Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Questions without Notice
Australia Council for the Arts: 50th Anniversary, National Gallery of Australia: 50th Anniversary
My question is to the Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator Fifield. Can the minister update the Senate on the significant anniversary being celebrated today by the Australia Council for the Arts and the National Gallery of Australia?
I thank Senator Duniam for his interest and commitment to the arts. Fifty years ago, on 1 November 1967, Prime Minister Harold Holt announced his government's intention to establish a national funding body for the arts and a national art gallery for Australia. The establishment of these institutions marked an important step in the development of arts policy in Australia. In announcing this pivotal step in Australia's arts policy, Prime Minister Holt said he wished to encourage those 'who have for so long given their time and energy to advancing our own distinctive cultural activities'. He also expressed an aspiration for the Australia Council for the Arts and the National Gallery to support Australian talent to 'rise to new heights and give our people a growing pleasure and satisfaction'.
The idea for a national gallery was proposed two years earlier, in 1965, by Prime Minister Menzies, when he announced the establishment of a committee of inquiry into a proposed national gallery of art. The inquiry report of the following year recommended the establishment of the Australian National Gallery as the statutory authority. The gallery's focus would be on Australian art, modern international art and works of art representing the cultural achievement of Australia's neighbours in South and East Asia and the Pacific Islands. The inquiry report also recommended the construction of a new building to house the gallery's collection, and construction on that building commenced in the seventies. The speech by Prime Minister Holt 50 years ago highlighted the Commonwealth's commitment to supporting art created by, and exhibited and performed for, Australians. It demonstrated a belief in the power of the arts to shape our uniquely Australian cultural identity. Today we honour his foresight and hard work, and acknowledge his tremendous legacy.
The Turnbull government, along with its predecessors, invests in a total of eight flagship national cultural institutions. In addition to the National Gallery, these institutions are the National Library of Australia, the National Museum of Australia, the Museum of Australian Democracy, the National Film and Sound Archive, the Australian National Maritime Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Bundanon Trust. In addition to the Australia Council, the arts portfolio now includes Screen Australia, the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, and seven elite national performing arts training organisations. These organisations are the Australian Ballet School, the Australian National Academy of Music, the National Institute of Dramatic Art, the National Institute of Circus Arts, NAISDA Dance College, the Flying Fruit Fly Circus and the Australian Youth Orchestra. The government also supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art centres and language centres across the country—in total, investing $698 million in the arts in 2017-18.
As many of the collecting institutions are quite rightly very well known, I'd like to highlight a few possibly lesser known examples that deliver on the vision of 50 years ago. In his speech in 1967, Prime Minister Holt outlined the focus of the National Gallery's collection as including the cultural achievements of Australia's neighbours in southern and eastern Asia and the Pacific islands. The National Library of Australia has created a world-class research collection on contemporary Indonesia and maintains an office in Jakarta. The cultural institutions have developed close links with neighbouring countries and are increasingly collaborating on significant exhibitions and providing expert advice on conservation and curation of national collections. It is important on an occasion such as this to acknowledge the contribution of both sides of politics to the arts, but, at this time, we pause to reflect on the legacy of former Prime Minister Holt.