Wednesday, February 24, 2010

draft response to arts NSW discussion paper

NSW Aboriginal arts and cultural strategy
January 2010

read the discussion paper here

Question 1

What do you consider are successful examples of arts and cultural training and professional development opportunities that assist Aboriginal people in NSW to participate in:

Aboriginal arts and cultural activities?

NPWS cultural tourism and ethno botanical education projects, Australian Museum outreach project lightning ridge, CDEP Brewarrina, Mutual obligation projects for long term unemployed within arts sports and cultural facilities, Boomalli Aboriginal artists Co-operative

The wider arts and culture sector?

State records – in living memory

What do you consider are the barriers to successful arts and cultural training and professional development opportunities?

Lack of interest in supporting local councils and businesses that have ignored community member’s wishes and interests previously

Lack of understanding of the benefits and outcomes of supporting non Indigenous stakeholders through a long term project

No financial incentive to give local knowledge and intellectual property to non indigenous stakeholders

Profits from cultural projects do not go direct to community members who they are designed to benefit

Question 2

Are existing programs supported under arts NSW Arts funding program providing effective support for Aboriginal arts and culture? Which programs are most effective? Which programs are not effective?

Yes - Sydney has the capacity to provide great services to artists of national and international significance but the development of the local Aboriginal arts industry seems to be the sole responsibility of non indigenous owned commercial art galleries. A majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists do not attend higher education institutions and in reality a lot of people begin their art careers at Aboriginal education institutions such as Tranby or EORA College. There is statistical evidence that Aboriginal people who have applied for University and were unsuccessful in their application do not apply again – tertiary training that is culturally specific needs more improvement.

Question 3

What is needed to increase and strengthen Aboriginal arts and cultural infrastructure in your community and across NSW?

State funded and independently coordinated branding and promotion of Aboriginal cultural products in NSW.

There needs to be assistance for this because every time responsibility is handed to the private sector they ignore the importance of community protocol’s regarding the legitimacy of a particular design, symbol or intellectual property and outsource production it to a wholesaler who has no financial incentive in acknowledging Aboriginal intellectual property – this is shown in the lack of quality associated with boomerangs, textiles designs, licensing agreements for reproduction of Aboriginal artists work in a commercial context and tourism experiences that are not supported by the local community members from which these designs are supposed to represent.

Access to affordable Sydney based sales opportunities in non fine art/souvenir and tourism market is a crucial step for regional based artists to apply the skills learned in business administration and trades/arts based production in items including artefact production in woodwork, fibres for paper based products, textile design, licensing of graphic design for commercial reproduction.

Sales of commercial products such as crafts, food products, fashion and jewellery under distinctive regionally based branding is not an easy objective for a regionally based community to undertake on its own and the administration of the branding and promotion of the products should be regulated by an independently accountable decision making process. These products should be underlined by a tertiary education program that explores legitimate and cultural protocol specific for all of the Aboriginal language regions in NSW.

The implementation of the Indigenous Australian Art Commercial Code of Conduct should be a perfect opportunity to create a best practice business administration template in relation to the production and sale of arts and craft products in NSW that can be administered by non arts based indigenous organizations such as TAFE, Community Cultural centres, keeping places, NPWS information centres, Schools and Aboriginal Land Councils.

Creating product for wholesale markets and distribution is not suited to every individual artist and the main risk would be in setting up a remittance system that is acceptable to the participating artists but also risk adverse for the merchants who sell the products. Authenticity labels in NSW did not work because they were easily forged and not independently verified by a publicly accountable organization.

Question 4

How can we increase the profile of NSW Aboriginal arts and culture?

Centralised organisation of branding, licensing agreements, contact information for community representatives, event booking and commissioning of artists etc, compliance with the IAACCC and an independent ombudsman approach to the helping individuals and community groups to develop goods and services.

Regional arts production in New South Wales is disconnected from the Sydney commercial art gallery system and the tourism souvenir and trade market and long term strategies need to be implemented to create connections between the production of an authentic and significant expression of the Aboriginal culture of regional New South Wales and the expectations of a vibrant and audience driven exhibition program of Sydney’s long term tourism strategies.

