A creative state to be proud of

In the lead up to the Victorian state election on 24 November, the Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley MP puts forward his vision for the sector.
A creative state to be proud of

Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley MP cuts a cake at La Mama Theatre with (L-R) La Mama's Company Manager & Creative Producer Caitlin Dullard, Artistic Director Liz Jones, and Labor candidate for Melbourne, Jennifer Kanis, in celebration of the Andrews Government's $1 million gift for the theatre's restoration. Image via Facebook.

Victoria is the leading Creative State in our nation, but we can’t take it for granted.

We made a conscious and bold shift from the old arts model – bringing screen, games, fashion and design together with music, theatre and art, renaming the portfolio Creative Industries, in recognition of the wider economic contribution made by these sectors.

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The Labor Government knows that by investing in our creative sector, we’re investing in Victoria’s future.

Resourcing our creative sector at record levels makes cultural and economic sense.

Over the last four budgets we have invested $607 million in our Creative Industries – compared to just $190 million from the previous Liberal government.

Aside from the 219 per cent increase in funding, what I’m most proud of is the collaboration we’ve achieved between government and the diverse and growing industry sectors.

Two years ago, we launched Creative State, Victoria’s first creative industries strategy, which was co-designed by our creative community.

We are now past the halfway mark of this four-year plan, with work complete or underway on all 40 actions - and they are making a difference.

We asked people in the sector what they wanted and then we made it happen. We listened, and we delivered. We funded those actions that focused on the creative ecology’s most important area – smaller to medium and independent creatives.

Our Creators Fund was one program that came out of consultations with the sector. This ground-breaking program gives creatives the funding, but just as importantly – the time – to develop their craft and practice.

Programs like this are at the heart of building a better creative future for Victoria.

From a young musician travelling to research and develop a new contemporary opera, to an artist exploring the use of robotics and 3D printing to expand their skill set.

From the mid-career dancer and choreographer researching the use of non-theatrical spaces like hospitals and care centres as venues, to an emerging indigenous fashion designer who produced a new range of work under the mentorship of another creative.

These are just some of the stories we helped make a reality and I can’t wait to see just how many more we can deliver over the next four years.

Representation Matters

Part of looking forward is embracing our history. Art, storytelling, performance and design have been an intrinsic part of life for the First Peoples of Victoria for tens of thousands of years – yet First Peoples are under-represented in our creative industries.

To help address this we developed our First People’s Plan in consultation with First People in the creative industries, to provide new traineeships, a tailored employment program, cultural exchange opportunities, initiatives to build business capacity and more.

This plan was launched in September this year and will be rolled out progressively over the coming years – providing a blueprint for investing in and promoting the rich and diverse talent and creativity of First Peoples, both here in Victoria and across the nation.

Investing in Creative Infrastructure

We’re making sure Victoria lives up to its reputation as the Creative State with the major infrastructure needed to support the industry. That’s why we’ve contributed $208 million towards the first phase of transforming the Melbourne Arts Precinct into one of the world’s greatest cultural and creative destinations.

This precinct is already home to one of the highest concentrations of arts and cultural organisations anywhere in the world. This once-in-a-generation project will better connect those organisations, creating improved pedestrian access, and provide 18,000 square metres of renewed public open space, for people to sit and soak up the atmosphere.

It will also create new attractions including Australia’s largest contemporary gallery – NGV Contemporary – and a modernised and re-imagined Arts Centre Melbourne, including revitalised theatres.

The project is now in the planning and design phase, however the Liberals have not committed one cent towards its future, which is a worry for everyone in the industry if they are elected this weekend.

Our Highlights Reel

While there are far more success stories from Victoria’s creative industries than I have word count left, there are still highlights I can point out.

We’re focused on growing our cultural audiences because every exhibition, festival, show and event has flow-on effects for local businesses and our booming economy as well as for our creatives. New figures show international cultural visitors injected almost $2 billion into the state economy last year - an 88 per cent increase since 2013.

Last financial year was Film Victoria’s most successful year on record, and we supported a range of Victorian projects such as the feature film Ride Like a Girl - the true story of Michelle Payne.

We are also seeing our local games developers conquering the world, topping the charts regularly, winning prestigious awards and giving international keynote addresses.

