever the reason, Canberra sits well up on the top of Australia, on the long road up to the Snowy Mountains, where Australia finally reaches its peak. I’ve made two unsuccessful attempts to see the National Arboretum, finding the gates locked and no way in. Yesterday on a cold Canberra day I finally found it open, thanks to Canberra’s annual festival of flowers, Floriade. I’d finally made a successful landing at the Arboretum. I was very impressed’, Wide brown landing.

Getting a haircut 4 Jul 2010
‘The ancient shop in a gloomy arcade where I get my hair cut every couple of months is a piece of history cut out of the 1950s, like a black and white magazine clipping, turning yellow around the edges. The two old Italian gents who take turns to crop my hair with their #3 and #2 grade clippers wear ties and smell faintly of tobacco. All the customers, including me, are old and we exchange meaningful conversation with the gents about weather and cars and how easy life is nowadays’, Getting a haircut.

 
Cures for the common cold 4 Jul 2010
‘Even in the heart of the modern world, down in the deep streets of contemporary urban life, folk medicine is still strong. Have you noticed when you mention you have a cold, how everyone within listening distance starts to list off the various fool-proof remedies which are certain to cure you, or at the very least make you feel human again’, Cures for the common cold.

Planting an olive tree – peace breaks out 5 Apr 2010
‘Olives have appeared on the tree on our balcony. Olives symbolise peace for the very reason that they take such a long time to grow and bear fruit. No-one planted them unless they expected a long period of peace, so new olive trees were a reliable indicator of widespread expectations about a lengthy era of stability, tranquility and lack of turmoil. Perhaps by planting an olive tree we have actually engendered a peaceful period in our lives’, Planting an olive tree – peace breaks out.

Life in the sky 10 Feb 2010
‘Living in an apartment high up in the sky, I feel like I’m on some giant airship. This apartment has a long side balcony and walking the length of it makes me think I’m a passenger on an ship. The awnings which I wind up and down on sunny days reinforce this because I feel as though I am trimming the white sails of a yacht. Perhaps I am naturally an apartment dweller and living somewhere like this is the logical outcome of all my values, taste and history. I often think that buildings are often more interesting than the contents they house. I wonder if that’s true about my apartment building’, Life in the sky.

Wearing hats 30 Dec 2009
‘When it’s 40 degrees Celsius and the sun beating down at midday hurts on your skin, your mind seems inevitably to turn to hats. I am always amazed at how few people wear hats now. In a country like Australia where the sun does real and lasting damage, hats are a necessary item of clothing. The good thing is that hats look good as well. I’d like to see a return to the habit of wearing hats. I take my hat off to hats’, Wearing hats.

Feast of Stephen 30 Dec 2009
‘A friend has her birthday on Boxing Day and laments that no-one remembers or celebrates it because it is so close to Christmas. I always remember it, partly because I write it in my diary, but mainly because Boxing Day has always been a favourite day. It’s a time when the crazy rush to finish the work of the year and to prepare for the holiday – buying presents, travelling to see relatives, sending greetings – comes to a halt. The other reason Boxing Day is so memorable is that it is the Feast of Stephen. It’s not every day a feast has your name. Now every year I look forward not to Boxing Day but to the Feast of Stephen’, Feast of Stephen.

Hiding from the heat 26 Dec 2009
‘In Mildura, like refugees from a bombing raid, we seek shelter from the heat in the wine cellars of the Grand Hotel. I had always admired Stefano de Pieri and the way he championed regional Australia and local produce so I wanted to eat in his restaurant, which as it turned out was below the Grand Hotel in Mildura where we stayed’, Hiding from the heat.

Crossing four states 26 Dec 2009
‘To get to Adelaide we crossed the borders of four states (okay, one was a territory). After a while when you step out into the 39 degree Celsius heat you become grateful that cars nowadays have air conditioning. You comment happily that at least we aren’t in Adelaide yet, where it’s not 39 but 42 – everything is relative’, Crossing four states.

Chocolate espresso cake 15 Dec 2009

‘I just cooked a chocolate cake, something I don’t do. I was shocked at how much butter I had to shovel into it and separating five eggs without spilling traces of yolk in the whites required some technical assistance and a repeat performance. It was all worth it though – the cake brought serious praise and it has shrunk almost to nothing’, Chocolate espresso cake.

Broken glass 12 Dec 2009

‘I used to have a battered cardboard box of around 12 hand-painted glass Christmas balls that first decorated a tree in the 1950s when I was born. They were from Europe in the days when such things weren’t found in Australia. There were a few balls missing when I got them and over the years they have slowly but steadily diminished through breakages as I have moved around Australia. Last week I dropped two on the concrete floor in the basement and they shattered into thin slivers – only two left now. Two breakages in one week looks very negligent. Concrete and glass are a bad mixture’, Broken glass.

Crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge 12 Dec 2009

‘For the twelve years I lived in Sydney I never ceased to be excited as I drove up onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge to cross Sydney Harbour. Long after leaving Sydney behind me I still have the same sense whenever I go back’, Crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Boiling an egg – the blind leading the blind 5 Dec 2009
‘Every time I boil and egg I am reminded of my father ringing me once when my mother was ill in hospital to ask how to boil an egg. Strangely enough I do it so infrequently that I always have to check how long to boil it for. Talk about the blind leading the blind?’ Boiling an egg – the blind leading the blind.
 
Sign at work 1 Dec 2009
‘For the last few weeks signs have started to appear on the side of the streets near me saying “Men at work”. I’ve waited to see some activity but nothing has happened. I was starting to think the signs should say “Sign at work” instead’, Sign at work.

From indefinite article, irreverent writing about contemporary Australian society, popular culture, the creative economy and the digital and online world – life in the trenches and on the beaches of the information age

Second language 13 Oct 2014
‘When I was single I used to say that what I was looking for in a partner included the ability to speak a second language – one other than the language of love. When I was young I admired the romantic languages, like Spanish, with their fluidity and soft sounds. As I became older I found myself drawn to the structure and logic of German. Having a second language is like a form of second sight – it enables insights into unfathomable truths and views of the universe otherwise not accessible’, Second language

Predicting the weather 7 Aug 2013
‘I grew up in a world where there was a definite set of things you knew – and one of them was not what would happen with the weather. The other day I was talking to someone who must have grown up in the same period. We were chatting casually about the weather and she made a comment – quite seriously – that weather forecasts were usually wrong. Unfortunately she was thirty years out of date. What amazes me is that the weather forecasts are usually so right’, Predicting the weather

Floating world 29 Jul 2013
‘Australia’s national capital is a strange floating world by a mountain lake. Reflecting the dream-like nature of the city, the lake is not a real one and the city is a compromise between warring states. It’s a large regional town on the roof of Australia that happens to be the capital city. As a result it has facilities and features not found elsewhere in Australia. The nation’s capital is a contradictory mix of a place to work—which just happens to run the country, or at least thinks it does—and a place to live. The two often do not coincide’, Floating world.

Happily ever after – the bethrothal of royalty and popular culture 13 Jan 2013
‘Republicans can gnash their teeth but the reality is that royalty has managed to do the swift manoeuvering required to move it from antique and declining relic to funky pop culture icon. We can finally pretend they were harmless and charming all along, not founded on the basis of beheadings and torture chambers, murders and arranged marriages, at the end almost a benign presence – like a pandemic that has run its course. It’s true that fear of the guillotine certainly played an important role in inducing self reform – that’s not something to forget, survival is a strong instinct. No-one has to tell royalty that culture counts – and the more popular the better’, Happily ever after – the bethrothal of royalty and popular culture.

Wormholes in space 31 Jul 2011
‘There has been a lot of speculation about the possible existence of ‘wormholes’ in space. Wormholes are kinks in space and time that can connect two distant parts of the galaxy almost instantly. I’m convinced that they exist and that there is one connecting Waverton on the Lower North Shore in Sydney and Burrawang in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales’, Wormholes in space

Meeting someone 17 Jul 2011
‘Is it any wonder that modern dating at times seems extreme and unusual (if not cruel as well). But is it really? In earlier centuries, it was not unusual for women to marry someone’s sword or for someone to receive a photograph or a painting to assess the merits of a potential partner. Shiploads travelled from Britain to fill a gap in marriageable young women. Advertising was not uncommon. It’s the age old problem of distribution. Take two people who could easily get on very well, but live in quite different countries on either sides of the world and think about how they would, under normal circumstances, ever get together. It’s hard enough to imagine when the people involved live in the same city, let alone on the same planet’, Meeting someone.

Half empty, half full 17 Jul 2011
‘I am beginning to think that the world is made up of two kinds of people. There are those who spend all their time stopping bad things from happening and there are those who are much more focused on making good things happen. These strike me as the same people for whom the cup is either half full or half empty, but that might be cruel. For myself, if asked whether the cup was half full or half empty, I’d have to ask: why wasn’t it completely full?’, Half empty, half full.

Too close to the television 17 Jul 2011
‘When I was growing up, we were constantly warned not to sit too close to the television screen. Now everyone I know spends their whole life sitting too close to a television screen. Electronic screens have become our second set of windows looking out on the world around us. Like all technology, it’s what you can do with them that counts. If there were no television programs, why would you watch television? Producing the stories, pictures and sounds that come to us through these screens is now one of the most important industries in Australia and worldwide, and fast becoming the industry of the future’, Too close to the television.

Senseless – cures for the common cold 17 Jul 2011
‘With the range of modern, life-threatening viruses around, there are plenty of diseases to be worried about in the first quarter of the twenty-first century. Despite all these extremely serious diseases, what worries me is something far more simple. What really worries me is the common cold. I want to know why it is common. If it was less common maybe I wouldn’t catch one so often. What about ‘the uncommon cold’ – why can’t I catch that, maybe every ten years or so?’, Senseless – cures for the common cold.

The safety of strangers 17 Jul 2011
‘I was reading a front page article in a newspaper recently. It mentioned with a sense of alarm that several people accused of murder were currently free in the community. I read more closely and was intrigued to find that every single one of the people mentioned had been charged with murdering someone they were close to – a friend, a relative or partner. They hadn’t suddenly seized upon some totally unknown stranger and murdered them out of the blue. It brought home to me a terrible truth that keeps being forgotten—the person most likely to murder you is someone you already know—and the closer to you they are, the more likely it is’, The safety of strangers.

Fat held up by salt 17 Jul 2011
‘Years ago, I was at a wedding reception when I looked down at a plate of antipasto and realised that it was essentially assorted forms of fat, held up by sugar and salt. I used to buy large quantities of these smallgoods—a name I could never understand because it was never clear what was small about them. It was enough to make someone embrace heart attacks and rapidly thinning arteries. I realised my arteries weren’t getting hard—they were getting really difficult’, Fat held up by salt.

The history of the future 17 Jul 2011
‘I find it interesting that many people who would claim they don’t read fiction, are avid readers of the popular magazines that appear from nowhere in newsagents, doctors surgeries and your mother’s latest emergency parcel. Popular magazines are the last great home of true fiction – if their stories aren’t true, then they should be’, The history of the future.

One-sided conversations 17 Jul 2011
‘Once, after a particularly virulent cold, I contracted pharyngitis (a bit like laryngitis) and found my voice straining and fading. My voice became fainter and fainter, until it was almost inaudible. You have to stop talking. The more you stop talking, the quicker you recover, the less you manage to stop talking, the longer you are without a functioning voice. The phone calls were the hardest. The face to face contact was difficult in its own peculiar way. I would have long one-sided conversations with strangers. They would talk and I would quickly write my half (perhaps a slightly smaller proportion) of the conversation in a spiral notebook I carried everywhere’, One-sided conversations.

The whole truth 17 Jul 2011
‘How often have you heard someone say that they don’t read fiction? What they don’t realise is that they read fiction every single day—everything is fiction. This is a world in which we are surrounded by the movie, the theme park and the whole virtual experience’, The whole truth.

Beaten by the clock 17 Jul 2011
‘Have you ever noticed how every electrical appliance nowadays has its own clock, hidden somewhere within it? I notice this every time the clocks have to be changed at the beginning—or end—of daylight saving time. Forget about the curtains fading, the chickens forgetting to lay or the kids going to school in the dark—most of us go to work in the dark and stay like that all day. The real terror of daylight saving is changing the clocks. As soon as it comes time to put the clocks back an hour or forward an hour, I face the huge task of resetting every clock I own. How can there be so many of them?’, Beaten by the clock.

Greatest hits 17 Jul 2011
‘I never again want to be told I am hearing the greatest hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s, or the 70s, 80s and 90s, or any other long gone time. It has been said that if you remember the 60s then you weren’t there. I think that if you were unfortunate enough to be there the first time, why should you have to go through it again?’, Greatest hits.

Studying philosophy – knowing tables exist 17 Jul 2011
‘I spent six years studying philosophy. I cannot imagine studying anything for six years anymore. At the time, I studied, I wrote essays, I left to join the workforce. I thought no more about it. Many years later, I was discussing some subject and I stopped for a moment and looked at how I was thinking. I realised that all the things I had learned had been absorbed. It is common to hear calls for a return to “basics”. There is no time for subjects that have no immediate practical value, like philosophy. But nothing is more basic than philosophy — like mathematics, it underpins everything’, Studying philosophy.

Through a glass, darkly 17 Jul 2011
‘I used to possess a pair of glasses with photochromatic lenses. Whenever the day was exceptionally bright (or, to tell the truth, even a bit bright), they would respond by becoming darker. I lived in Melbourne for much of the time, a location, which though one of my favourite cities, can be very grey. Years later, in Sydney, I took off my glasses. I was shocked to realise how dark they were – they were never totally clear. As soon as I could I replaced them and my whole world became a lighter place. I’ll never know whether all those years in Melbourne were constantly overcast and grey or whether it was just my glasses’, Through a glass, darkly.

Where change comes from 17 Jul 2011
‘It’s very pleasant belonging to a group, fitting in, being like everyone else, speaking the same language, liking the same things, having similar ways of viewing the world, doing things in the same old way. It’s very comfortable and reassuring. Unfortunately this can mean that nothing much useful happens—it can limit innovation, restrict new ideas and encourage complacency. Because of this, those who initiate, or even just welcome, change – often outsiders – are very important’, Where change comes from.

Looking down on birds 17 Jul 2011
‘For decades I lived with gardens, watering and weeding and inspecting the progress of plants. Since then I have been steadily relocating to ever more urban locations. Life as an apartment dweller is the culmination, perched high in the sky, looking down on birds up amongst the clouds. I navigate this ethereal world, adjusting the blinds as though I was trimming sails on a yacht, using the elusive breezes to cool down. You can walk in and shut the door and close yourself off from the world’, Looking down on birds.