This should take into account the historical aspect of increasing awareness in regional New South Wales of the significant achievements of many generations of Aboriginal people in most regional towns and cities.

Respectfully and ethically acknowledging the history of Aboriginal dispossession in ways that allow Aboriginal and non Indigenous people to move forward on mutually agreed terms. The local knowledge and knowledge of traditional cultural practices are Indigenous knowledge’s that have to often been undervalued by nationally focused programming of state galleries and museums.

Television documentaries such as the first Australians have shown that there is an Aboriginal history to every town and city in New South Wales and that Aboriginal people have contributed far more to the history of the state than has been officially recognised.

Age and generation appropriate film/television and local content media production is crucial as there is a big difference between older generations of Aboriginal people and the younger generations of people in NSW. This generation gap is parallel to the City/country divide amongst most Aboriginal people and affects the confidence of individuals and the legitimacy of cultural participation in events for the wider community.

Question 5

What do you consider are successful examples of existing programs run by the NSW state cultural institutions to support Aboriginal arts and culture?

Developing opportunities in NSW needs to be a two way street between regional NSW and Sydney. The 14 regions of the regional arts NSW network are important for breaking down regional areas into which areas are performing well and which areas need attention.

What do you consider are the barriers to successful programs?

Access to affordable Sydney based sales opportunities is impossible for organisations that are not based in Sydney especially in the non fine art/souvenir and tourism market. This is a crucial step for regional based artists to apply the skills learned in business administration and trades/arts based production in items including artefact production in woodwork, fibres for paper based products, textile design, licensing of graphic design for commercial reproduction and media/digital arts production.

Question 6

What do you consider are successful examples of the work of existing peak bodies in advocating for the development of the Aboriginal arts and cultural sector in NSW?

NSW premier’s art prize has been the only state-wide survey of NSW Aboriginal art that has been legitimised by community participation.

NAIDOC week planning committee’s that are coordinated by local councils and producing substantial programming that is part of larger strategic planning activities associated with local councils community engagement strategies.

Community participation in the Repatriation of cultural artefacts and ancestral remains with support from the non Indigenous community through local council assistance.

TAFE education programs in tourism, business management, office administration, bookkeeping that incorporate on the job training with existing cultural institutions

The Deadly awards and practically any other award that acknowledges the hard work that community members contribute towards ensuring that the community supports the development of other community members.

What do you consider are the barriers to successful programs?

There is a danger in that Aboriginal people who have demonstrated experience working on cultural projects can develop a sense of volunteer fatigue, quite often there is no financial incentive for the person to participate in community representative capacities. There have been situations involving public artworks consultations, community consultative committees or NAIDOC week events where it has actually cost the community member more of their own money than they have earned to put on workshops or cultural performance type activities.

Question 7

What do you consider are successful examples of arts and cultural programs as part of existing community cultural engagement programs within your community across NSW?

Welcome to country signage, NAIDOC Week, genealogy services administered at libraries and community centres, matching social awareness campaigns to artist groups

Aids council of NSW sponsoring the annual Mardi Gras exhibition at Boomalli Aboriginal artists Co-operative and providing a space for marginalised members of the community to produce a event aimed at educating the wider community.

Question 8

What could Arts NSW do to ensure arts practice is an integral part of programs designed to improve the social and cultural well being of Aboriginal people?

Funding for state institutions such as AGNSW, MCA, MOS, Australian Museum to produce more historical and contemporary exhibitions and public programs that focus on the History of Sydney.

Local Government association – NAIDOC week planning committee

Dept Education and Training – Tourism NSW – TAFE NSW

to deliver course on the heritage, history and contemporary experience of Aboriginal people in NSW to increase awareness of information sources for further development of successful projects

Facilitate Archaeological and historical education and information public events that are relevant and designed specifically for small communities – this gives community members a sense of ownership over the cultural information that can be learned from these sessions and develop the knowledge base of community members that would like to participate in tourism based activities related to the Indigenous heritage of their community.

