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Speech at launch of Artsupport.

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Speech by Senator Rod Kemp - Minister for the Arts and Sport

Launch of Artsupport

Monday 1 September 2003

David Gonski; Jennifer Bott; Lady Primrose Potter; Suzanne Davies; Winsome McCaughey; Samantha Meers; Australia Council members; AbaF Directors and Councillors, Artsupport Directors Louise Walsh and Jane Haley, ladies and gentlemen.

I am pleased to be here today to mark the start of Artsupport Australia-the important new venture between the Australia Council and the Australia Business Arts Foundation.

That widely recognised and prolific writer, Anon, wrote that "Life, like a mirror, never gives back more than we put into it". It is hard to think of a better argument for cultural philanthropy.

It is sometimes remarked that Australia lacks the strong culture of philanthropy that one sees in, say, the United States.

It is a valid observation. And it isn't just that Australia has a mere 10 billionaires according to the BRW to America's 222 (Associated Press). As David Gonski pointed out recently, in 2000-2001 the average Australian taxpayer gave $210 to charity. In the same year the average American taxpayer gave $1000.

While almost 70 per cent of Australian adults make a gift of money to a government or non-profit organisation, in a recent 12-month period only 90 000 made a donation to an arts or cultural organisation. That's just 0.7 per cent of the adult population.

One thing is clear. If we want to encourage greater cultural philanthropy in Australia we need to develop Australian ways of doing so, rather than attempting to graft onto our society models that have evolved to serve a quite different society.

That's what makes Artsupport such an exciting development. It sends a message that is clearly Australian-you don't have to be a billionaire, or even a millionaire, to have a stake in the future of Australian culture.

Through the Workplace Giving Scheme, for example, you can be a bank clerk or a public servant and still be a proud patron of the arts. You can earn $30,000 a year or $300,000. You can give as little as $2 every payday-or as much as you like - and direct debit from your pay makes it so easy.

But let's not under-estimate the challenge here.

The Australia Business Arts Foundation has done a good job in recent years of alerting Australian business to the potential benefits of entering into partnerships with cultural organisations, as well as helping those cultural organisations put together professional, realistic business cases to put before potential corporate partners.

And the Government has introduced significant new tax incentives for philanthropy, allowing the establishment of private trusts for philanthropic purposes, enhancing the Cultural Gifts Program and introducing capital gains tax exemption for testamentary gifts.

And we are seeing important results from these measures. For example, the Cultural Gifts program, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, has resulted in the donation of cultural objects worth more than $290 million to public collecting institutions around the country.

Behind each of the donations are stories-personal stories of individual benefactors and their long-often lifelong-relationships with the museums, galleries and libraries to which they finally make their extraordinary gifts.

Building close relationships between ordinary Australians and the cultural sector is crucial if we are to develop a more robust spirit of cultural philanthropy in this country.

Artsupport is just one of many strategies that will combine to build in Australia a culture of support and recognition for our arts practitioners.

Experience around the world shows that the more knowledgable people are about an organisation, and the greater their sense that they have a personal relationship with that organisation, the more motivated they will be to support it financially.

That's why, initially, the emphasis of Artsupport Australia will be on encouraging individual relationships. This will be achieved by, on the one hand, raising public awareness of the important role individuals can play in supporting the arts, and on the other by helping the cultural sector bang its own drum a little more forcefully and a little more persuasively.

Encouraging cultural philanthropy is not about shifting the funding burden. There will always be a place for public funding of the arts and the Federal Government is committed to helping maintain a thriving arts sector.

But Governments cannot fund everything. We already know the importance of business sponsorship of the arts and the key role that foundations such as the Myer Foundation and the Ian Potter Foundation have played through the years. Now the goal is to increase support for the arts by individuals.

I congratulate the Australia Council and AbaF for the work that has gone into Artsupport Australia and I wish Louise Walsh and Jane Haley the best of luck as they take their message into Australian homes and workplaces.

Thank you for the opportunity to join you today.