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Thursday, 30 September 1993
Page: 1515

Senator CHILDS —My question is directed to the Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services. What is the importance of overseas experience and training to the development of Australia's leading young musicians? What is the federal government doing to enable young Australian musicians of excellence to obtain such experience?

Senator McMULLAN —I would ask the Senate to imagine what the circumstance would be if this situation had occurred recently: a young Australian woman goes to Austria and breaks a world record, goes to Paris and breaks another world record, then goes to Berlin and breaks another world record.

Senator Kemp —Paul Keating would have been at the airport to meet her.

Senator McMULLAN —There would be great publicity. It would be a very high profile event and there would be serious recognition. I suppose Senator Kemp would have lowered the level of that discussion as well, because he has an infinite capacity to lower the level of all debates he touches. The fact of the matter is simply this: in recent times a young Australian woman has been the first woman conductor of opera in Salzburg, in Paris and in Berlin. This is an outstanding achievement of which Australians are not aware.

  The young woman's name is Simone Young. I had the opportunity to meet her recently when she was conducting an opera in Berlin, which she did remarkably well. This is in fact an outstanding example of the sorts of unheralded achievements which Australians are making. Ms Young was the Young Australian of the Year in 1987 when she was working with the Australian Opera. She is an outstanding conductor.

  The important point is not merely to recognise the significance of her achievement, substantial as it is, but to realise that it would not have been possible for her and other outstanding young Australian musicians were it not for the sort of assistance that is provided, for example, by the Australia Council's international study grants. They have not only made some of the overseas study and activity which Simone Young has done possible; they have also offered invaluable experience to people such as Richard Tognetti, the leader of the Australian Chamber Orchestra whose work many people in this chamber have, I know, enjoyed over the years.

  This year the Performing Arts Board has approved a whole new series of grants to young percussionists, violinists and people not only in the classical music area but also in the area of jazz and other musical genres. It is important that we remain, as a government and as a nation, committed to fostering Australia's best young artistic talent, giving our young artists the opportunity to maximise their knowledge, their skills and their career prospects.

  These opportunities exist at home and we are doing a substantial amount—for example, by the extra assistance to the Australian Youth Orchestra—to help young Australian musicians develop this talent in Australia. But we do have to accept that, notwithstanding how much more we have been able to lift the level of arts training in Australia, particularly in music, it is still necessary—we are a country of only 17 million—if musicians are to rise to the international peak of their profession, for them to gain a spread of knowledge, educational experience and exposure which cannot be gained through study in any one institution in any one country.

  While I join with all those senators who would wish to congratulate Simone Young on her achievements, I think we would also wish to say that the initiatives over the last seven years by the former Music Board, and now the Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council which has assisted 149 young artists and musicians to further their studies overseas, have been a substantial contribution to the development of the talent of a lot of young Australians not only in a way that gives pleasure to a lot of other Australians but also in a way that has given a substantial boost to a very important industry that employs a lot of Australians.