High country 17 Jul 2011
‘When I moved to Canberra, I discovered that I had come back to the country where I grew up—the dry, high winter country in the shadow of the mountains. But I didn’t grow up in Canberra, but rather in the dry centre of Tasmania, where the Great Lakes and the mountains of the Western Tiers define the brittle, stony landscape. It’s as if there is a large mirror placed here, duplicating the other location, with the same images appearing again and again’, High country.

Exercising in the gym of happiness 17 Jul 2011
‘I was watching a program recently about scientific research into happiness. The approach of the program was all about technique — how to learn how to meditate in order to be happier than before. The trouble is that there was nothing about content – living a good life, valuing your relationships, helping others, being selfless. It was as though happiness consisted of no more than an exercise – learning to meditate quietly or breathe properly or do one hundred pushups on your knuckles in the endless gym of happiness’, Exercising in the gym of happiness.

Life on a movie set 17 Jul 2011
‘Walking through South Bank in Brisbane was a bit like when I some overseas cities, part of a massive theme park. In Paris and New York I felt every day that I was on a movie set. It was partly the iconic surroundings—streets, buildings, geography. But it was also the whole theatrical experience. The dramatic lighting everywhere used to maximise effect, the fact that I knew the names of the locations around me, from years of reading books and magazines, seeing films or hearing songs. Life doesn’t resemble art, it copies it, like two facing mirrors, reflecting backwards and forwards in an infinite regression’, Life on a movie set.

Lines of desire 17 Jul 2011
‘Lines of desire appear everywhere. They are the shortest distance between two points, the paths worn by people who do not want to follow the prescribed walkways of planners and architects and administrators, but instead make the path that suits them best. Good planning should be about matching actual lines with desire lines. The most appealing thing about desire lines is that they confirm the enduring tendency of humans to take the easiest route— something I find very satisfying—and they also confound those who think, despite all evidence to the contrary, that they know what is best for the rest of us’, Lines of desire.

Pristine cities 17 Jul 2011
‘Visiting old German cities, the compelling thing that strikes you about them is the sense of how brand new and pristine they seem. Compare this to a city like Lyon, which is genuinely old and worn and dirty. In Germany, everything seems to have been bombed. After the war, in a vast miracle of recreation, after the rubble women had cleared the wreckage by hand, whole city blocks were built again from long-forgotten plans and drawings in a miracle of hyper-renovation’, Pristine cities.

Remembering Dresden 17 Jul 2011
‘The age we live in is one of small, short wars. It affects some of us in large ways, but most of us, hardly at all. This is a return to the norm, for the widespread horror of world war is unusual this century—at least, so far. During World War 2 one of my uncles was a navigator on the Lancaster bombers that fire-bombed Dresden. It’s hard to imagine how young they were, in strange countries, thousands of miles from home, seeing the world in ways they could never have expected – through bomb sights’, Remembering Dresden.

Irregular contact 22 May 2011
‘I find it curious that many people still look at the quirky world which has grown out of email, the internet and ubiquitous computers as something unusual. When new technologies are first introduced, it always seems to be the technically minded who are most interested and involved. However, as the technology becomes widely dispersed and part of the everyday—to the point of becoming invisible—then it’s those who maintain social connection who pick it up and make it their own. To find the perfect example of this we only have to look at the history of the telephone. It’s hard to imagine life without it—how else would dispersed families, friends and community and business colleagues ever keep up with each other? Lack of access to a phone is a true sign of poverty, because it restricts ability to communicate’, Irregular contact. 

A tourist in your own town – revisiting the familiar 22 May 2011
‘Those for whom a certain language is their second are often more acutely aware of the idiosyncrasies, foibles and strange delights of the language than are its native speakers. It is much the same with travelling physically. It is usually the inquisitive visitor who fulfills the function of tourist, directing locals to wonders and curiousities they drive past every day without a glance. The true gift is to be able to be a tourist in your own town – to see your everyday locality with fresh eyes every day’, A tourist in your own town.

Murrumbateman Field Days 22 May 2011
‘The other day I went to a Murrumbateman Field Day. I have to do things like this, because so many of my relatives now live on the land, and have a pressing need to buy heavy duty agricultural tools or baby goats or water tanks. All this is totally irrelevant to me practically speaking, but endlessly fascinating’, Murrumbateman Field Days.

Eating on your own 22 May 2011
‘Eating on your own can be a strange and unusual activity. When I was younger, I found it very hard. I always felt that I was an oddity, sitting there without anyone to talk to. I quickly realised that at most tables of two even less conversation was underway than at my sparsely populated table. I am going to recommend to myself that I eat alone more often. That way I will get a good meal. an interesting conversation without too much disagreement, and a chance to get some serious thinking done without interruption’, Eating on your own.

Making a (small) difference 2 May 2010
‘Every year when I have to replace the registration sticker on my car I thank whoever dreamed up the peel-off sticker. Whoever brought in the new sticker could retire having done not one other good thing with their life and know that they had made a huge difference to the sum total of human happiness. It might not be up to the level of fixing Indigenous disadvantage or ensuring no child lives in poverty in our life time, but it was achievable, it did happen and there’s no going back’, Making a (small) difference.

Blowing up balloons 18 Apr 2010
‘I have a secret fascination with the ancient art of ballooning, a skill from the beginnings of flight, a moment where humans finally caught up with birds. This is despite the fact that I haven’t yet managed to face the moment where I hang underneath a large canvas bag full of nothing but hot air high above the landscape in a shallow wicker basket. With their ability to break free from gravity and escape into a lighter world of their own, balloons represent for me the same force that fights the gravitational pull of great cities, like a black hole that swallows everything, even light’, Blowing up balloons.

More silence 17 Apr 2010
‘In a recent survey by my gym I was asked if I would prefer more music or more video—I replied ‘more silence’. I can never work out the need to be surrounded by noise. It is definitely noise, not sound. If it was quality, interesting sound perhaps it would be more bearable, but it usually seems to consist of someone telling us in a loud voice why we should buy something we don’t seem to want at all, let alone need. Why I have to pay to listen to this loud advertising by virtue of belonging to a gym which costs me a fortune, I can’t work out’, More silence.

An everyday life worth living – indefinite articles for a clean, clever and creative future

My main blog indefinite article is irreverent writing about contemporary Australian society, popular culture, the creative economy and the digital and online world – life in the trenches and on the beaches of the information age. Over the last ten years I have published 177 articles about creativity and culture on the blog. This is a list of all the articles I have published there, broken down into categories, with a brief summary of each article. They range from the national cultural landscape to popular culture, from artists and arts organisations to cultural institutions, cultural policy and arts funding, the cultural economy and creative industries, First Nations culture, cultural diversity, cities and regions, Australia society, government, Canberra and international issues – the whole range of contemporary Australian creativity and culture. They originate mostly between 2010 and 2020, with the bulk after 2014, though some were written before 2010.

I hope you find them useful. One of the main reasons I write them for this blog and for my complementary Facebook page is to help provide case studies, evidence and arguments that can be used to press the case for the importance of creativity and culture and the broad benefits they have across Australian life. Both economic relevance and a sense of being embedded with community are complementary aspects of contemporary creativity and culture that make it so strong a force. The economic role of creativity and culture and their community role of building resilience, well-being, social inclusion and livable cities are inextricably linked. What they have in common is that both spring from the reality that culture and creativity are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up. The blog is a place where I can post many of the articles and analysis I come across, that readers of the blog might not otherwise see. They are welcome to share this amongst their own networks.

1. Cultural landscape 24
2. Artists and arts organisations 6
3. Cultural institutions 10
4. Cultural policy 11
5. Arts funding 16
6. Cultural economy and creative industries 25
7. First Nations culture 15
8. Cultural diversity 4
9. Australian society 7
10. Cities and regions 21
11. Government 1
12. International 2
13. Canberra 3
14. Popular culture 26
15. About my blogs 5
16. Parallel universe 2
 

1. CULTURAL LANDSCAPE (24)

Remaking the world we know – for better or worse 2 Nov 2020
‘Given the Government cannot avoid spending enormous sums of money if it is to be in any way capable and competent, this is an unparalleled opportunity to remake Australia for the future. Usually opportunities such as this only arise in rebuilding a country and an economy after a world war. It is a perfect moment to create the sort of clean, clever and creative economy that will take us forward in the global world for the next hundred years. Unfortunately a failure of imagination and a lack of innovative ambition will probably ensure this doesn’t happen any time soon’, Remaking the world we know – for better or worse.
 
The old normal was abnormal – survival lessons for a new riskier world 14 Sep 2020
‘When I hear the call to get back to normal, I think ‘what was normal about the old normal?’ The sudden shutdown of large sectors of the economy highlighted drastically how precarious was the situation of vast chunks of Australian society, in particular but not exclusively, the creative sector. The business models implemented by the Government to help businesses survive and employees keep their jobs didn’t work at all for those who had already been happily left at – or even deliberately pushed to – the margins of society and the economy. In good times the creative sector is flexible and fast at responding. In bad times it is a disaster, as the failure of the COVID-19 support packages for the sector shows’, The old normal was abnormal – survival lessons for a new riskier world.

The short answer #1: Mismanaging the future – the creative sector left in the lurch again 7 Sep 2020
‘Another one of the many ways in which the current Australian Government doesn’t understand the creative sector has been underlined by its decision to wind back the JobSeeker allowance. In the clean and clever economy of the future both the creative sector and the higher education sector will be critical – yet both have largely been abandoned by the Government’, The short answer #1: Mismanaging the future – the creative sector left in the lurch again.
 
Now for the bad news and the good news – creative sector relief package finally announced 25 Jun 2020

‘For the creative sector it’s a case of both good news and bad news in a world that has been very much about bad news. With the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shutdown of most of the creative sector, the announcement of massive reductions to Government support for humanities courses in universities, job losses at our major cultural institutions and continuing loss of ABC services, there has not been a lot to smile about’, Now for the bad news and the good news – creative sector relief package finally announced. 

 

Shutting down Australian creativity and culture – timeline of a trainwreck 22 Apr 2020

‘In its response to the pandemic the current Government came a long way in terms of its narrow economic views about minimising the role of Government. However the longer history of neglect of the creative sector shows how severe the Government’s economic limitations are and how its grasp of the economy (without even mentioning the social sphere) is too narrow and out of date. It has missed a whole sector of the economy that was large, fast growing and included many of the jobs of the future. It’s most recent actions have merely compounded a seven year history of neglect and damage,’ Shutting down Australian creativity and culture – timeline of a trainwreck.
 
Caught in the past – economic blindness overlooks the creative sector 13 Apr 2020
‘The last few months have been a wild ride. First the national bushfires and now global pandemic. In February people were being encouraged to visit fire-ravaged regional centres to help boost local economies. By March they were being urged to stay home to help reduce the spread of pestilence. I’m quietly seething at governments which knew this was coming, but just didn’t have a fixed date, and thought they could make savings by pretending it wasn’t coming. Now the Australian creative sector has largely been infected as well, but without the ventilators required to keep it alive,’ Caught in the past – economic blindness overlooks the creative sector.
 
Art and sport and an essential service under threat 7 Apr 2020
‘In this dangerous age of pandemic that has succeeded our months of fire and smoke, all sorts of things we have taken for granted have become apparent. One of these is how similar in many respects the arts and sport are. The other is how community organisations are kept alive by an essential service that is often overlooked’, Art and sport and an essential service under threat
 
Art at work – imagining a future Australia 5 Feb 2020

‘In our strange new universe, where much of Australia burns while politicians make excuses for inaction, it’s time to take a hard look at what the arts can do. It’s an issue in the minds of many in the arts and culture sector. Part of the potential role of arts is around bushfire recovery – a much bigger part is around bushfire prevention. Artists have a role to play in designing a different future than what’s on offer and writing the story of a different future. Those social movements that are most powerful are the ones where arts and culture embodies and carries forward the essence of what they stand for. Think of the power of ceremony and ritual in the world – that is ultimately the power of art at work’, Art at work – imagining a future Australia.

Out of the ashes – art and bushfires 2 Feb 2020
‘While the current bushfires raging across much of Australia are unprecedented in their scale and severity, they are a reminder of how people have responded after previous fires, rebuilding communities and lives in the affected areas. They have also focused attention on the impact of the fires on creative practices and business and on how those in the arts and culture sector can use their skills to contribute to bushfire recovery into the future’, Out of the ashes – art and bushfires.

Better than sport? The tricky business of valuing Australia’s arts and culture 9 Dec 2019
‘Understanding, assessing and communicating the broad value of arts and culture is a major and ongoing task. There has been an immense amount of work already carried out. The challenge is to understand some of the pitfalls of research and the mechanisms and motivations that underpin it. Research and evaluation is invaluable for all organisations but it is particularly important for Government. The experience of researching arts and culture in Government is of much broader relevance, as the arts and culture sector navigates the tricky task of building a comprehensive understanding in each locality of the broader benefits of arts and culture. The latest Arts restructure makes this even more urgent.’, Better than sport? The tricky business of valuing Australia’s arts and culture.

Crossing boundaries – the unlimited landscape of creativity 25 Mar 2019
‘When I was visiting Paris last year, there was one thing I wanted to do before I returned home – visit the renowned French bakery that had trained a Melbourne woman who had abandoned the high stakes of Formula One racing to become a top croissant maker. She had decided that being an engineer in the world of elite car racing was not for her, but rather that her future lay in the malleable universe of pastry. Crossing boundaries of many kinds and traversing the borders of differing countries and cultures, she built a radically different future to the one she first envisaged’, Crossing boundaries – the unlimited landscape of creativity.

Creativity and culture in change: Change in creativity and culture 9 Nov 2018
‘A vast transformation of contemporary culture not seen since the breakdown of traditional arts and crafts in the industrial revolution is under way due to the impact of the digital and online environment. Artists, culture managers and cultural specialists today are confronted with radically different challenges and opportunities to those they faced in the 20th Century. There are a number of strategic forces which we need to take account of in career planning and in working in or running cultural organisations’, Presentation at ‘Creative and Cultural Futures: Leadership and Change’ – a symposium exploring the critical issues driving change in the creative and cultural sector, University of Canberra, October 2018, Creativity and culture in change: Change in creativity and culture.

