House debates

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Constituency Statements

Calwell Electorate: The Arts

10:22 am

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Artists have always had to fight to be recognised and funded, and this is especially so during times of economic downturn. Artists were seen as No. 1 in the top-five non-essential jobs in a recent newspaper poll conducted by The Sunday Times in the UK. Arts is seen by many as a luxury item, something when times are good and resources are plentiful. However, the arts and, more broadly, culture are intrinsic to what it means to be human. They are a part of our identity, our expression of who we are as individuals, as communities and as a nation.

Last week I took part in an online discussion with hundreds of visual artists through the NAVA, the National Association for the Visual Arts. They wanted advice on how to lobby for their causes. I encouraged them to insist on proper recognition and support for the fundamental work that artists do in building empowering communities.

The swallowing up of the arts within the recently created super Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications is highly regrettable. I wonder how the arts are going to get the recognition they need when they have to jostle for attention within this monolith of a department. In my view, instead of further diminishing the profile of arts policy, we need to be broadening our horizons and establishing a separate department of arts and culture. At this critical time, our cultural maturity should be at the forefront of our public policy. The pandemic has forced us, like all other nations, to consider our national identity and our place in the world. The growing demands to confront racism and inequality are matters that go to the heart of culture. Arts and cultural policy are crucial to genuine reconciliation, to multiculturalism, to human rights and to a truly inclusive society.

The arts live and breathe creativity everywhere in our nation and across our communities, and, in my own electorate, the Mesopotamia Visual Arts Society is made up of artists whose have migrated from Iraq and promotes art as a humanitarian message. For migrant communities, struggling with a new cultural environment and language they may not be fluent in, artistic expression is the lifeline of communication and connection.

The Indigenous Education Centre Kangan TAFE teaches Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students about the importance of maintaining the tradition of storytelling and identity through the visual arts, and the Craigieburn Art Group brings together a diverse range of local artists from different cultural backgrounds to exhibit together, to enjoy each other's friendship and encourage local school children in pursuing their creativity.

The City of Hume runs three magnificent local galleries, which provide quality exhibition spaces and host workshops for community members. Many artists share their experiences of local life, migration and settlement in a way that is often more powerful and direct than any other means of building community connection. This is why arts and culture are so important to the health and wellbeing of our nation, and why they should always be a priority for governments at all levels. (Time expired)