President’s Report: The Place of The Arts in a Civil Society

by | Aug 1, 2016 | President's Reports

Hi Folks,

I’m aware that we have some ‘guests’ here who are not members of the Federation so thought I’d broadcast this to you all. Please join us if you can see the worth of this forum as a way of promoting yourselves and your gigs and events and as a way of finding out what is available.

The Place of The Arts in a Civil Society

The passage of the recent election has certainly been intriguing to say the least. An election always defines what the Parties have determined to be the most important concerns to the Australian community. These are defined by what appear to be front and centre in the various doorstops and election speeches made by both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The features of this election were, respectively, ‘jobs and growth’ and ‘save medicare’.

One other defining feature of the election campaign was the number of times the Arts were mentioned by both the principal Parties. There was something of a silence even though both Parties, I had assumed, may have well articulated policies on The Arts. The salient question for me was how many of us actually referred to these policies in deciding whom we were going to vote for.

The Arts are not ‘flavour of the month’ by any means. I really believe that they fall far behind in the priorities of what is considered to be of greatest importance in society. Yet The Arts are also arguably the signature, the hallmark, of what it is that defines a civil society. The Arts are certainly central to the existence of the Folk Federation of NSW.

I went hunting for Arts policies so I could share the relevant pages with you all. I fully intended to present both the policies in a fair manner. The Arts, after all, are probably of greatest significance to us as a folk community. The Liberal Party’s policies are definitively listed on the Liberal Party website. You can find them here: . I read through this list a number of times searching without success for their policy on The Arts. It is absent. Little wonder that the Liberal/NCP coalition did not make much mention of the Arts at all during the campaign. The ALP does have an Arts Policy that is supportive of the Arts. Whether it goes far enough is not for me to say. You can find it here: in a web-based article written by a credible organisation, artshub. The core of Labor’s policy on The Arts is an increase in funding by a total of $155 million. This includes funding going towards activities that are of significant importance to us in the performing and folk arts communities such as Musica Viva, Music: Count Us In and The Songroom. These are particularly important because they are schools based programs, which are aimed to encourage our children to engage in the Arts and to increase their exposure to diversity within a diverse society.

The ‘third force’ in Australian politics is The Greens. Their policy is also worth looking at closely. It is progressive, which is nothing short of what we expect from them. However, sadly, it is unlikely that their policy will be enacted due to the fact that they do not have the significance of presence in either the Lower House or The Senate to make an adequate difference to policy decisions in governance. You’llfind the Greens’ policy here: greens-promise-2702-million-for-the-arts-251398

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation appears to give more space to the Arts in their policy doctrine. The page exists where the policy belongs but unfortunately the page is blank which strongly implies there is no Arts policy in Hanson’s agenda. You can find Hanson’s policy on The Arts here: onenation.

At the risk of side-tracking, Hanson’s policy on multiculturalism does exist and you can find it here: . It is worth reading to see the immediate relationship she draws between multiculturalism and terrorism.

Of interest it appears to be the Parties normally regarded as being on the right wing of politics that have no commitment to the Arts. The Parties on the Centre Left or Left of politics appear to have the commitment lacking on ‘the other side’ and indeed are very clear in their articulation of support.

So, why are The Arts important in society? Is it only a position taken by people such as myself who are embedded, indeed employed within The Arts? Or is this a position more broadly taken? Once again I went hunting and found a fabulous page called ‘Useful Quotes for Arts Advocates’. This had to be a great place to start, which indeed it was. Perhaps the strongest quote that arose on this page is pasted here. The reason I picked this one is the strong emphasis on the Arts in the so called ‘Gonski reforms’ that have been a Labor centrepiece in and before the campaign. The quote is:

“. . . the arts have been an inseparable part of the human journey; indeed, we depend on the arts to carry us toward the fullness of our humanity. We value them for themselves, and because we do, we believe knowing and practicing them is fundamental to the healthy development of our children’s minds and spirits. That is why, in any civilization – ours included – the arts are inseparable from the very meaning of the term ‘education.’ We know from long experience that no one can claim to be truly educated who lacks basic knowledge & skills in the arts.”

–National Standards for Arts Education

This is, of course, the NSAE of the U.S.A. For the final word I will bow to Plato:

“Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul.”

– Plato

You can find the full list of these quotes here: I highly recommend them to you.

Andy Busuttil


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