Taking part – Arts involvement in a divided Australia 30 Jun 2017
‘The arts and culture sector has long suffered from a shortage of high quality, useable research and statistics. This makes what is available doubly important as we argue the case for the central relevance of arts and culture and the broader social and economic impact of involvement. New research demonstrates the positive scale of involvement, views on importance and trends in participation in Australia’s arts and cultural life, especially hands on involvement. It also shows a worrying decline in engagement and recognition in recent years and points to the need for a more strategic view by government’, Taking part – Arts involvement in a divided Australia. 

 
Quadruple whammy – the long-running factors that together threaten our cultural future 23 Mar 2017
‘The real danger for Australia’s arts and culture is not funding cuts but steady, unending neglect. The decline of Government arts and culture support can be attributed to four long-running factors. This I call a quadruple whammy, from lack of indexation, the cumulative effect of ‘efficiency dividends’, the trend towards project funding rather than operational funding an falling behind as the population and economy expands’, Quadruple whammy – the long-running factors that together threaten our cultural future.
Creating the future for Australia’s arts and culture 7 Nov 2016
‘Australia’s arts and culture is at a critical stage. One of the issues confronting it is lack of any kind of shared sense of what the role of government is in encouraging our arts and culture. The whole set of interlinked problems with the relationship between government and Australia’s arts and culture can be reduced to a lack of strategic vision and a long-term plan for the future. This deficiency is most apparent in the lack of any guiding policy, like trying to navigate a dark and dangerous tunnel without a torch or flying at night without lights or a map’, Creating the future for Australia’s arts and culture.
If the arts are important but not enough people know it, are they really important? 31 Oct 2016

‘As the new landscape of Australia’s arts and culture emerge in the post-Brandis era, we are starting to see how organisations are adapting and the issues they are facing in doing so. To a lesser degree we are also seeing how artists themselves are responding. It seems clear that the absence of any overall strategic approach to arts and culture – whether from the Government or from the arts and culture sector – is having a deadening effect’, If the arts are important but not enough people know it, are they really important?

Banish the bland – Kim Williams spells out a positive Australia 9 Sep 2016
‘Australia needs more far-sighted strategic vision and discussion and less of the self-serving waffle we get from too many of our politicians. The creative and intellectual capacity of our people is central to a bright, ambitious and optimistic future and essential to avoid a decline into irrelevance, according to Kim Williams, former media executive and composer. He is an Australian who values ideas and his vision for a positive Australia is firmly focused on our artists, scientists and major cultural and scientific institutions’, Banish the bland – Kim Williams spells out a positive Australia.

The big picture and long view – creating a cultural future 18 Jul 2016

‘The never-ending election campaign that became the never-ending election tally has turned into the unpredictable second term government. What does this new world of fragmented politics mean for Australian arts and culture and the organisations, artists and communities which live it and advance it? There are a series of major factors which are hammering arts and culture organisations. These intersect and mutually reinforce one another to produce a cumulative and compounding long term disastrous impact. All this is happening in a context where there is no strategic policy or overview to guide Government. It is critical for the future that the arts and culture sector think broadly about arts and culture, build broad alliances and partnerships, never forget its underlying values and draw on its inherent creativity to help create a society based firmly on arts and culture’, The big picture and long view – creating a cultural future.

Lies, damned lies and lies about statistics – how population growth will magnify the impact of arts and culture cuts 13 Apr 2016
‘I’ve said before that the traditional saying about ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’, should instead refer to ‘lies, damned lies and lies about statistics’. Cuts to national arts and cultural funding, while relatively small each year, have a cumulative effect far greater than at first appears and, in the long run, will undermine the effectiveness of national arts and culture support. Where the real disastrous impact of these cuts will hit home is when we also factor in the impact of population growth. If anything, there needs to be an expansion of arts and cultural funding to service the growth’, Lies, damned lies and lies about statistics – how population growth will magnify the impact of arts and culture cuts.

Arts and culture part of everyday life and on the main agenda 24 Mar 2016
‘There’s an election in the air and I was thinking about what would be a good list of positive improvements that would benefit Australia’s arts and culture, so I jotted down some ideas. They are about recognising arts and culture as a central part of everyday life and an essential component of the big agenda for Australia. They are about where the knowledge economy, creative industries and arts and culture fit, how arts and culture explain what it means to be Australian and how they are a valuable means of addressing pressing social challenges’, Arts and culture part of everyday life and on the main agenda.

Vote 1 Australian arts and culture – who is painting the big picture? 7 Jun 2016
‘In this election Australians are voting on a great range of important issues. It could be a moment where we choose between the future and the past but it is never as simple as that. In this mix it’s all too easy for Australia’s arts and culture to come in second best – or probably more like third or fourth best, or worse. The problem is that while we have good solid policy offerings by those parties that actually have arts policies, no-one seems to be painting the big picture, one that threads arts and culture through the whole array of policies in an integrated way. We need a big policy that ties together all the disparate areas that arts and culture flows into’, Vote 1 Australian arts and culture – who is painting the big picture?

Full circle – where next for Australian national arts and culture support in the 21st Century? 21 Sep 2015

‘With a Coalition Government which now stands a far better chance of being re-elected for a second term, the transfer of the Commonwealth’s Arts Ministry to Communications helps get arts and culture back onto larger and more contemporary agendas. This move reflects that fact that the new industries in the knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape, are both clever and clean. Where they differ completely from other knowledge economy sectors is that, because they are based on content, they draw on, intersect with and contribute to Australia’s national and local culture and are a central part of projecting Australia’s story to ourselves and to the world. In that sense they have a strategic importance that other sectors do not’, Full circle – where next for Australian national arts and culture support in the 21st Century?


Time for the big picture and long view for arts and culture 26 Jun 2015

‘A far more important issue than arts funding is how can the broad arts and cultural sector become a better organised, effective voice for arts and culture and its wider importance for Australia? Changes like this happen because they are able to happen – because decision-makers think they can get away with it. The arts and culture sector and its supporters have to be influential enough that decision-makers think carefully about the importance and the standing of Australia’s arts and culture and weigh any decisions they make carefully in terms of the strategic needs of the sector. These current dire circumstances may provide the opportunity we have needed to look seriously at this question’, Time for the big picture and long view for arts and culture.

Art for arts sake, art for society’s sake or arts as entertainment? 22 Apr 2014
‘Case studies and anecdotal evidence show that involvement in cultural (and sporting) activity – by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities – often has powerful flow on social and economic effects. However, this is not why people are involved in cultural activity – it’s just a bonus. It shouldn’t be ignored and it can be harnessed to good effect but we have to be careful not to focus just on the side effects, no matter how important. Cultural activity is an expression of who we are, what we value and how we see ourselves and our place in the world. That’s much more important. Few would suggest that non-Indigenous culture should only be supported where it can be shown to produce some social or economic impact. Indigenous culture is far more than a way of fixing social problems – it is a powerful positive force in Australian culture, a central part of our presence in the world’, Art for arts sake, art for society’s sake or arts as entertainment?

2. ARTISTS AND ARTS ORGANISATIONS (6)
Good news in a world of gloom – Craft ACT designs a stronger future on the global stage 25 Jul 2020
‘Amongst all the gloom at the state of our once thriving creative sector, it’s easy to overlook important successes and achievements. Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic creative organisations have still been endeavouring to maintain momentum with some of the inspiring projects and programs that had been underway, strengthening international partnerships and building longer-term resilience’, Good news in a world of gloom – Craft ACT designs a stronger future on the global stage.
 

The future of arts practice – navigating the creative economy 9 Sep 2019
‘In a rapidly changing and difficult environment, it often seems a miracle that artists can continue to practice at all – and even sometimes make a living from their art. Increasingly we need to try to answer some important questions, including: ‘What does a sustainable arts practice mean and what does it look like’, and ‘how does the business of art affect the practice of art?’ These question about the role of artists in the cultural sector, let alone in the broader society and economy, are important because they are linked to a range of crucial issues for the future of our society’, The future of arts practice – navigating the creative economy.

The innovative power of art connects local and global – Craft ACT embracing diversity 11 Aug 2016
‘As globalism proceeds apace, the counter-balancing world of the local and regional is becoming more important, anchoring us firmly in the places where we reside and create, where culture is made and lived. A set of Canberra exhibitions built around innovation and celebrating the achievements of craft and design connects local creativity and cultural life with the larger international significance of the themes and artists involved’, The innovative power of art connects local and global – Craft ACT embracing diversity.

Arts fightback – breaking out of the goldfish bowl 26 May 2016
‘How can the broad arts and cultural sector become a better organised, effective voice for arts and culture and its wider importance for Australia? The current dire circumstances, where we face a national arts crisis the seriousness of which can’t be understated, may provide the opportunity we have needed to look seriously at this question. It’s time for the big picture and long view for Australian arts and culture and time to get ready for a long haul effort to win hearts and minds’, Arts fightback – breaking out of the goldfish bowl.

The intriguing world of tiny exhibitions – Craft ACT shows what small organisations can do 17 Feb 2016
‘We’re all used to the great big blockbuster exhibitions with all their wow and flutter. What’s really intriguing though is the world of tiny exhibitions, a babbling brook of activity that flows away – often unnoticed – under the tall timbers of the big institutions. At Craft ACT you can get four of them at once – in one smallish gallery space. These are artists who are likely to go on to produce better plumbing and lighting (always a good thing), design theatre costumes with a life of their own, produce unique fabric or jewellery such as you have never seen before, hinting at a history stretching far back, and give you furniture that can be folded simply and put away, but not forgotten’, The intriguing world of tiny exhibitions – Craft ACT shows what small organisations can do.

Sculthorpe – music of big matters 14 Nov 2014
‘Peter Sculthorpe was a genuine great Australian talent (and a Tasmanian), prepared to tackle the big matters of Australia’s history in all its complexity, its darkness and light. I remember being in Northern Tasmania, about to start on the Bay of Fires walk, departing from Quamby House near Launceston. Because it’s such an unusual name it stuck in my mind and on the day before I had found a recording of Sculthorpe’s piece entitled ‘Quamby’. As he noted, “When I was young, my father told me a story about Quamby Bluff, a rather forbidding mountainous outcrop in the highlands of northern Tasmania. There, according to legend, colonial government soldiers once drove a tribe of Aborigines to the bluff’s edge. The Aborigines had the choice of being shot, or jumping. They chose the latter, and as they jumped they cried out ‘Quamby! Quamby!’ meaning ‘Save me! Save me!’’, Sculthorpe – music of big matters.

3. CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS (10)

Endless attrition at major collections institutions undermines our cultural future 10 Sep 2020
‘The endless attrition of the ‘efficiency dividend’, with its long-term debilitating impact on our major national cultural institutions, continues to do harm. With the periodic announcement of job losses, more and more valuable expertise is increasingly lost and important programs affected. This will undermine the ability of these institutions to care for our heritage and to provide access to their collections for Australians across the country. The long term impact of these cumulative changes will be major and unexpected, magnifying over time as each small change reinforces the others. At some point Australians will ask where valued and important programs have gone and how critical institutions have managed to diminish to the point where return will not be possible,’ Endless attrition at major collections institutions undermines our cultural future.
 
Better late than never – does Powerhouse Museum turnaround signal new promise? 4 Jul 2020
‘For years the community campaign to halt the planned closure, transfer and site sell off of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, Sydney has struggled to change the mind of a stubborn and out of touch State Government. Given that NSW had the potential to be in the forefront of the new economy – and jobs – of the future, abandoning the promise of the Powerhouse Museum and its vast collection to contribute to this exhibited mediocrity of vision and incompetent economic management. Perhaps, after all the effort by supporters of this great museum, we are now finally seeing some progress’, Better late than never – does Powerhouse Museum turnaround signal new promise?
 

Who owns Australia’s ‘soul’? Our cultural institutions, our history and our future 5 Nov 2018
‘The announcement of a substantial sum from the Government for expansion of The Australian War Memorial has highlighted some crucial issues around shrinking support for our cultural institutions, recognition of our history and heritage, and sponsorship in a time of diminishing budgets. The Director of the War Memorial has commented that “the Australian War Memorial is…a place that reveals our character as a people, our soul.” In the end though, Australia’s ‘soul’ might turn out to be larger, longer and wider than our history of wars’, Who owns Australia’s ‘soul’? Our cultural institutions, our history and our future


Going, going, gone – the final spiral of a cultural icon? 16 Jul 2018
‘Despite its fragmented nature, the Powerhouse Museum was a great design museum precisely because it was also a museum of science and technology – and a museum of social history, which could place it all in a historical and social context. In many ways design is a central part of the vocabulary of our time and integrally related to so many powerful social and economic forces – creative industries, popular culture, the digital transformation of society. The current travails of the internationally renowned Powerhouse are a measure of a lack of strategic vision, including from successive governments which have never properly grasped the power of culture in shaping society and the need for the long-term substantial commitment to enable it. The Powerhouse continues to play a crucial role in the area of creative industries, especially design. Yet no-one seems to know about it. Where will exhibitions of this relevance and calibre be exhibited and, more importantly, developed, once these short-sighted changes have become real?’, Going, going, gone – the final spiral of a cultural icon?

The grand design of things – the lost unrealised potential of the Powerhouse Museum 8 Jul 2016
‘With its extensive collection of design of all kinds, from engineering to fashion to ceramics and jewellery, and with its links to industry, I always had high hopes for the Powerhouse Museum. Despite its fragmented nature, the Powerhouse was a great design museum precisely because it was also a museum of science and technology – and a museum of social history, which could place it all in a historical and social context. In many ways design is a central part of the vocabulary of our time and integrally related to so many powerful social and economic forces – creative industries, popular culture, the digital transformation of society. That the Powerhouse failed to realise its potential is a measure of the lack of strategic vision, including from successive governments which have never properly grasped the power of culture in shaping society and the need for the long-term substantial commitment to enable it’, The grand design of things – the lost unrealised potential of the Powerhouse Museum.

Cut to the bone – the accelerating decline of our major cultural institutions and its impact on Australia’s national heritage and economy 18 Dec 2015
‘I always thought that long after all else has gone, after government has pruned and prioritised and slashed and bashed arts and cultural support, the national cultural institutions would still remain. They are one of the largest single items of Australian Government cultural funding and one of the longest supported and they would be likely to be the last to go, even with the most miserly and mean-spirited and short sighted of governments. However, in a finale to a series of cumulative cuts over recent years, they have seen their capabilities to carry out their essential core roles eroded beyond repair. The long term impact of these cumulative changes will be major and unexpected, magnifying over time as each small change reinforces the others. The likelihood is that this will lead to irreversible damage to the contemporary culture and cultural heritage of the nation at a crucial crossroads in its history’, Cut to the bone – the accelerating decline of our major cultural institutions and its impact on Australia’s national heritage and economy.

