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Victorian Arts Council, March 21st 1999\n

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The Hon Peter McGauran, MP

Minister for the Arts and the Centenary of Federation



Victorian Arts Council

March 21st 1999


Thank you David Madden.

It's a great honour to be here today to address this important conference.

I particularly welcome the theme of this year's conference - "Regional arts in Victoria - a fundamental shift".

The Victorian Arts Council has been a leading advocate of regional arts in Australia.

It has worked with regional communities for 30 years, through its 60 local arts councils throughout the State.

And now as we enter a new century there is much to celebrate.

Australia has developed a strong sense of cultural pride, and has a vibrant and dynamic arts sector.

Australian culture defines us as Australians - it belongs to all of us, and if it is to live and grow we all must have the opportunity to express our identity, to create artistic works of all kinds and to participate in cultural activities.

I am constantly amazed by the dedication, the focus and energy of community arts leaders throughout Victoria. People who work tirelessly to put on a local art show, to stage a play or to create a festival.

Regional arts - I believe - have found a new confidence, a strong belief that official culture doesn't start somewhere else.

In TV weather reports we are constantly told about there being rain or sun "elsewhere" - well in the arts "elsewhere" is no longer relevant; it's what is happening "here" in one's own community that counts.

Such confidence in the local landscape was apparent at the Mildura Wentworth Arts Festival which I briefly visited last week.

What made the festival unique and exciting was the very fact that it is regional.

It is offering fresh perspectives and is not trying to compete or emulate a city festival.

It offers an environment in which the arts can be appreciated in a different setting and where the performers have fresh audiences.

Above all else, it is great testament to the fact that regional Australia has a rich, dynamic, diverse and rapidly changing cultural landscape, which together we are seeking to encourage and develop even more.

Regional arts does not mean small dusty museums and "Dimboola" revivals.

The Federal Government is highly committed to regional and rural arts in Australia.

When we came to government we saw the need for an increased focus on the arts in regional Australia and therefore established the Regional Arts Fund.

The Fund has encouraged cooperation between Federal, State and Territory Governments to support the regional arts and develop important links with communities, local government and arts organisations.

This cooperation is vital to the future of regional arts.

This fund has supported many innovative arts activities throughout the country, and we are committed to its continuation.

During the last financial year, regional Victoria benefited from almost $1.4 million from the Regional Arts Fund - supporting projects across the State, including in Ballarat, Rushworth, Bendigo and Gippsland.

We believe every Australian

  • Irrespective of their postcode
  • Of whether they drive a tractor or a car
  • Whether they live near a theatre or a silo

Is entitled to experience and participate in the enjoyment and personal fulfilment which comes from exposure to the arts.

The Federal Government has a crucial role to play in ensuring regional Australia has access to the arts.

We especially do this through our touring programs - Playing Australia and Visions of Australia, and through Festivals Australia.

By assisting some of the best talent, motivation and artistry that Australia has to offer, we are able to ensure our highways and backroads can be major cultural arteries of the nation, sending some of the most exciting performing shows and exhibitions all over Australia.

The Australia Council has also funded many programs which assist the regional arts,

Such as the Australia Council Community Cultural Development Fund.

The Fund enables communities to advance their artistic and social aspirations by working closely with professional artists.

Especially encouraged are those Australians whose opportunities are limited because of geographical, social or economic factors.

Communities are assisted to maintain or reclaim their culture, to address issues that concern them, and to create contemporary works that reflect their own cultural life.

These people are creating, directing and managing projects - such as the recent project which saw people with disabilities develop and perform a multilingual, multi-artform operatic work.

The Australia Council has also published a number of significant publications which have become important resources for local communities.

I was really impressed with the great yarn event which demonstrates the enormous range of arts activities being undertaken across the country. I was pleased to see some of Victoria's regional festivals highlighted - like Mallacoota's Festival of the Southern Ocean and the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz.

The Australia Council recently published Miles Ahead which is the first-ever publication to tell the story of effective and innovative arts marketing in regional Australia.

Providing regional and remote Australians with access to information resources and information networks is a priority for us and an important aspect of our regional arts strategy.

Initiatives such as Australia's Cultural Network, Australian Museums On Line and Artsinfo provide access to national collections, funding opportunities and industry development options simply and quickly.

And we are finding increasingly that people unable to visit exhibitions, collections and performances because of distance are visiting ACN and other Internet sites to gain access to the riches of Australian culture.

Regional Australia also needs the infrastructure to be able to house collections, exhibitions and performances.

The Coalition has used the opportunity provided by the upcoming Centenary of Australia's Federation and the $1 billion Federation Fund to go some way to addressing the demand for improved and/or new cultural facilities in regional Australia. For example:

  • $12 million provided for upgrading 16 regional art galleries in regional Victoria;
  • $2.3 million provided for an additional gallery space to display the Namatjira collection and some important early Papunya works at the Araluen Centre in Alice Springs;
  • $2 million towards a new cultural centre in Maryborough, Queensland; and
  • $1.5 million for a new amphitheatre in Wagga Wagga.

The Federation Cultural and Heritage Projects program is funding 11 projects in Victoria totalling $15.6m. Some examples are: a cultural and heritage centre as part of the Beechworth heritage precinct; an interactive museum in Bendigo commemorating Sir John Quick and the upgrade of the National Wool Museum in Geelong.

But the most important work is being done and always will be done on the ground.

All across Australia, in hundreds of regional, rural and remote communities, practitioners and arts leaders are making it happen.

Ensuring the arts in rural Australia continue to grow.

The question for all of us now is: where do we go from here?

Clearly there is a need to consolidate achievements to date - to build on this position of strength by creating and sustaining opportunities for culture within communities.

The way to achieve this is twofold - through support for local creativity and touring talented artists and exhibitions

Regional arts are not just about people in regional areas getting access to national touring productions.

It's equally about their chance to be recognised as important art-makers and performers, and to send their work into urban environments, often with Federal Government support.

For its part, the Federal Government will build on its record of providing support and encouragement to artists to attain excellence and enable all Australians to access and enjoy our rich cultural life.

The government will keep talking with you all to ensure that policy continues to promote viability, creativity and access to a vibrant cultural life in regional communities.

With ongoing support from the government, regional communities will have a greater opportunity to enjoy the very best of Australia's touring cultural exhibitions and performances, as well as generating their own cultural activity which reflects and invigorates local and regional culture.

The future of regional arts requires vision. To build on the investment, infrastructure, cooperation and access to information networks.

With these elements we will be able to provide all Australians with the opportunity to have a rich cultural life.

Thank you



jy  1999-08-27  13:44