I believe that the arts profoundly define the sense of who we are, how we see the world and how the world sees us in turn. They attract talent to our shores and help cultivate a climate of creativity across society. They add to the attractiveness and amenity of our regional cities and towns. And through the arts we celebrate the oldest continuous cultures on earth, those of the First Australians, which are a precious part of our human heritage.
It is the Government’s profound belief that the arts belong to every Australian and every opportunity must be taken to ensure the arts are open and accessible to all.
For those who seek a more pragmatic definition, we can also recognise the contribution that cultural industries make to our national prosperity and productivity. The arts sector employs more than 200,000 Australians. It promotes and sustains employment and investment in tourism, exports, education and training. It equips young Australians with skills of critical thinking, innovation and design that are so fundamental to the nature of the modern economy. And the creative imagination is central to the success of our communications industry - in particular the National Broadband Network.
Through the NBN, arts and cultural organisations will be able to dramatically expand their reach.
Arts companies are already exploring the possibilities of digital media, for example with live broadcasts to digital screens around regional Australia and engaging young new audiences through Twitter and Facebook.
In all of this, the Australian Government and our partners in the states and territories and local government have a role, and that role is one of nurture and support.
The ideas, the creativity come from our artists. And in the end, our cultural sector can only succeed though the arts community’s commitment to excellence and the audience loyalty it can attract and sustain.
We will strengthen our support for the arts with the release of Australia’s first national cultural policy in almost two decades. This is an important priority for the Government which will demonstrate our leadership in valuing a creative culture and the central place of the arts in our society.
We need to look at how we support this valuable sector and consider new models for promoting stronger engagement between arts organisations and the philanthropic and business communities - given the very tight fiscal circumstances in which we find ourselves.
I look forward to the input of the publishing and literary community in charting the future course for the arts over the next decade. In many ways it is literature which anchors and inspires the arts. The distinguished Australian historian Geoffrey Serle called literature "the great civiliser."
So often it is books that give life to other art forms such as film, theatre, even dance and opera.
Eighty-four per cent of Australians are regular readers, including one in five who read poetry.
This is an edited and condensed version of a speech delivered by Prime Minister Julia Gillard at Federation Square, Melbourne on Monday, 8 November 2010.
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