Whatever the question, China is the answer 7 Jan 2016
‘It has been said, only half jokingly, that whatever the question, China is the answer. China has its own distinctive problems but this has an underlying element of truth, especially in our current century, the much heralded Asian Century. Our major cultural institutions have risen to the challenge of the Asian Century, playing a leadership role in building the soft diplomacy which enables a deeper and more durable relationship with Asian nations. In the latest example of this engagement, the National Library of Australia has done what national cultural institutions do best – it has collaborated with the National Library of China to produce an outstanding exhibition, “Celestial Empire: Life in China, 1644-1911”. This is a case of cultural interaction building enduring bridges that all the ore trucks in the world can’t match’, Whatever the question, China is the answer.

Notes from a steadily shrinking universe 7 Oct 2015
‘Following the Big Bang the universe may have been steadily expanding but in the world of Australian Government arts and culture the universe has definitely been heading the other way. In the end does government of any shade really think at heart that Australian arts and culture is important? Why should it when it’s a vexed question for our society as a whole and we are ambivalent about its worth? Yet this part of the Australian Government’s public service is incredibly important. To have a real impact though, it needs to be refocused and reinvigorated to operate once again across the broader government landscape’, Notes from a steadily shrinking universe.

When is a cut not a cut – it’s as simple as ABC 24 Nov 2014
‘Budget cuts to the ABC and SBS will have significant long-term impact as the long-term effect produces the same kind of damage that has occurred with the other national cultural institutions. This is particularly worrying because apart from its mainstream flagship programs the ABC produces invaluable projects linked to local communities which no-one else is likely to pick up. Such positive projects – relatively new and not widely known – are likely to be some of the first under threat’, When is a cut not a cut – it’s as simple as ABC.

Education – what does free mean? 14 Nov 2014
‘At Whitlam’s memorial there was much mention, particularly by Cate Blanchett, of what his reforms to tertiary education had meant – for her personally but for Australia as well. This was timely given the current attempts to make education far more expensive and to push the cost back onto individuals. This is crucial if you view support for broad access to education, including education in the arts and culture professions, as a social investment which increases the productivity of the country as a whole. There is still the question of how to pay for it but, like support for child rearing, it’s not a personal, individual cost with a personal individual benefit, but a social one. This is as much a matter of productivity and innovation as it is of equity’, Education – what does free mean?

4. CULTURAL POLICY (11)

Why Australia still needs a cultural policy – third time lucky? 1 May 2019
‘It’s no longer the pre-election campaign we had to have. It’s become the election campaign we can’t avoid. We are spiralling inexorably towards election day and Ministers and members have been plummeting from the heights of the Coalition Government like crew abandoning a burning Zeppelin. We may wake on 19 May to find we have a national Labor Government. With Labor pledging to implement an updated version of the short-lived ‘Creative Australia’, its national cultural policy, first promised by the Rudd Government, it’s a good time to reconsider its importance’, Why Australia still needs a cultural policy – third time lucky?

Changing the landscape of the future – a new focus on cultural rights 13 Oct 2018
‘The arts and culture sector has spent far too many years pressing the case for why Australian culture is crucial to Australia’s future, without seeming to shift the public policy landscape to any great degree. Perhaps a proposed fresh approach focusing on cultural rights may offer some hope of a breakthrough. What makes this approach so important and so potentially productive is that it starts with broad principles, linked to fundamental issues, such as human rights, which makes it a perfect foundation for the development of sound and well-thought out policies – something that currently we sadly lack’, Changing the landscape of the future – a new focus on cultural rights.

What is art good for? Understanding the value of our arts and culture 31 Jul 2017
‘With arts and cultural support increasingly under pressure, arts and cultural organisations and artists are trying to find ways in their own localities to respond and to help build a popular understanding of the broader social and economic benefits of arts and culture. Much work has been done in Australia and internationally to understand, assess and communicate the broad value of arts and culture. The challenge is to share and to apply what already exists – and to take it further’, What is art good for? Understanding the value of our arts and culture.

Putting culture on the main agenda – the power of policy 19 Oct 2016

‘With the ongoing malaise due to the absence of national arts and cultural policy in Australia, it’s worth reminding ourselves what beneficial impact good policy can have. To understand the power of policy to make an impact in the world, it’s worthwhile contrasting two recent major Australian Government cultural policies – the National Cultural Policy and the National Indigenous Languages Policy. This helps illuminate how cultural policy can promote the long view, innovation, breadth and leadership. Both policies showed that more important than funding or specific initiatives was the overall strategic vision and the way in which it attempted to place culture not just on the main agenda, but somewhere near the centre of the main agenda’, Putting culture on the main agenda – the power of policy.

Arts, culture and a map of the future – the limits of arts policy 7 Jun 2016
‘In the arts, from a virtual policy-free zone, we’ve now got policies – not as many as we could have hoped, but enough to be going on with. Some of them might even get implemented. Importantly, the others will help to frame the debate and offer ideas for the future. Those parties that have arts policies offer good solid and productive proposals which, if implemented, would lead to definite improvement for Australia’s arts and culture. However, that’s just the starting point’, Arts, culture and a map of the future – the limits of arts policy.


Election mode for Australian arts and culture – a policy-free zone?
19 May 2016
‘A policy and the understanding of issues that leads to its adoption, provides arts and culture with a stature that underpins funding by providing a rationale for support. Otherwise funding will always be ad hoc and insecure, piecemeal, project-based, intermittent and at the mercy of whim and fashion. We have to get arts and culture to the stage where it is seen like public health or education and debated accordingly’, Election mode for Australian arts and culture – a policy-free zone?

Arts funding – it’s not all about the money 21 Mar 2016
‘National Arts Minister, Mitch Fifield, has said that being a strong advocate for the arts doesn’t mean delivering government funding and that an arts Minister or a government shouldn’t be judged just on the quantum of money the government puts in. This sidesteps the Government’s very real problems that it has muddied the waters of existing arts funding, cutting many worthwhile organisations loose with no reason, that rather than delivering arts funding, it has reduced it significantly, and that it has no coherent strategy or policy to guide its arts decisions or direction. The real issue is that a national framework, strategy or policy for arts and culture support underpins and provides a rationale for arts funding – and is far more important’, Arts funding – it’s not all about the money.

National arts policy – excelling in the mediocrity stakes 10 Mar 2016
‘I am not too concerned who manages national arts funding. Both the Australia Council and the Ministry for the Arts have long managed numerous funding programs. I am more concerned about what is funded. The fact that the national pool of arts funding available to support the operational costs of smaller arts and cultural organisations has shrunk substantially is a deep concern. Watch as Australia’s arts and culture sector reels over the next five years from this exceptionally bad policy decision – and expect the early warning signs much sooner. Well- known and respected figures in the arts and culture sector have been expressing this concern sharply’, National arts policy – excelling in the mediocrity stakes.

Out from the shadows – the other Arts Minister 25 Jun 2015
‘I ventured out through the dark wilds of the Australian National University to hear the Opposition Spokesperson on the Arts, Mark Dreyfus, share his view of what a contemporary arts and culture policy might look like. It was a timely moment, given the turmoil stirred up by recent changes to national arts funding arrangements and the #freethearts response from small arts and cultural organisations and artists. Luckily, as he himself noted, he has a very recent model to work with. The National Cultural Policy is little more than two years old,’ Out from the shadows – the other Arts Minister.

‘Arts’ policy and culture – let’s not reinvent the wheel 19 Feb 2015
‘Faced with the increasing prospect that it could become the next Australian Government, the Labor Party is reviewing its ‘arts’ policy. Whatever happens and whoever it happens to, considered and strategic discussion of arts and culture policy is critical to Australia’s future.’ ‘Arts’ policy and culture – let’s not reinvent the wheel.

‘Creative Nation’ – Keating’s cultural legacy 14 Nov 2014
‘Developing ‘Creative Australia’, the second Australian National Cultural Policy, required such focus that little was said about the first one, Keating’s ‘Creative Nation’. ‘Creative Nation’ acknowledged two distinct and very different strengths in Australian culture. The first was the contemporary diversity of Australia. The second was the economic significance of the arts and culture sector, including the creative industries. This reflected the reality of how Australia had changed in half a century. However it also reflects a different way of looking, beyond the narrow view of ‘the arts’ as a gently civilising influence on the surface of a frontier society’, ‘Creative Nation’ – Keating’s cultural legacy.

5. ARTS FUNDING (16)

Making ends meet – the brittle new world of arts funding 15 Sep 2016
‘Everyone is still recovering from the shock of the announcement by the Australia Council back in May this year of which organisations had been successful in obtaining four year operating funding – and which had not. It’s not so much directly due to the transfer of funds from the Australia Council but more a matter of new applicants applying in a competitive funding round, with an expanding sector, yet limited funds and a shrinking arts budget. Planning how to operate in the arts landscape of the future is something everyone needs to do. Having a Plan B and Plan C will be critical’, Making ends meet – the brittle new world of arts funding.

Dear Treasurer – our arts are central to everyday life, why doesn’t funding reflect it? 13 May 2016

‘In response to steadily diminishing support for arts and culture by government, it’s crucial to recognise that Australia’s arts are central to everyday life and should be firmly on the main national agenda. Apart from their value in maintaining a thriving Australian culture, the range of social and economic benefits they deliver and their role in telling Australia’s story to ourselves and the world make them an essential service’, Dear Treasurer – our arts are central to everyday life, why doesn’t funding reflect it?

Silent retreat – is arts funding becoming project funding? 3 May 2016
‘In the flurry of recent changes to national arts funding arrangements we need to be concerned at what might be the beginning of a bigger trend – the tendency for government to withdraw from longer term operational support for the arts in preference for short term, one-off project funding. This creeping trend makes it ever harder for organisations to find the long term operational funding which small arts and cultural organisations need to keep their doors open so they can deliver base level frontline services’, Silent retreat – is arts funding becoming project funding?

Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst – the looming failure of arts support 27 Apr 2016
‘In the slowly unravelling universe of arts and culture support, organisations – whether they be small arts organisations or the largest of national cultural institutions – need to think seriously about their future. They need to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. This means developing strategies to survive the combination of drastic cuts and slow erosion already occurring and likely to continue into the foreseeable – and unpredictable – future’, Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst – the looming failure of arts support.

Collateral damage – the creeping cumulative impact of national arts cuts 16 Feb 2016
‘Asked in the most recent Senate Additional Estimates hearings about cuts to Ministry for the Arts funding in the Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook review, the Department of Communications and the Arts replied that there were cuts of $9.6m over the forward estimates. This seriously understates the cumulative long-term magnitude and effect of these cuts and underestimates, just as with the national cultural institutions, the long-term damage. Yet this is the real and permanent impact – a compound effect of creeping cuts’, Collateral damage – the creeping cumulative impact of national arts cuts.

Smoking gun – the invisible cuts to national arts and culture funding 22 Jan 2016

‘The transfer of substantial program funds from the Australian Government’s main arts funding agency, the Australia Council, to the Ministry for the Arts has had the effect of masking serious cuts to crucial programs run by the Ministry, including its Indigenous cultural programs. There have been cuts to overall Ministry program funds stretching long into the future almost every year since the 2014-15 budget, with the long-term trend clearly heading downwards’, Smoking gun – the invisible cuts to national arts and culture funding.

Arts funding changes on the run – doing less with less 21 Nov 2015
‘The announcement by new Arts Minister, Mitch Fifield that he will step back to a degree from the decision of his predecessor about national arts funding is a good call – but not good enough. This is what happens when there is no policy framework or set of strategic principles guiding changes to programs or development of new programs. Flexibility is an excellent thing and so are attempts to develop new programs to support areas that might not have been able to gain support before. The problem is ad hoc policy on the run is no substitute for carefully thought through changes. In a context where there have been significant long term cuts to arts and culture funding in the last two budgets, particularly the 2014-15 one, these changes only worsen the situation’, Arts funding changes on the run – doing less with less.

National arts and culture funding – follow the money 16 Nov 2015
‘In the continuing furore over the transfer of funds from the Australia Council to the Ministry for the Arts in the 2015-16 budget, most of the focus to date has been on the Australia Council. What has been happening to the funding of the Ministry for the Arts itself? Based on the publically available budget figures since 2012, it is possible to compare the level of program funding managed by the Ministry for the Arts and see the reduction in funding following the election of the current Government’, National arts and culture funding – follow the money.

A journey to a strange land ­– making sense of the senseless 18 Jun 2015
‘There we were, over 65 of us, from every state and territory and from every artform, all crammed into one tiny room in Parliament House, so even the visiting politicians sometimes had to stand. Despite the great diversity, the level of focus was frightening. It was helped along by the Chair, who clearly had a degree in alchemy which qualified her to turn chaos into order. If only she could turn the base metal of this example of bad policy into the precious coinage of strategic vision – but that must be the higher degree. Here we go again, I thought. It all felt too familiar, much like previous eras I have lived through, when good things were undone by narrow vision for short-term advantage. Sometimes I think it’s better when government is inefficient – that way it does less damage’, A journey to a strange land ­– making sense of the senseless.

Arts funding changes – rearranging the deckchairs while we ditch the lifeboats 28 May 2015
‘The impact of the changes to national arts funding flowing from the Budget are likely to be deep and severe. The main issue for me is what will now not be funded – by the Australia Council or by anyone else. There are hundreds of small to medium arts and cultural organisations that play a pivotal role in supporting Australia’s cultural life. They need to be seen as every bit as important a part of Australia’s cultural infrastructure as the major performing arts companies or the major arts galleries and museums. They are essential infrastructure for our arts and culture’, Arts funding changes – rearranging the deckchairs while we ditch the lifeboats.

‘Having a go’ at Australia’s arts and culture – the Budget Mark 2 17 May 2015

We are seeing is the steady skewing of Australia’s arts and culture sector as the most dynamic component, the one most connected to both artistic innovation and to community engagement, atrophies and withers. This is the absolute opposite of innovation and excellence. It is cultural vandalism of the worst kind, ‘Having a go’ at Australia’s arts and culture – the Budget Mark 2.

The Melba Foundation and the saga of the magic money 14 Nov 2014
‘The natural bias of the Coalition Australian Government in its support for arts and culture was accentuated in its decision to refund the Melba Foundation. There were complaints of lack of transparency but it seems completely transparent to me. I presume the Melba Foundation hit Minister Brandis for funds, as it was always certain to do once the Government had changed and there was no longer a Minister with a particular interest in popular music. Brandis agreed because the Melba Foundation is his sort of arts organisation’, The Melba Foundation and the saga of the magic money.

