The arts are more than industries: stability needed in the sector

In the lead up to the Victorian state election on 24 November, Greens MLC for the Southern Metropolitan Region and spokesperson for the Arts, Sue Pennicuik, puts forward her vision for the sector.
The arts are more than industries: stability needed in the sector

Victorians love the arts. We know that most Victorians - around 90% – attend some sort of arts event in a given year; 55% attend a live performance at least once a year, 28% visit a gallery or museum at least once a year and many interstate and international visitors attend an arts or cultural event.

We all have our favourites – mine are live music and visual arts – but most people love to ‘consume’ and participate in the arts in some way. Despite this, the arts can often be overlooked when it comes to government support, creating upheaval and uncertainty in the arts and creative industries.


The Greens supported the creation of Creative Victoria - although I would have liked to see the word 'arts' retained in the title and the Ministry. We all know that the arts are much more than industries. Whether we are artists or lovers of art, the arts fire our imaginations, challenge our beliefs and ideas, and touch our hearts and our souls.

It was good to see inclusion of principles supporting the arts and creative industries enshrined in the legislation, such as:

  • that the arts have an intrinsic value that contributes to the cultural depth, diversity and life of Victoria; and to Victoria’s wealth and prosperity.
  • the arts improve the quality of life for all individuals in Victoria and improve the community of Victoria as a whole; and
  • there should be equal to access opportunities to participate in and contribute to the arts and creative industries in Victoria.

These are principles that I am sure are shared by everyone.

While it is great to have Creative Victoria set up under legislation, for its functions and the principles underpinning it to be in the act and supported by the full Parliament, it all depends on how well it is implemented, supported and resourced – now and into the future.

I think what is needed now is some stability and to give the new structure a chance to succeed across the different sectors, while also keeping a critical eye on how it is or isn’t working and what can be done better.

It is also very important that Creative Victoria is always in touch with what is going on and what the needs of our artists and artistic communities are, particularly independent artists and small arts organisations, which can often be overlooked in favour of larger organisations.

While it is important to support out flagship arts institutions, government support at the grass roots – to assist smaller, local groups and individual artists, is the key to the long-term health of our arts and creative industries.

One of the perennial issues is how to better support artists. Many are not able to support themselves through their art alone. Most have day jobs or if not, live very sparingly.

The Greens have a policy at the federal level to allow artistic activities that provide community benefit to be eligible for Centrelink payments and to implement a low-income artist superannuation supplement. The Greens want to see the funding to the Australia Council restored.

Support for the arts and artists cuts across other portfolios too. The Greens have released a plan at state level to significantly boost funding for public housing to reduce the growing number of people on the public housing waiting list and to tackle to the homelessness crisis and lack of affordable housing.

It is also vital that we protect the cultural heritage of our city and state as well as nurture and create new cultural heritage. Many artists and associated industries are being pushed out because of high costs for space and development pressure that is replacing arts producing spaces with residential development.

Our planning laws don’t seem to be able to preserve venues that have long standing social, cultural and architectural heritage or our public spaces. We have opposed the proposed ‘Apple’ development in Federation Square.

The Greens are exploring ways to strengthen Victoria’s planning system to introduce laws that can preserve areas for arts production, performance venues and connected industries to ensure that artists are not forced out.

Creative Victoria is running a comprehensive range of programs across Victoria and covering the range of arts practices, but are there gaps and unmet needs?

They are the important questions for those in government and those in the arts and creative industry communities to always be asking and answering.

*     *     *

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 and Minister for Creative Industries' Martin Foley MP's opinion piece here.


Sue Pennicuik

Friday 23 November, 2018

About the author

Sue Pennicuik is the Greens MLC for the Southern Metropolitan Region and spokesperson for the Arts.