Melbourne is now the music capital of the country – with more live music venues than most cities in the world, including Sydney. More than 73,000 gigs are held in the Greater Melbourne area each year.  

We passed new planning laws to protect live music venues from inappropriate developments and established our $22.2 million Music Works package, targeting the entire sector from the ground up.

In stark contrast, the Liberal Government in NSW has decimated their live music industry, with heavy-handed lock-out laws and no real investment in the sector 

We have launched, supported and attracted major national and international industry events, such as the Music Cities Convention, Melbourne Design Week, Melbourne International Games Week, and the Australian Performing Arts Market.

There has been new dedicated funding for small to medium arts and cultural organisations to pursue international opportunities and put our creatives on the global stage.

We’ve supported creative spaces and co-working hubs to provide more opportunities for collaboration, including The Guild, ACMI, Creative Geelong’s Makers Hub and The Arcade.

It’s no accident that the first Creative State action we implemented was boosting our support to the small to medium arts sector. Since that time, funding for new initiatives for this sector is almost four times what it was in the last government.

Our first ever Creative State Commission will fund Ilbijerri Theatre Company to create a piece of work highlighting Victorian Koorie women’s stories. This is the largest ever commission for a single creative piece of work in the State’s history, totalling over $930,000.

And from that to our Small Regional Presenters Program – which has provided support for more than 230 live shows that have been seen by more than 14,000 people across some of Victoria’s smallest towns.

And it doesn’t stop there

We’re just halfway through our Creative State strategy and we’ve got a lot done. These programs are not over yet and we have more exciting initiatives to come, such as:

Our first ever dedicated Indian Cinema and Bollywood Attraction Fund to help attract Indian film projects to our state. Expected to attract a minimum of four blockbuster films to our state over the next four years, the $3 million fund will grow our local film industry, create local jobs and bring Victoria and India even closer together.

Our $2 million Independent Producing Initiative to address the critical shortfall in independent producers. This initiative will help producers expand their skills and networks, while also providing new career and pathways for those just starting out.

We’re providing $1 million to help rebuild the iconic La Mama theatre in Carlton after it was destroyed by fire earlier this year. The renewal project will respect the heritage and spirit of the site and restore and repurpose as much of the original building as possible. It also provides the opportunity to make La Mama fully accessible and ensure the building best serves the needs of future generations of artists.    

The Victorian Music Development Office will also continue the great work they started this year growing the market for Victorian music locally, nationally and internationally. It will deliver an industry research program, international speakers, an exports program including global marketing campaign, music business development activities and a free or low-cost advice service for music businesses.

Scheduled to open in 2019, the Music Market at the Collingwood Arts Precinct will be a hub for the Victorian music industry, providing a new home for key music industry bodies Music Victoria, The Push, and the VMDO.

A Creative State to be proud of

There is a clear choice to be made this Saturday. Labor stands for investment in the sector and support for creatives. The alternative is a party which consistently devalues the creative industries and thrives on cuts and closures.

We only have to look across our borders to see what happens to the arts under Liberal governments. Whether it is South Australia cutting $30 million in arts funding and devolving Arts SA to various government departments, or NSW establishing heavy handed lock-out laws and rejecting 216 out of 222 Create NSW applications for funding.

And I have no doubt that the Brandis cuts to AusCo are still etched in the memories of many of us.

Invariably these cuts always come from the small to medium independent sector first – because the Liberals don’t value it.

Only Labor understands and supports the idea that the strength of our creative ecology comes from all parts of it being strong - from our big cultural institutions to smaller theatres, galleries and live music venues, as well as our individual creatives.

Being the Creative Industries Minister over the past four years and seeing the diversity of talent and the sheer passion and dedication of our sector has been a remarkable and rewarding experience.

If re-elected, I know that together we can build on what we’ve already achieved, to ensure that Victoria’s creative industries cement themselves as the best in Australia, if not world leaders.

Because I truly believe when it comes to this sector – the best is yet to come.

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The Victorian state election takes place on Saturday 24 November 2018. ArtsHub has sought opinion pieces from other political parties detailing their vision and policies for the state. Read Shadow Arts Minister Heidi Victoria's opinion here.

Martin Foley

Wednesday 21 November, 2018

About the author

Martin Foley is Victoria's Minister for Creative Industries.