See also the series of articles about the impact of the 2014 Budget on arts and culture

After the Budget: A selective drive-by shooting 5 Jun 2014
‘The Budget was a selective drive-by shooting with easy targets including small arts. Entitlement continues for others.’ After the Budget: a selective drive-by shooting.

After the Budget: Government support for small scale arts and culturehere today, gone tomorrow 5 Jun 2014
‘Budget cuts only to uncommitted funding sound benign but will end programs by letting them peter out over several years.’ After the Budget: Government support for small scale arts and culture – here today, gone tomorrow.

After the Budget: The future landscape for Australian arts and culture 5 Jun 2014
‘Wider budget cuts combined over years will have a compounding effect on arts and culture far more damaging than anything immediate.’ After the Budget: the future landscape for Australian arts and culture.

After the Budget: Things could be worse 5 Jun 2014
‘The problem is not just the level of arts cuts, which may well be lower than in many other areas. It’s the nature of the cuts.’ After the Budget: things could be worse.

6. CULTURAL ECONOMY AND CREATIVE INDUSTRIES (25)
 Flight of the wild geese – Australia’s place in the world of global talent 28 Aug 2021
‘As the global pandemic has unfolded, I have been struck by how out of touch a large number of Australians are with Australia’s place in the world. Before the pandemic many Australians had become used to travelling overseas regularly – and spending large amounts of money while there – but we seem to think that our interaction with the global world is all about discretionary leisure travel. In contrast, increasingly many Australians were travelling – and living – overseas because their jobs required it. Whether working for multinational companies that have branches in Australia or Australian companies trying to break into global markets, Australian talent often needs to be somewhere else than here to make the most of opportunities for Australia. Not only technology, but even more importantly, talent, will be crucial to the economy of the future’, Flight of the wild geese – Australia’s place in the world of global talent
Contemporary Indigenous fashion – where community culture and economics meet 5 Aug 2021

‘The recent exhibition ‘Piinpi’, about contemporary Indigenous fashion, has a significance for Australian culture that is yet to be fully revealed. The themes covered by the exhibition are important because they demonstrate the intersection of the culture of First Nations communities with creative industries and the cultural economy. In attempting to address the major issue of Indigenous disadvantage, for example, it is critical to recognise that one of the most important economic resources possessed by First Nations communities is their culture. Through the intellectual property that translates it into a form that can generate income in a contemporary economy, that culture is pivotal to jobs and to income. It may not be mining but it mines a far richer seam – authentic and rich content that has already been recognised internationally for its high value, just like our iron and coal. At a time when First Nations communities are talking increasingly about gaining greater control over their economic life, this is highly relevant’, Contemporary Indigenous fashion – where community culture and economics meet.

 
Understanding the economy of the future – innovation and its place in the knowledge economy, creative economy, creative industries and cultural economy 2 Jun 2021
‘When we start to think about the economy of the future – and the clean and clever jobs that make it up – we encounter a confusing array of ideas and terms. Innovation, the knowledge economy, the creative economy, creative industries and the cultural economy are all used, often interchangeably. Over the years my own thinking about them has changed and I thought it would be useful to try to clarify how they are all related’, Understanding the economy of the future – innovation and its place in the knowledge economy, creative economy, creative industries and cultural economy.
 
Broader and deeper – the creativity and culture of everyday life 2 Apr 2021
‘The Impact and Enterprise post-graduate course at the University of Canberra course is unique in Australia in placing creative industries and the creative and cultural economy in the broader landscape of the wider impacts of creativity and culture – both economic and social. It starts from the premise that what the broader social and economic roles of creativity and culture have in common is that a focus on the economic role of creativity and culture is similar to the focus on its community role – both spring from recognition that creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up. In March 2021, as the course entered its third year, I gave a talk to the students about where it came from,’ Broader and deeper – the creativity and culture of everyday life.
 

Beyond boundaries – Dr Terry Cutler and how to connect everything 18 Mar 2021
‘The global pandemic has so upended the world we knew that everyday matters, like relationships, birthdays, births and deaths have often slipped by unnoticed and uncelebrated. In a world of pandemic and lockdowns – and shakedowns by government – such things seem to go unnoticed. In such a way the departures – through retirement or death – of those who have made unparalleled contributions to our future have often passed before we even notice. This was certainly the case with strategic creative and cultural thinker, Dr Terry Cutler, who died during the pandemic lockdown last year, when the focus of most of the world was on other things’, Beyond boundaries – Dr Terry Cutler and how to connect everything.
 

After a fashion – creative industries from First Nations culture 5 Dec 2020
‘When I first heard that Victorian regional gallery, Bendigo Art Gallery, was planning an exhibition about contemporary Indigenous fashion I was impressed. The Gallery has had a long history of fashion exhibitions, drawing on its own collection and in partnership with other institutions, notably the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It is fascinating to consider how a leading regional Australian museum and an internationally renowned museum on the global stage, while in many ways so different, have so much in common. The exhibition is far more than a single event in a Victorian regional centre – it is an expression of a much broader contemporary Indigenous fashion phenomenon nation-wide. It hints at the potential of the creative economy and creative industries to build stronger communities. Both the economic importance and the community and social importance of creativity and culture are tightly interlinked because of the way in which creativity and culture are integral to everyday life and the essential activities that make it up’, After a fashion – creative industries from First Nations culture.

 
The short answer #2: Broken broadband unbalances the books 5 Oct 2020
‘Back in 2013, when the first of the latest string of Coalition Governments we have had was elected, there seemed to be a strong view within the Coalition that broadband was a luxury, mainly useful for entertainment. Yet those of us familiar with the work of Australian post-production companies, doing the finishing work on major US films during the day while the US industry slept, and sending it by broadband overnight for work to resume in the Northern hemisphere the next day, knew it was a key part of Australia’s productive infrastructure. Then the COVID-19 pandemic confirmed it. Now the Government has acknowledged that there are major deficiencies with the National Broadband Network but is it too late to save it and make it the national asset we need and deserve?’ The short answer #2: Broken broadband unbalances the books.

Music makes the world go round – the bright promise of our export future 28 Sep 2020
‘After ABBA, in an unexpected break from its traditional way of building national wealth from natural resources, Sweden managed to discover a new source of income. It was not as you would expect coal or oil. Rather than oil what it had discovered was song royalties, part of a fundamental change in the nature of modern economies which transformed them from relying solely on natural resources, transport and manufacturing to make creative content a new form of resource mining. Examples like theirs point to potentially major opportunities for the Australian music industry to become a net exporter of music,’ Music makes the world go round – the bright promise of our export future.

A world turned upside down – UNESCO Creative City of Design Wuhan 14 Jul 2020
‘World-shaking events can completely reframe your perspective. When I drove from Canberra to Adelaide and Kangaroo Island in March this year, everyone was being urged to visit regional centres to help them recover from the devastating bushfires. Only weeks later, as I was heading home – via Victoria, a State entering lockdown as I passed through – everybody was being encouraged to stay home to help stop the spread of disease. Back in Canberra I had been involved in a long-running effort to have the city listed as a UNESCO City of Design. The new reality that threatened to overshadow that effort was the global COVID-19 pandemic. Ironically that pandemic had originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which as I discovered, was itself a City of Design in the global UNESCO Creative Cities Network’, A world turned upside down – UNESCO Creative City of Design Wuhan.

Creative and cultural futures – understanding the creative and cultural economy 28 May 2020 

‘Survival in the creative sector in a post-COVID world will require enhanced literacy in the opportunities of the new industries of the future, the clean and clever knowledge economy which is altering our world on a daily basis. Now a new short course delivered completely online in the new digital universe we are all increasingly inhabiting will look closely at the creative and cultural economy and the broader impacts of creativity and culture, both economic and social. It will outline the role of the creative sector in managing meaning and explain how telling Australian stories puts us on the international stage in an increasingly globalised world’, Creative and cultural futures – understanding the creative and cultural economy.


Making a living – building careers in creative and cultural futures 7 Nov 2019
‘Making a living in the developing creative economy is no easy task. For a viable career, flexibility and creativity are crucial. For this a strategic outlook and a grasp of the major long-term forces shaping Australian creativity and culture is essential. To help foster this amongst emerging cultural sector practitioners, a new flagship course, a Master of Arts in Creative and Cultural Futures, was launched at the University of Canberra in 2019, building on earlier experiments in aligning research and analysis with real world cultural sector experience’, Making a living – building careers in creative and cultural futures.

Industries of the future help tell stories of the past – Weta at work in the shaky isles 15 Dec 2016
‘After three weeks travelling round the North Island of New Zealand, I’ve had more time to reflect on the importance of the clean and clever industries of the future and the skilled knowledge workers who make them. In the capital, Wellington, instead of the traditional industries that once often dominated a town, like the railways or meatworks or the car plant or, in Tasmania, the Hydro Electricity Commission, there was Weta. It’s clear that the industries of the future can thrive in unexpected locations. Expertise, specialist skills and industry pockets can occur just about anywhere, as long as you have connectivity, talent and a framework of support that makes it possible. These skills which Weta depends on for its livelihood are also being used to tell important stories from the past’, Industries of the future help tell stories of the past – Weta at work in the shaky isles.

Designs on the future – how Australia’s designed city has global plans 23 Aug 2016
‘In many ways design is a central part of the vocabulary of our time and integrally related to so many powerful social and economic forces – creative industries, popular culture, the digital transformation of society. Design is often misunderstood or overlooked and it’s universal vocabulary and pervasive nature is not widely understood, especially by government. In a rapidly changing world, there is a constant tussle between the local and the national (not to mention the international). This all comes together in the vision for the future that is Design Canberra, a celebration of all things design, with preparations well underway for a month long festival this year. The ultimate vision of Craft ACT for Canberra is to add another major annual event to Floriade, Enlighten and the Multicultural Festival, filling a gap between them and complementing them all’, Designs on the future – how Australia’s designed city has global plans.

Design Canberra: clever and clean – the knowledge economy of the future 23 Aug 2016
‘Increasingly the new industries in the knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape are both clever and clean. Where the creative industries differ completely from other knowledge economy sectors is that, because they are based on content, they draw on, intersect with and contribute to Australia’s national and local culture and are a central part of projecting Australia’s story to ourselves and to the world’, Design Canberra: clever and clean – the knowledge economy of the future.

Design Canberra: culture in the backyard – the thread of design connects arts, culture and creative industries 23 Aug 2016
‘When I worked in Canberra on national arts and culture programs and policy I had little to do with Canberra itself. Since leaving the Australian Government Ministry for the Arts, I have found myself much more engaged with local arts and culture in Canberra. Looking back, it shows how design flows through so much of the arts and culture sector. It is illuminating to see how this thread connects Design Canberra with work I was party to over more than a decade, within museums and other cultural institutions, government departments and creative industries’, Design Canberra: culture in the backyard – the thread of design connects arts, culture and creative industries.

Design Canberra: a whole world out there – building global connection through the UNESCO Creative Cities Network 23 Aug 2016
‘The UNESCO Creative Cities Network was created to promote cooperation between cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development. The 116 cities which currently make up this network work together towards the common objective of placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level. Through sharing knowledge around the world, it would cultivate innovation through the exchange of know-how, experiences and best practices. As a result it would promote diverse cultural products in national and international markets and create new opportunities for cooperation and partnership with other cities’, Design Canberra: a whole world out there – building global connection through the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Creativity at work – economic engine for our cities 21 Apr 2016
‘It is becoming abundantly clear that in our contemporary world two critical things will help shape the way we make a living – and our economy overall. The first is the central role of cities in generating wealth. The second is the knowledge economy of the future and, more particularly, the creative industries that sit at its heart. In Sydney, Australia’s largest city, both of these come together in a scattering of evolving creative clusters – concentrations of creative individuals and small businesses, clumped together in geographic proximity. This development is part of a national and world-wide trend which has profound implications’, Creativity at work – economic engine for our cities.

The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival 17 Mar 2016
‘Across Australia, local communities facing major economic and social challenges have become interested in the joint potential of regional arts and local creative industries to contribute to or often lead regional revival. This has paralleled the increasing importance of our major cities as economic hubs and centres of innovation’, The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival.


Design for policy innovation – from the world of design to designing the world 5 Dec 2015

‘Design and the language of design is very broad – much broader than architecture or industrial or graphic design – the forms we are most conscious of. Design is also very much about processes and the development of concepts across almost all areas of human activity. This means it also has a high relevance to the development of policy to solve pressing social challenges, moving beyond the world of design to embrace the design of the world. In a highlight of DESIGN Canberra this year, respected Dutch presenter Ingrid Van der Wacht led discussion about the relevance of design to innovative policy – from local, highly specific policy to grand strategic policy designed to change whole regions and even nations’, Design for policy innovation – from the world of design to designing the world.

The clever business of creativity: the experience of supporting Australia’s industries of the future 21 Oct 2015
‘The swan song of the Creative Industries Innovation Centre, ‘Creative Business in Australia’, outlines the experience of five years supporting Australia’s creative industries. Case studies and wide-ranging analysis explain the critical importance of these industries to Australia’s future. The knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape, is both clever and clean. Where the creative industries differ completely from other knowledge economy sectors is that, because they are based on content, they draw on, intersect with and contribute to Australia’s national and local culture’, The clever business of creativity: the experience of supporting Australia’s industries of the future.

My nephew just got a job with Weta – the long road of the interconnected world 18 Jul 2015
‘My nephew just got a job in Wellington New Zealand with Weta Digital, which makes the digital effects for Peter Jackson’s epics. Expertise, specialist skills and industry pockets can occur just about anywhere, as long as you have connectivity, talent and a framework of support that makes it possible. This is part of the new knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape. Increasingly the industries of the future are both clever and clean. At their heart are the developing creative industries which are based on the power of creativity and are a critical part of Australia’s future – innovative, in most cases centred on small business and closely linked to the profile of Australia as a clever country, both domestically and internationally. This is transforming the political landscape of Australia, challenging old political franchises and upping the stakes in the offerings department’, My nephew just got a job with Weta – the long road of the interconnected world.

Creative industries critical to vitality of Australian culture 9 Oct 2014
‘The developing creative industries are a critical part of Australia’s future – clean, innovative, at their core based on small business and closely linked to the profile of Australia as a clever country, both domestically and internationally.’ Creative industries critical to vitality of Australian culture.

