House debates

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


Newcastle Electorate: Community Arts

7:28 pm

Photo of Sharon GriersonSharon Grierson (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The City of Newcastle has always had a diverse and rich cultural scene thanks to the effort of many committed individuals and organisations. Earlier this month Simon Crean, the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development, Local Government and the Minister for the Arts, visited Newcastle and took the time to host with me a roundtable of local participants in community arts and cultural organisations.

This roundtable included Marni Jackson, the General Manager of Renew Newcastle; Allison Hammett, the Chair of the Octapod Association; Toni Main, the Artistic Director of Tantrum Theatre; Claire Williams of Newcastle Theatre Company; Savitri Naidoo from Chakras Performing Arts; Conjoint Professor Dr Allan Chawner from the University of Newcastle; Barbara Greentree from Newcastle Studio Potters; David Le Marchant from the Lock Up Cultural Centre; Debbie Abraham, the Chair of Regional and Public Galleries New South Wales; Dr Ian Cook from the Conservatorium of Music; Katherine Gillet from the Hunter Writers Centre; and Capree Gaul an advocate for youth orchestras.

Together they painted a vibrant picture of the arts fabric of Newcastle but they also spoke of the need to sufficiently fund human and physical infrastructure to underpin and sustain arts activities which are, of course, more challenging in regional cities. Since that time, Minister Crean has released the national cultural policy discussion paper, and I look forward to him receiving further advice from the arts community of Newcastle. A very dear and important part of the Newcastle cultural community till her death last month was Margaret Olley and I take this opportunity to acknowledge her talent, her generosity, her individuality and her long association with Newcastle. It is an association that grew from her friendship with well-known gallery owner Anne von Bertouch, beginning in 1964. Margaret Olley painted a number of famous paintings of Newcastle from her iconic Church Street residence. She grew in love with the city’s then iconic industrial atmosphere, picturesque working harbour, unique architecture and stunning natural beauty. She was famous for sketching or painting the view from her home on the hill, which provided unparalleled views of the juxtaposition of Newcastle’s heavy industry, architectural heritage and natural beauty. Of course, Newcastle has changed enormously since Margaret first visited in 1964. Whilst its skyline is no longer dominated by the smouldering blast furnaces of BHP, the unique creative energy that Margaret cherished continues to this day. Margaret said:

The marvellous thing is, I miss all that smog and that sort of humming in the night that used to be part of Newcastle. It was like the heartbeat of Newcastle.

Well, we will miss Margaret. She was a great and generous friend to the Newcastle gallery and the people of Newcastle. Her earthiness had special synergy with our city.

Another talented artist and teacher in my electorate, Carol Carter, was recognised this week with a Premier’s Teacher Scholarship, one of only 31 awarded in New South Wales. This is due recognition of Carol’s significant contribution to education and the arts. Carol received the Premier’s contemporary art scholarship and will go to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong in April and May next year. She will be there for five weeks to research the way that Chinese contemporary artists use a range of photomedia in new ways. Carol will use this trip to document Chinese practices so that she can develop materials to be used in local schools. This is a wonderful opportunity for a well-deserved, enriched learning experience—one that will broaden the cultural understandings and opportunities for teachers and students in Newcastle. We take great pride in Carol's achievements.

Sadly, I would like to take the time to acknowledge the wonderful work of ABC journalist Paul Lockyer, pilot Gary Ticehurst and cameraman John Bean, who died when their chopper crashed near Lake Eyre last Thursday, 18 August. I express my deep regret and condolences to their loved ones and friends. In their craft and through their unique approach they also gave expression to the Australian landscape and the human experience. They were artists of very special talent. They will be sorely missed. Our cultural fabric is an important element of our identity and our purpose. When it is strong, it strengthens the civil society that the people of this nation deserve. I applaud generally all those Australians enriching our cultural experience and heritage.