Ideas for a brighter future for all

Advice to the 46th Parliament: Arts and Culture

Congratulations. By being elected to the 46th Parliament – you’ve reached one of the pinnacles of democratic participation in this country. You’ll have to think about a lot of legislation, most will relate to three key pillars of our society Law and institutions; people and land; and resources.

I want to make a plea for the fourth pillar but one that helps the others remain strong that is culture. Culture is key to ensuring that all Australians are able to actively participate in a lively democracy. Where freedom of speech and the media is valued, information is readily available, and competing ideas are respectfully explored.

Supporting culture will mean we can better hear our stories, learn our history, create and participate. In the age of Facebook Google Netflix and Amazon this is more important than ever.

Over the term of this Parliament we will need new laws to make sure that we continue to hear and enjoy our distinctive voice. Too often culture is reduced to a simplistic jingoistic slogan or talked about as though it were a battleground. Where people with different points of view are at war with each other. Culture is much more than this. It’s the diverse heritage we celebrate, including the oldest living indigenous cultures on the planet. The stories we share, the art, music books, and performances we enjoy. And those that provoke us to see things differently. The language, indeed language we speak, the exceptional creative talent we celebrate, and the many layers of identity that define us and ensure we are able to live fulfilled and interesting lives.

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"Supporting culture will mean we can better hear our stories, learn our history, create and participate. In the age of Facebook Google Netflix and Amazon this is more important than ever."

Having just come through the election process you know how rich and diverse this is and how important the cultural values of ‘a fair go’, freedom of speech, respect, tolerance and opportunity are to Australians.

We all accept that our institutions land and people need to be nurtured and made more resilient. But sometimes we tend to think that culture will just look after itself. It won’t. And this is where you come in.

By comparison with Defense, Social Welfare and Health and the other big budget areas, culture doesn’t cost a lot but it is not free and it’s not something that the market alone can take care of. To grow and reach its full potential it needs attention and support. Its value is measurable and tangible. We can calculate this with data and economics but also in terms of social cohesion and belonging. In how citizens can thrive if they are better able to make sense of the changing world in which we live by having access to information and art. In this digital age we need to find new ways to make sure that our stories can still be heard, that our talented creatives are able to realise their full potential.

To make this possible, we need robust and well-funded national institutions, galleries, broadcasters, theaters and museums. We need book shops, libraries, and screens filled with the best works we can produce as well as the best from around the world. I encourage you to embrace new ways to support the cultural pillar, so our stories from the dreaming to the most contemporary can be shared.

In the heat of the election campaign you heard people telling stories and sharing their experiences. No doubt some touched you and made you think. By making the creation of an even richer, more open culture a priority, you can help create a legacy that will outlast even the 46th Parliament.

That is my challenge to you.


Julianne Schultz AM FAHA is the publisher and founding editor of Griffith Review and Professor of Media and Culture in the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University.

She is a non executive director of The Conversation and chairs its Editorial Advisory Board. She is an acclaimed author of several books, including Reviving the Fourth Estate and Steel City Blues, and the librettos to the award-winning operas Black River and Going Into Shadows.

Julianne became a Member of the Order of Australia for services to journalism and the community in 2009 and an honorary fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities the following year. She is a thought leader on media and culture and an accomplished public speaker and facilitator. She has served on the board of directors of the ABC, Grattan Institute and Copyright Agency, and chaired the Australian Film TV and Radio School, Queensland Design Council and National Cultural Policy Reference Group. She is a member of advisory boards with a particular focus on education, journalism, arts and culture.

Follow Julianne on Twitter


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