Applied creativity 17 Jul 2011
‘I have been dealing with the issue of creativity for as long as I can remember. Recently, I have had to deal with a new concept—innovation. All too often, creativity is confused with innovation. A number of writers about innovation have made the point that innovation and creativity are different. In their view, innovation involves taking a creative idea and commercialising it. If we look more broadly, we see that innovation may not necessarily involve only commercialising ideas. Instead the core feature is application—innovation is applied creativity. Even ideas that may seem very radical can slip into the wider culture in unexpected ways’, Applied creativity.

Creative industries – applied arts and sciences 17 Jul 2011
‘The nineteenth century fascination with applied arts and sciences — the economic application of nature, arts and sciences — and the intersection of these diverse areas and their role in technological innovation are as relevant today for our creative industries. From the Garden Palace, home of Australia’s first international exhibition in 1879, to the Economic Gardens in Adelaide’s Botanic Gardens these collections and exhibitions lay the basis for modern Australian industry. The vast Garden Palace building in the Sydney Botanic Gardens was the Australian version of the great Victorian-era industrial expositions, where, in huge palaces of glass, steel and timber, industry, invention, science, the arts and nature all intersected and overlapped. Despite burning to the ground, it went on to become the inspiration for what eventually became the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences — the Powerhouse Museum’, Creative Industries.

Chair 22 May 2011

‘On a recent trip to Adelaide I did some of the interesting things that tourists do. One of these activities was a piece of ongoing detective work. l have some Scandinavian-style lounge chairs, curved ply and leather which were purchased years ago. The designer was a German who came out to Australia after the war, but no-one could remember his name. I visited the Immigration Museum to find out who he was when I was last in Melbourne because someone had seen the chairs there, but there was no longer any sign of the chairs or word of the designer’, Chair.

7. FIRST NATIONS CULTURE (15)

Always was, always will be – a welcome long view in NAIDOC week 11 Nov 2020

‘Being involved with Australian culture means being involved in one way or another with First Nations arts, culture and languages – it’s such a central and dynamic part of the cultural landscape. First Nations culture has significance for First Nations communities, but it also has powerful implications for Australian culture generally. NAIDOC Week is a central part of that cultural landscape’, Always was, always will be – a welcome long view in NAIDOC week.
 
Growing up across many worlds – the daily life of ‘In My Blood it Runs’ 26 Feb 2020

‘An important new film about Dujuan, a young Aboriginal boy living in Alice Springs in the centre of Australia, is both engaging and challenging, raising major issues about growing up Aboriginal in modern Australia. ‘In my blood it runs’ is a film for our troubled times, that tackles the challenges of a culturally divided country, but also finds the hope that this cultural diversity can offer us all for our overlapping futures’, Growing up across many worlds – the daily life of ‘In My Blood it Runs’.
 

Songlines – an ancient culture for a contemporary world 6 Mar 2018

‘What interests me in exhibitions about Aboriginal Australia is what they mean for Australians generally, even if most Australians won’t ever see them. After a mere 220 years, in many ways we are still only part way through making our home here. We haven’t yet figured out how to navigate this land properly. When I was at school we learned about so many doomed explorers misinterpreting the country, unable to find their way. Burke and Wills were the perfect examples, undone because they were unable to learn simple lessons offered by the local people on how to make edible the vast supplies of food surrounding them. They starved to death in a field of plenty. It made me realise that we can gain a much richer grasp of Australia through recognising that First Nations culture and heritage is part and parcel of our own Australian heritage’, Songlines – an ancient culture for a contemporary world.

History all around us – the long term practical impact of cultural research 14 Jun 2017
‘Cultural research has long term impacts in terms of our developing body of knowledge which stretch far into the future. Researchers are finding stories in our major cultural collections that were never envisaged by those originally assembling them – a process that will continue long into the future. The collections of our major cultural institutions are becoming increasingly accessible to the very people the collections are drawn from and reflect. In the process they are generating greater understanding about some of the major contemporary issues we face’, History all around us – the long term practical impact of cultural research.

The language of success ­– recognising a great unsung community movement 1 Mar 2016

‘What is especially significant about the Prime Minister, in his Closing the Gap address, recognising the importance of Indigenous languages is that this is the first time a Liberal leader has expressed such views. It’s exciting because for progress to be made it is essential that there is a jointly agreed position. This moment arises from the tireless work over many decades of hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language revivalists – surely one of the great positive unsung community movements in Australian history. By their hard work they have managed to change the profile of Indigenous languages in Australia. Unfortunately the address reinforced the tendency of government to overlook the success stories that are already happening in local communities and look for big institutional solutions. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be a missed opportunity’, The language of success – recognising a great unsung community movement.

Unfinished histories – encountering ‘Encounters’ 29 Mar 2016
‘A single exhibition can sum up many things. By bringing together so many histories, stories and objects – particularly long-absent ones from the British Museum – the ‘Encounters’ exhibition at the National Museum presented a snapshot of the ongoing living history of Australia. Many strands ran through it, reflecting the complexity of the realities it tried to express. By successfully reflecting on the pressing issues it raised we have some hope of getting beyond the vision of the Great South Land of 18th and 19th Century ambition towards a truly great nation of the 21st Century’, Unfinished histories – encountering ‘Encounters’.

Literature and languages – inaugural Indigenous literary festival sign of things to come 20 Feb 2016
‘The inaugural Victorian Indigenous literary festival Blak & Bright in February 2016 was a a very important event for Australian cultural life. It aimed to promote and celebrate a diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices. It raised important questions about how the movement to revive and maintain Indigenous languages – surely one of the great positive unsung community movements in Australian history – is related to ‘Australian literature’. Australian culture as a whole is also inconceivable without the central role of Indigenous culture – how would Australian literature look seen in the same light?’, Literature and languages – inaugural Indigenous literary festival sign of things to come.

When universes collide – ‘Encounters’ exhibition at National Museum of Australia 11 Dec 2015
‘The Encounters exhibition at the National Museum of Australia, a once in a lifetime event, makes you realise that astoundingly all this earth-shattering history happened only a few generations ago, so much so that descendants of the Gweagal, those first people Cook encountered, still talk about that encounter in 1770 as though it was yesterday. Despite the continuing concerns about the vast holdings of mostly looted cultural artefacts, the return of these objects, however briefly, will serve to emphasise how recently the British came to Australia, how much more we need to do to be fully at home in this country and how much part of a living, contemporary tradition Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are’, When universes collide – Encounters exhibition at National Museum of Australia.

The Magna Carta – still a work in progress 4 May 2015
‘You don’t have to be part of ‘Indigenous affairs’ in Australia to find yourself involved. You can’t even begin to think of being part of support for Australian arts and culture without encountering and interacting with Indigenous culture and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and individuals who make it and live it.’ The Magna Carta – still a work in progress.

Black diggers – telling war stories 29 Mar 2015
‘If you are convinced you have heard all of Australia’s great stories, think again. If you consider you know something about Indigenous Australia you probably need to start from scratch. Black Diggers, “the untold story of WW1’s black diggers remembered” is a great Australian story. Why over a thousand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians left their communities in remote Australia or our regional cities or the big state capitals to travel overseas to fight and die in the European trenches far from home is part of a larger Australian story. Why they would bother when they were not even recognised as Australian citizens in their own land is a story all their own – but a story relevant to every Australian’, Black diggers – telling war stories.

Death by a thousand cuts what is happening to the Indigenous cultural programs of the Australian Government? 3 Dec 2014
‘The Indigenous cultural programs of the Australian Government play a critical role in support for both Indigenous communities and for a diverse and dynamic Australian culture – what is happening to them?’ Death by a thousand cuts – what is happening to the Indigenous culture programs of the Australian Government?

The gap in Closing the Gap 14 Nov 2014

‘Experience of many years of the Indigenous culture programs shows that involvement in arts and cultural activity often has powerful flow on social and economic effects.’ The gap in Closing the Gap.


The hidden universe of Australia’s own languages 15 Jul 2014

‘I’ve travelled around much of Australia, by foot, by plane, by train and by bus, but mostly by car. As I travelled across all those kilometres and many decades, I never realised that, without ever knowing, I would be silently crossing from one country into another, while underneath the surface of the landscape flashing past, languages were changing like the colour and shape of the grasses or the trees. The parallel universe of Indigenous languages is unfortunately an unexpected world little-known to most Australians.’ The hidden universe of Australia’s own languages.

Real jobs in an unreal world 16 Apr 2014
‘Subsidised Indigenous arts and cultural jobs are real jobs with career paths that deliver genuine skills and employment capability.’ Real jobs in an unreal world.

Like a long-lost masterpiece 26 Mar 2011
‘Many decades ago when I was much younger and a student I used to march in National Aboriginal Day Observance Committee marches. They were shorthanded to NADOC marches, back in the days when Islanders hadn’t yet been included and there was no ‘I’ in the name. I realised a while back that I must have been marching under the new Aboriginal flag at its birth. I had a poster from those years which I used to cart around with me from city to city until one day when I was about to move yet again I decided to donate it to the National Library of Australia’, Like a long-lost masterpiece.

8. CULTURAL DIVERSITY (4)

Building a life while building a nation – the Jennings Germans 22 Feb 2020

‘In the great nation-building effort after World War 2, much of the Australia we know today was established – including the features of it we most admire. Waves of immigrants who came to Australia seeking a new life after a war that devastated Europe were central to this achievement. While this might have occurred almost 70 years ago in a previous century, it holds many insights for us today as we attempt to make Australia a modern, forward-looking country that can thrive in the contemporary world. An exhibition in Canberra looks at part of this history – the Jennings Germans – and illuminates our future’, Building a life while building a nation – the Jennings Germans.
 

Why cultural diversity is central to Australia’s future promise – a refocused Labor arts policy? 12 Apr 2017
‘Can Australia successfully navigate the treacherous and confusing times in which we live? Understanding the crucial importance of our cultural diversity to our cultural, social and economic future will be essential. Applying that in the policies and practices that shape our future at all levels across Australia can ensure we have a bright, productive and interesting 21st Century. An important part of this are the political parties, major and minor, that are increasingly negotiating the compromises that shape our world. The recent launch by the Labor Party of a new group, Labor for the Arts, could be an important development. Combining as it does a focus from an earlier time on both arts and multiculturalism, it could potentially open the way for some innovative and forward-thinking policy’, Understanding why cultural diversity is central to Australia’s future promise – a refocused Labor arts policy?

Greater than the sum of the parts: cultural funding and the power of diversity 29 Aug 2016
‘Cultural diversity underpins so much of value in Australia. It helps ensure innovation flourishes, because where cultures intersect, differing world-views come into contact and fixed ideas and old ways of doing things are challenged. This is essential to the new clever and clean industries in the knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape. The national Indigenous cultural programs play a critical role in support for both Indigenous communities and for a diverse and dynamic Australian culture. What is clear is that these programs have been affected by the range of cuts as part of the search for savings since the Coalition Government took office. Funding community organisations for services government would otherwise have to provide is a great way to get things on the cheap. If you don’t fund them at all, it’s even cheaper’, Greater than the sum of the parts: cultural funding and the power of diversity.

Diversity underpins the innovation we desperately need 25 Feb 2016
‘I keep writing that cultural diversity is crucial to innovation because where cultures intersect, innovation happens. In a world where change is fast and widespread can anyone afford not to mobilise all they have going for them – to survive, let alone to succeed? Cultural diversity is a big part of that picture’, Diversity underpins the innovation we desperately need.

9. AUSTRALIAN SOCIETY (7)
Land of hope 13 Aug 2015
‘There were times in our past when Australia was seen as the great hope of the world – when it offered a vision of a new democratic life free from the failures of the past and the old world. It seems we have turned from our history, from the bright vision of the nineteenth century and the great nation-building vision of the period after World War 2, with its sense of optimism and fairness, towards something much more pinched and narrow – mean and weak-willed. For such an optimistic nation we seem to have developed a ‘half empty’ rather than ‘half full’ view of the glass – and the world. If we want to live in a land to be proud of, a fair country that truly inherits the best of Australia’s traditions, while consciously abandoning the less desirable ones, we need to change course – otherwise we will have to rebadge Australia not as the land of hope but instead as the land without hope’, Land of hope.

A navigator on a Lancaster bomber 5 Jun 2015
‘Sometimes I think Australia has lost its way. It’s like a ship that has sailed into the vast Pacific Ocean in search of gaudy treasure, glimpsed the beckoning coast of Asia and then lost its bearings, all its charts blown overboard in squalls and tempests. It seems to have turned from the great nation-building vision of the period after World War 2, with its sense of optimism and fairness, towards something much more pinched and narrow. It’s time to rediscover the Australian dream. We need a navigator – or perhaps many, one in every community – who can help us find our way, encourage us as we navigate from greed and complacency to a calmer shining ocean of generosity and optimism’, A navigator on a Lancaster bomber.

Valuing the intangible 11 May 2015
‘We are surrounded by intangible cultural heritage – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – and often it’s incredibly important to us but we can’t seem to understand why or put a name to its importance. So many issues of paramount importance to Australia and its future are linked to the broad cultural agenda of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). In particular they are central to one of UNESCO’s key treaties, the International Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage,’ Valuing the intangible.

The power of good policy – historical tax distortions waiting for a fix 25 Feb 2016
‘The heated response to the tax debate around negative gearing debate and capital gains tax shows that if political parties adopt a clear policy, in line with their core values and aligned with popular concerns, then get behind it and explain it, people will respond. For decades negative gearing has been distorting the shape of our cities, our suburbs and our communities. It is an inefficient way to achieve the desired result. These are historical tax distortions waiting for a fix’, The power of good policy – historical tax distortions waiting for a fix.

UnAmerican Activities Committee 25 Feb 2016
‘Reading reviews of the new film about the Hollywood screenwriter, Trumbo, I’ve been reminded of the legendary House UnAmerican Activities Committee, set up to hunt reds under the bed – especially screenwriters – in the US in the late 1940s and 50s. Only in America could I imagine something with such a bizarre name. What exactly were ‘unAmerican’ activities – did it include picking your nose in public or forgetting Mother’s Day?’, Unamerican Activities Committee.

How to run down an essential service – adventures in the crazy world of Centrelink 23 Feb 2016
‘Of late I have been developing a close one-on-many relationship with Centrelink as I fulfill my destiny of sorting out stuff for my elderly relatives. It reminds me of dealing with Australia Post over many years. Everyone at Australia Post used to bend over backwards to help you. The problem was that their systems were so bad that even their own staff couldn’t get them to work. This is what Centrelink is like. In the crazy world of failing public service systems that are being overtaken by reality, the only solution is a work around. The tick the box approach that is being fostered in the new deskilled public service can’t handle complexity. The test of any system – or policy, strategic plan, program – is how well it handles the unexpected, the unforeseen, reality. This looks like failure to me’, How to run down an essential service – adventures in the crazy world of Centrelink.