Assisting museums and education institutions to provide ‘digital repatriations’ of information that is relevant to Indigenous communities so that the access rights and governance of this information is administered at the community level.

An Aboriginal owned and operated art gallery and art history keeping place that is specific to NSW Aboriginal art i.e. - Re instate operational funding for the Boomalli Aboriginal artist co operative

Question 9

What linkages can be improved between arts NSW and other NSW government departments and agencies to support community cultural engagement?

Greater publicity of the DAA regional action plan, the ICC national arts and craft industry support program and arts NSW funding objectives in ways that allow feedback to be incorporated and acted upon in quicker timeframes than those currently existing.

Develop a regional representative consultative committee administered by communities NSW or the Local government association that exists independent of the arts community but acts as a keeping place for the corporate knowledge of the development of arts productions in the whole state. This organization can also facilitate regionally based artists and communities access to collection s of Aboriginal material culture that are already held in institutions such as the Australian Museum, AIATSIS

Using general categories based on north east south west allows greater diversity in the type of art that is produced to represent these regions without placing scrutiny on individual areas that may fluctuate with the qualities or quantities of a particular product.

Community consultation should be undertaken by both organizations and reported separately to the state-wide community consultation committee to identify where priority areas for the development of particular industries and where promotional opportunities for arts production in the state should be developed. These organizations can identify the costs involved in maintaining industries such as TAFE courses in arts production, men’s shed style workshops, community centre arts activities and grant assistance private individuals who have successfully developed businesses to meet demands in particular areas.

Question 10

What community cultural development priorities require a partnership approach by funding agencies and funding sources?

More Partnerships should be encouraged local government and federal funding sources that take into account education, health and social justice campaigns that need to reach as wide an audience as possible. Partnerships that produce broad nationaly focused objectives outcomes (usually printed information brochures and posters that no one reads or notices) should be discouraged in favour of increasing financial support for free internet services and portable media devices that allow people to communicate with each other rather than being told what to do.

Question 11

How can we develop opportunities for employment and business, including Aboriginal creative industry businesses, to increase:

- Local Jobs
- National and international export communities;
- Cultural tourism?

Public art and Indigenous Landscape design in regional communities

Opportunities are already available for federally mandated dual naming and welcome to country signage that is commissioned by Aboriginal communities in NSW yet there are few benchmarks to monitor best practice and numbers of actual community participation.

Public liability insurance needs to be amended to differentiate between advice about cultural protocols being given community consultation capacity and the advice given by structural engineers and architects etc given in the construction of public art. In many cases the onus of compliance is on the artist to be responsible for covering these costs of engineering and structural compliance with development applications and these should actually be covered by local councils.

Too much red tape significantly reduces the financial incentive for artists to participate in small scale public artwork opportunities which have the potential to significantly increase aboriginal community involvement in a community consultation process regarding Indigenous landscape design and Indigenous knowledge systems being respectfully and ethically incorporated into the design of public spaces such as housing developments parks and public spaces.

Opportunities for communities to have a greater role in the commissioning process of basic council services and facilities and incorporating more creative and innovative design into public spaces will create work opportunities for CDEP type projects that are already in existence as well as provide practical experience for experienced artists to realize projects on a grander scale than is possible in the more competitive Sydney public art environment.

The development of innovative sculpture and photography based mediums is highly suited to an environment like regional NSW which has the potential to realize projects not possible in other parts of the country. The diversity of Aboriginal cultural information that is available for artists, curators, performers, digital content producers is practically limitless if undertaken under the guidance of genuine community monitored and publicly accountable standards.

Opportunities for Sydney based artists regionally

Regional based communities are often seeking access to professional development opportunities that are perceived to be in abundance in the city this is far from the reality of the situation.
Increasing experienced artist’s participation in community services development of regional areas in NSW.

Residencies can be organized quite easily by local councils as the most prohibitive expenses for individuals is the rent and insurance liabilities of using a space for the production of art. Larger scale projects can also be realized through access to materials or workshop facilities used in innovative ways by contemporary artists seeking to develop bodies of work that are connected to architecture, media, ecological issues, science and fields of non traditional arts production.