Nation-building – dam busters turned dam builders 5 Mar 2014
‘I have always seen the building of community culture as being about nation-building from the ground up – but a different kind of nation-building. It’s not so much about bridges, dams and buildings but about connections and skills and capabilities and social institutions that can make a country worth living in. It’s one that is inclusive of different cultures and different groups. It doesn’t pit one nation against another. It recognises that diversity and the positive interaction between cultures builds resilience and innovation, creativity and productivity’, Nation building.

10. CITIES AND REGIONS (21)

Out of sight, out of mind – building knowledge on sustaining the creative and cultural sector in regional and remote Australia 1 Aug 2020

‘Creative organisations and artists often collect information and research in order to report to funding bodies about how grant funding has been used. Apart from the need to report on funding or to make a case to government, or society in general, the creative and cultural sector also needs evidence and understanding for its own purposes. While government funding bodies might need the sort of information collected from funded organisations, the organisations need it far more – for their planning and to report to their Boards and their communities. They need it to know whether what they are doing is effective and worthwhile – or whether they should be doing something else.’ Out of sight, out of mind – building knowledge on sustaining the creative and cultural sector in regional and remote Australia.
 

Standing out in the crowd – a regional road tour of arts and culture 10 Jun 2018
‘A recent regional road tour through Victoria to South Australia showed how a focus on arts and culture is a pointer for how regional centres can take a path other than slow decline. It also showed how a small country on the edges of the mainstream can become a global design force by staying true to its language, locality and culture – the things that make it distinctive in a crowded, noisy marketplace dominated by big, cashed up players’, Standing out in the crowd – a regional road tour of arts and culture.

Regional Australia recognised as Bendigo named City of Culture 11 Jan 2018
‘It’s been apparent for some time that regional centres and smaller cities and towns can be interesting and creative places and that cities that have missed out on the benefits of globalisation in the era of neo-liberalism can be brought back by community action and imagination. It’s certainly not happening everywhere but it’s true of many lucky regional towns and cities and some suburban and outer suburban areas – witness Sydney, where it’s increasingly clear that the excitement never really stopped at the edges of the inner city. The regional rollout of interesting keeps on happening’, Regional Australia recognised with City of Culture listing for Bendigo and surrounds.

Year Zero without a roadmap – arts funding chaos set to be repeated as Government sells regions short 28 Apr 2017
‘The years of chaos produced by ad hoc changes to national arts funding, with no strategy or overall vision, seem set to be repeated. The Government’s ham-fisted attempt to turn back the clock on the national capital by transferring Government departments to regional centres seems like our own (thankfully, milder) version of Cambodia’s Year Zero. Though a response to a genuine problem, without an overall vision and a policy framework, it is unlikely to produce any real benefits and could inflict major damage on one of Australia’s greatest national assets. It seems strange when, in many areas, particularly arts and culture, the Government has for years been steadily transferring roles back to Canberra’, Year Zero without a roadmap – arts funding chaos set to be repeated as Government sells regions short.

The long hard road of regional revival – putting arts and culture through its paces 9 Mar 2016
‘I’ve always been interested in the broader effects of arts and culture – the ripples that spread out through a community and often change the future, sometimes subtly, sometimes in very drastic ways. You can see it really clearly in smaller communities, even though it happens in all communities, no matter what size. Unfortunately what’s often missing in all the analysis of economic and social problems in regional and remote communities is the importance of culture. Tenacious social problems flourish when morale is virtually non-existent – and morale depends on a positive sense of self and community. The long hard road of regional revival really puts arts and culture through its paces – but it delivers’, The long hard road of regional revival – putting arts and culture through its paces.

Getting wild out West – Western Sydney’s long unhappiness at arts funding neglect 30 Jun 2015
‘Western Sydney has long been unhappy with the tiny share of arts funding – both national and state – it receives. Across Australia there are many hundreds of small to medium arts and cultural organisations that play a pivotal role in supporting Australia’s cultural life. They need to be seen as every bit as important a part of Australia’s cultural infrastructure as the major performing arts companies or the major art galleries and museums. They are essential infrastructure for our arts and culture and they are the level of arts and cultural infrastructure closest to the very grassroots of our country – the Australians who vote, who get unhappy and who change governments. They rarely do it because of matters related to arts and culture but sometimes matters related to arts and culture, added to other concerns, can help tip things over the edge. More than a few of these organisations are based in the great mixed expanse of urban, suburban and outer-suburban Australia which is Western Sydney’, Getting wild out West – Western Sydney’s long unhappiness at arts funding neglect.

Big Australian cities – can’t live there, can’t give there 8 Nov 2015
‘In a strange turn of events, the very success of big Australian cities is likely to become a drag on the innovation they are noted for. Sydney and Melbourne are among the world’s most successful cities. Together they generate more than 40 per cent of Australia’s economic output. Yet the fact that four in every ten Australian live in them – and nearly two thirds of Australian live in one of the capital cities – is forcing up the price of housing and threatening the very diversity that fuels their innovation’, Big Australian cities – can’t live there, can’t give there.

Creating cities by reinventing them – ‘Creating Cities’ reviewed 26 Oct 2015
‘At first glance Marcus Westbury’s ‘Creating Cities’ book looks small, but it’s far bigger than it looks. The book is about re-energising cities by reinventing them but it’s starting point is a deep appreciation of the particular regional city of Newcastle. The revival of Newcastle is a reflection of the more general trend towards the revival of regional centres in Australia. Cities are crucial to the innovation and creativity that interaction and partnerships based on physical proximity can produce – whether major capital cities or regional cities. The efforts at revival all reflected the critical importance of cities. Each in its own way draws upon creativity and innovation and the cultural diversity which underpins it to create places which are pleasant and interesting to live in and to drive economic prosperity’, Creating cities by reinventing them – ‘Creating Cities’ reviewed.

Venue lockdown – a blunt instrument for a dire problem 25 Feb 2016
‘The issue of venue lockdown to deal with alcohol-fuelled assaults is becoming a major debate. Of course venue owners are concerned and their argument that the policy will affect the hospitality industry may well be valid – but that, by itself, is not enough. It comes down to how effective the approach is at addressing the problem and how badly the hospitality industry is affected. The question is how finely different kinds of venues are distinguished from each other in a strategy to reduce alcohol-related violence. Dealing with it was never going to be simple or easy. However, like all government policy, it’s all too easy to go for the one size fits all approach which might look good but not work’, Venue lockdown – a blunt instrument for a dire problem.

Look after pedestrians and the economy will look after itself 12 Apr 2015
‘Public transport is such a central element in a modern city. It has fundamental implications for how productive a city is, how culturally active and just how personally pleasant it is to live and work in’, Look after pedestrians and the economy will look after itself.

Travelling together through the city 12 Apr 2015
‘Public transport is such a central element in a modern city. It has fundamental implications for how productive a city is, how culturally active and just how personally pleasant it is to live and work in’, Travelling together through the city.

Our capital cities are growing and produce most of our income 10 Apr 2015
‘The city is a critical place for cultural life and for the diversity that propels it. It’s interesting to see the overwhelming significance of cities in an economic sense as well’, Our capital cities are growing and produce most of our income.

Sydney – Australia’s most valuable location but public transport its greatest weakness 10 Apr 2015
‘A massive weakness only too familiar to anyone who lives in or has lived in Sydney could derail the whole positive effect of economic growth within different mega regions inside Greater Sydney and hold back innovation and economic productivity. This has serious implications not just for Sydney or New South Wales but for the national economy. Cities have always been serious business but this just got a lot more so’, Sydney is Australia’s most valuable location but public transport is its greatest weakness.

The central importance of cities to the modern economy 13 Oct 2014
‘It is becoming increasingly clear how important cities are in the contemporary economy. Underpinning this is the absolutely central importance of the growth of the knowledge economy and the innovation, collaboration and interaction it depends on. This is a reality that politicians have to grasp if we are going to see good policies that benefit Australia over the next decades. Unfortunately I think that many are still operating with a view of the economy which was out of date at least a decade ago’, The central importance of cities to the modern economy.

Wormholes in space 31 Jul 2011
‘There has been a lot of speculation about the possible existence of ‘wormholes’ in space. Wormholes are kinks in space and time that can connect two distant parts of the galaxy almost instantly. I’m convinced that they exist and that there is one connecting Waverton on the Lower North Shore in Sydney and Burrawang in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales’, Wormholes in space.

Floating world 29 Jul 2013
‘Australia’s national capital is a strange floating world by a mountain lake. Reflecting the dream-like nature of the city, the lake is not a real one and the city is a compromise between warring states. It’s a large regional town on the roof of Australia that happens to be the capital city. As a result it has facilities and features not found elsewhere in Australia. The nation’s capital is a contradictory mix of a place to work—which just happens to run the country, or at least thinks it does—and a place to live. The two often do not coincide’, Floating world.

Looking down on birds 17 Jul 2011
‘For decades I lived with gardens, watering and weeding and inspecting the progress of plants. Since then I have been steadily relocating to ever more urban locations. Life as an apartment dweller is the culmination, perched high in the sky, looking down on birds up amongst the clouds. I navigate this ethereal world, adjusting the blinds as though I was trimming sails on a yacht, using the elusive breezes to cool down. You can walk in and shut the door and close yourself off from the world’, Looking down on birds.

High country 17 Jul 2011
‘When I moved to Canberra, I discovered that I had come back to the country where I grew up—the dry, high winter country in the shadow of the mountains. But I didn’t grow up in Canberra, but rather in the dry centre of Tasmania, where the Great Lakes and the mountains of the Western Tiers define the brittle, stony landscape. It’s as if there is a large mirror placed here, duplicating the other location, with the same images appearing again and again’, High country.

Pristine cities 17 Jul 2011
‘Visiting old German cities, the compelling thing that strikes you about them is the sense of how brand new and pristine they seem. Compare this to a city like Lyon, which is genuinely old and worn and dirty. In Germany, everything seems to have been bombed. After the war, in a vast miracle of recreation, after the rubble women had cleared the wreckage by hand, whole city blocks were built again from long-forgotten plans and drawings in a miracle of hyper-renovation’, Pristine cities.

A tourist in your own town – revisiting the familiar 22 May 2011
‘Those for whom a certain language is their second are often more acutely aware of the idiosyncrasies, foibles and strange delights of the language than are its native speakers. It is much the same with travelling physically. It is usually the inquisitive visitor who fulfills the function of tourist, directing locals to wonders and curiousities they drive past every day without a glance. The true gift is to be able to be a tourist in your own town – to see your everyday locality with fresh eyes every day’, A tourist in your own town.

Murrumbateman Field Days 22 May 2011
‘The other day I went to a Murrumbateman Field Day. I have to do things like this, because so many of my relatives now live on the land, and have a pressing need to buy heavy duty agricultural tools or baby goats or water tanks. All this is totally irrelevant to me practically speaking, but endlessly fascinating’, Murrumbateman Field Days.

11. GOVERNMENT (1)
Missing evidence
‘More than ever we need an evidence base for policy to ensure that resources are applied most effectively and government action reflects real long-term cultural, social and economic trends and dynamics. Unfortunately, at the same time, we are all too often seeing the very services needed for this to occur being drastically trimmed or redirected. It’s too often a case of not ‘spending a penny to save a pound’. Any diminution of the role of the ABS in collecting statistics about the arts and cultural sector is particularly worrying because the value of these statistics in the ability to compare them over a long period and identify crucial trends. It would be like flying the passenger jet of public policy with eyes closed, radar turned off and maps out of date’, Missing evidence.

12. INTERNATIONAL (2)
The Middle Kingdom 14 Jan 2016
‘When famed medieval Italian traveller and explorer Marco Polo first encountered China, the Cathay of legend, he saw it as a treasure house of exotic customs and riches. In many ways this is still an element in our own exploration of China. However China is not simply the exotic world of our shaky imagination. China is well on the way to becoming the Middle Kingdom of its traditional name. Australia has a long history of interaction with China. Many of the rich goldfield cities, like Bendigo and Ballarat, were built by Chinese labour and based on Chinese business. More recently, the Chinese in Australia are one of the largest components of the cultural diversity which fuels innovation and commerce in our major cities. For all its faults and political twists and turns I will continue to be fascinated by the Middle Kingdom and watch its inevitable rise with deep interest’, The Middle Kingdom

Ignoring the neighbours – why our backyard matters 29 Jan 2015

‘My trip to Tahiti last year reminded me of the large issues swirling around the Pacific and of how uneven the relationship between Australia and the region has been. It threw up lots of issues about how local cultures adapt to the globalised economy. Producing artwork and performances for the tourist market is problematical. Yet it’s also the fate of Australian culture generally. Is it swimming against the tide for all of us?’ Ignoring the neighbours – why our backyard matters.

13. CANBERRA (3)

Like Christmas and Easter, election time seems to arrive before it has even left 25 Feb 2016

‘Like Christmas and Easter, election time seems increasingly to come around almost before the preceding one has passed on. At a pre-election ACT arts forum contenders in local elections pitched their policies and plans. There was too much talk of infrastructure and public arts, not quite enough of local, regional and national (and international) synergies and nowhere near enough of the crucial role of operational funding and the importance of creative industries and the clever and clean knowledge economy of the future’, Like Christmas and Easter, election time seems to arrive before it has even left.

National and local – putting arts and culture upfront 29 Apr 2015
‘Arts and cultural policy is an important way out spelling out why and how arts and culture are important to both Australia as a whole and to specific states and regions. Developing arts and cultural policy for the ACT is unique because it is both the capital of the nation – hosting most of our national cultural institutions and a strong international diplomatic presence – and at the same time, an important regional centre’, National and local – putting arts and culture upfront.


In praise of the Berra 20 Aug 2014
‘When I first moved to Canberra, almost as an accidental intersection of geography and employment after the Sydney Olympics, I used to say “if you had lived in Sydney and one day you woke up and discovered you were in Canberra, you would think you had died.” Then I changed my mind. It took ten years but it was inevitable. Berrans are a hardy bunch – they can withstand the hot winds of summer and of Australia’s Parliament, the chill flurries from the Snowy Mountains and the chilling news of budget cuts. The Berra is half-way between everywhere’, In praise of the Berra.

14. POPULAR CULTURE (26)
Second language 13 Oct 2014
‘When I was single I used to say that what I was looking for in a partner included the ability to speak a second language – one other than the language of love. When I was young I admired the romantic languages, like Spanish, with their fluidity and soft sounds. As I became older I found myself drawn to the structure and logic of German. Having a second language is like a form of second sight – it enables insights into unfathomable truths and views of the universe otherwise not accessible’, Second language.

Predicting the weather 7 Aug 2013
‘I grew up in a world where there was a definite set of things you knew – and one of them was not what would happen with the weather. The other day I was talking to someone who must have grown up in the same period. We were chatting casually about the weather and she made a comment – quite seriously – that weather forecasts were usually wrong. Unfortunately she was thirty years out of date. What amazes me is that the weather forecasts are usually so right’, Predicting the weather.

Happily ever after – the bethrothal of royalty and popular culture 13 Jan 2013
‘Republicans can gnash their teeth but the reality is that royalty has managed to do the swift manoeuvering required to move it from antique and declining relic to funky pop culture icon. We can finally pretend they were harmless and charming all along, not founded on the basis of beheadings and torture chambers, murders and arranged marriages, at the end almost a benign presence – like a pandemic that has run its course. It’s true that fear of the guillotine certainly played an important role in inducing self reform – that’s not something to forget, survival is a strong instinct. No-one has to tell royalty that culture counts – and the more popular the better’, Happily ever after – the bethrothal of royalty and popular culture.

Meeting someone 17 Jul 2011
‘Is it any wonder that modern dating at times seems extreme and unusual (if not cruel as well). But is it really? In earlier centuries, it was not unusual for women to marry someone’s sword or for someone to receive a photograph or a painting to assess the merits of a potential partner. Shiploads travelled from Britain to fill a gap in marriageable young women. Advertising was not uncommon. It’s the age old problem of distribution. Take two people who could easily get on very well, but live in quite different countries on either sides of the world and think about how they would, under normal circumstances, ever get together. It’s hard enough to imagine when the people involved live in the same city, let alone on the same planet’, Meeting someone.

Half empty, half full 17 Jul 2011
‘I am beginning to think that the world is made up of two kinds of people. There are those who spend all their time stopping bad things from happening and there are those who are much more focused on making good things happen. These strike me as the same people for whom the cup is either half full or half empty, but that might be cruel. For myself, if asked whether the cup was half full or half empty, I’d have to ask: why wasn’t it completely full?’, Half empty, half full.

Too close to the television 17 Jul 2011
‘When I was growing up, we were constantly warned not to sit too close to the television screen. Now everyone I know spends their whole life sitting too close to a television screen. Electronic screens have become our second set of windows looking out on the world around us. Like all technology, it’s what you can do with them that counts. If there were no television programs, why would you watch television? Producing the stories, pictures and sounds that come to us through these screens is now one of the most important industries in Australia and worldwide, and fast becoming the industry of the future’, Too close to the television.

Senseless – cures for the common cold 17 Jul 2011
‘With the range of modern, life-threatening viruses around, there are plenty of diseases to be worried about in the first quarter of the twenty-first century. Despite all these extremely serious diseases, what worries me is something far more simple. What really worries me is the common cold. I want to know why it is common. If it was less common maybe I wouldn’t catch one so often. What about ‘the uncommon cold’ – why can’t I catch that, maybe every ten years or so?’, Senseless – cures for the common cold.

The safety of strangers 17 Jul 2011
‘I was reading a front page article in a newspaper recently. It mentioned with a sense of alarm that several people accused of murder were currently free in the community. I read more closely and was intrigued to find that every single one of the people mentioned had been charged with murdering someone they were close to – a friend, a relative or partner. They hadn’t suddenly seized upon some totally unknown stranger and murdered them out of the blue. It brought home to me a terrible truth that keeps being forgotten—the person most likely to murder you is someone you already know—and the closer to you they are, the more likely it is’, The safety of strangers.

Fat held up by salt 17 Jul 2011
‘Years ago, I was at a wedding reception when I looked down at a plate of antipasto and realised that it was essentially assorted forms of fat, held up by sugar and salt. I used to buy large quantities of these smallgoods—a name I could never understand because it was never clear what was small about them. It was enough to make someone embrace heart attacks and rapidly thinning arteries. I realised my arteries weren’t getting hard—they were getting really difficult’, Fat held up by salt.

The history of the future 17 Jul 2011
‘I find it interesting that many people who would claim they don’t read fiction, are avid readers of the popular magazines that appear from nowhere in newsagents, doctors surgeries and your mother’s latest emergency parcel. Popular magazines are the last great home of true fiction – if their stories aren’t true, then they should be’, The history of the future.

One-sided conversations 17 Jul 2011
‘Once, after a particularly virulent cold, I contracted pharyngitis (a bit like laryngitis) and found my voice straining and fading. My voice became fainter and fainter, until it was almost inaudible. You have to stop talking. The more you stop talking, the quicker you recover, the less you manage to stop talking, the longer you are without a functioning voice. The phone calls were the hardest. The face to face contact was difficult in its own peculiar way. I would have long one-sided conversations with strangers. They would talk and I would quickly write my half (perhaps a slightly smaller proportion) of the conversation in a spiral notebook I carried everywhere’, One-sided conversations.

The whole truth 17 Jul 2011
‘How often have you heard someone say that they don’t read fiction? What they don’t realise is that they read fiction every single day—everything is fiction. This is a world in which we are surrounded by the movie, the theme park and the whole virtual experience’, The whole truth.

Beaten by the clock 17 Jul 2011
‘Have you ever noticed how every electrical appliance nowadays has its own clock, hidden somewhere within it? I notice this every time the clocks have to be changed at the beginning—or end—of daylight saving time. Forget about the curtains fading, the chickens forgetting to lay or the kids going to school in the dark—most of us go to work in the dark and stay like that all day. The real terror of daylight saving is changing the clocks. As soon as it comes time to put the clocks back an hour or forward an hour, I face the huge task of resetting every clock I own. How can there be so many of them?’, Beaten by the clock.

Greatest hits 17 Jul 2011
‘I never again want to be told I am hearing the greatest hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s, or the 70s, 80s and 90s, or any other long gone time. It has been said that if you remember the 60s then you weren’t there. I think that if you were unfortunate enough to be there the first time, why should you have to go through it again?’, Greatest hits.

Studying philosophy – knowing tables exist 17 Jul 2011
‘I spent six years studying philosophy. I cannot imagine studying anything for six years anymore. At the time, I studied, I wrote essays, I left to join the workforce. I thought no more about it. Many years later, I was discussing some subject and I stopped for a moment and looked at how I was thinking. I realised that all the things I had learned had been absorbed. It is common to hear calls for a return to “basics”. There is no time for subjects that have no immediate practical value, like philosophy. But nothing is more basic than philosophy — like mathematics, it underpins everything’, Studying philosophy.

Through a glass, darkly 17 Jul 2011
‘I used to possess a pair of glasses with photochromatic lenses. Whenever the day was exceptionally bright (or, to tell the truth, even a bit bright), they would respond by becoming darker. I lived in Melbourne for much of the time, a location, which though one of my favourite cities, can be very grey. Years later, in Sydney, I took off my glasses. I was shocked to realise how dark they were – they were never totally clear. As soon as I could I replaced them and my whole world became a lighter place. I’ll never know whether all those years in Melbourne were constantly overcast and grey or whether it was just my glasses’, Through a glass, darkly.

Where change comes from 17 Jul 2011
‘It’s very pleasant belonging to a group, fitting in, being like everyone else, speaking the same language, liking the same things, having similar ways of viewing the world, doing things in the same old way. It’s very comfortable and reassuring. Unfortunately this can mean that nothing much useful happens—it can limit innovation, restrict new ideas and encourage complacency. Because of this, those who initiate, or even just welcome, change – often outsiders – are very important’, Where change comes from.

Exercising in the gym of happiness 17 Jul 2011
‘I was watching a program recently about scientific research into happiness. The approach of the program was all about technique — how to learn how to meditate in order to be happier than before. The trouble is that there was nothing about content – living a good life, valuing your relationships, helping others, being selfless. It was as though happiness consisted of no more than an exercise – learning to meditate quietly or breathe properly or do one hundred pushups on your knuckles in the endless gym of happiness’, Exercising in the gym of happiness.

Life on a movie set 17 Jul 2011
‘Walking through South Bank in Brisbane was a bit like when I some overseas cities, part of a massive theme park. In Paris and New York I felt every day that I was on a movie set. It was partly the iconic surroundings—streets, buildings, geography. But it was also the whole theatrical experience. The dramatic lighting everywhere used to maximise effect, the fact that I knew the names of the locations around me, from years of reading books and magazines, seeing films or hearing songs. Life doesn’t resemble art, it copies it, like two facing mirrors, reflecting backwards and forwards in an infinite regression’, Life on a movie set.

Lines of desire 17 Jul 2011
‘Lines of desire appear everywhere. They are the shortest distance between two points, the paths worn by people who do not want to follow the prescribed walkways of planners and architects and administrators, but instead make the path that suits them best. Good planning should be about matching actual lines with desire lines. The most appealing thing about desire lines is that they confirm the enduring tendency of humans to take the easiest route— something I find very satisfying—and they also confound those who think, despite all evidence to the contrary, that they know what is best for the rest of us’, Lines of desire.

Remembering Dresden 17 Jul 2011
‘The age we live in is one of small, short wars. It affects some of us in large ways, but most of us, hardly at all. This is a return to the norm, for the widespread horror of world war is unusual this century—at least, so far. During World War 2 one of my uncles was a navigator on the Lancaster bombers that fire-bombed Dresden. It’s hard to imagine how young they were, in strange countries, thousands of miles from home, seeing the world in ways they could never have expected – through bomb sights’, Remembering Dresden.

Irregular contact 22 May 2011
‘I find it curious that many people still look at the quirky world which has grown out of email, the internet and ubiquitous computers as something unusual. When new technologies are first introduced, it always seems to be the technically minded who are most interested and involved. However, as the technology becomes widely dispersed and part of the everyday—to the point of becoming invisible—then it’s those who maintain social connection who pick it up and make it their own. To find the perfect example of this we only have to look at the history of the telephone. It’s hard to imagine life without it—how else would dispersed families, friends and community and business colleagues ever keep up with each other? Lack of access to a phone is a true sign of poverty, because it restricts ability to communicate’, Irregular contact.

Eating on your own 22 May 2011
‘Eating on your own can be a strange and unusual activity. When I was younger, I found it very hard. I always felt that I was an oddity, sitting there without anyone to talk to. I quickly realised that at most tables of two even less conversation was underway than at my sparsely populated table. I am going to recommend to myself that I eat alone more often. That way I will get a good meal. an interesting conversation without too much disagreement, and a chance to get some serious thinking done without interruption’, Eating on your own.

Making a (small) difference 2 May 2010
‘Every year when I have to replace the registration sticker on my car I thank whoever dreamed up the peel-off sticker. Whoever brought in the new sticker could retire having done not one other good thing with their life and know that they had made a huge difference to the sum total of human happiness. It might not be up to the level of fixing Indigenous disadvantage or ensuring no child lives in poverty in our life time, but it was achievable, it did happen and there’s no going back’, Making a (small) difference.

Blowing up balloons 18 Apr 2010
‘I have a secret fascination with the ancient art of ballooning, a skill from the beginnings of flight, a moment where humans finally caught up with birds. This is despite the fact that I haven’t yet managed to face the moment where I hang underneath a large canvas bag full of nothing but hot air high above the landscape in a shallow wicker basket. With their ability to break free from gravity and escape into a lighter world of their own, balloons represent for me the same force that fights the gravitational pull of great cities, like a black hole that swallows everything, even light’, Blowing up balloons.

More silence 17 Apr 2010
‘In a recent survey by my gym I was asked if I would prefer more music or more video—I replied ‘more silence’. I can never work out the need to be surrounded by noise. It is definitely noise, not sound. If it was quality, interesting sound perhaps it would be more bearable, but it usually seems to consist of someone telling us in a loud voice why we should buy something we don’t seem to want at all, let alone need. Why I have to pay to listen to this loud advertising by virtue of belonging to a gym which costs me a fortune, I can’t work out’, More silence.

15. ABOUT MY BLOGS (5)
Beyond a joke – surviving troubled times 5 Nov 2020
‘We live in troubled times – but then can anyone ever say that they lived in times that weren’t troubled? For most of my life Australia has suffered mediocre politicians and politics – with the odd brief exceptions – and it seems our current times are no different. Australia has never really managed to realise its potential. As a nation it seems to be two different countries going in opposite directions – one into the future and the other into the past. It looks as though we’ll be mired in this latest stretch of mediocrity for some time and the only consolation will be creativity, gardening and humour’, Beyond a joke – surviving troubled times.  

See also – indefinite articles in a definite world 12 Jul 2017
‘If you are losing track of the articles I have published to my ‘indefinite article’ blog over the last few years, this is a summary of all 133 articles up until mid July 2017, broken down into categories for easy access. They range from the national cultural landscape to popular culture, from artists and arts organisations to cultural institutions, cultural policy and arts funding, creative industries, First Nations culture, cultural diversity, cities and regions, Australia society, government, Canberra and international issues – the whole range of contemporary Australian arts and culture’, See also – indefinite articles in a definite world.

The virtual world – research and commentary on Australian arts and culture 23 Mar 2016
‘When I first established my blog ‘indefinite article’, a couple of years back, it was because I wanted to research and comment on Australian arts and culture. This is my main blog and it’s the one that gets most views. It seems to have taken off. I’d always thought that, given the specialist subject matter – after all it’s not a popular culture blog like a cooking one – that it would grow steadily but no more, which all along is what I had wanted. The rate of growth has surprised me. Now, I’m starting to focus on the other blogs that have played second fiddle – about short humour, gardening and cooking and creative writing’, The virtual world – research and commentary on Australian arts and culture.

16. PARALLEL UNIVERSE (2)
‘indefinite article’ on Facebook – short arts updates and commentary
‘Short arts updates and irreverent cultural commentary about contemporary Australian society, popular culture, the creative economy and the digital and online world – life in the trenches and on the beaches of the information age’, ‘indefinite article’ on Facebook.

Updates on creativity and culture an email away 18 Aug 2021
‘After many decades working across the Australian cultural sector, I have been regularly posting to my suite of blogs about creativity and culture, ever since I first set them up over 10 years ago. You can follow any of the blogs through email updates, which are sent from time to time. If you don’t already follow my blogs and you want to take advantage of this service, you can simply add your email address to the blog page, and then confirm that you want to receive updates when you receive the follow up email. If you want to make sure you don’t miss any of my updates, simply select the blogs you are interested in and set up the update by adding your email’, Updates on creativity and culture an email away