Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, and Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, have jointly announced (2 September) that the Government will develop an Indigenous Visual Art Action Plan to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, and their cultural and economic interests.
What is key to today’s announcement is the role of industry feedback. The Government is seeking anyone involved with the Indigenous visual arts sector to offer submissions to their Consultation Paper on Growing the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry before 18 December 2020, to help shape policy moving forward.
The Action Plan comes on the heels of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs’ Report on the Impact of inauthentic art and craft in the style of First Nations peoples.
Timed with the Plan’s announcement, the Morrison Government also tabled its response to the Standing Committee’s Report.
Minister Fletcher said the Government’s response to this report outlines activity that is designed to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists’ economic, cultural, and intellectual property interests and encourage a fair and ethical marketplace.
‘The Government has a number of initiatives underway to better safeguard Indigenous art including a digital labelling trial and additional funding to support the Indigenous Art Code, in collaboration with the states. The plan we are announcing today is part of our response to this report,’ Minister Fletcher said.
An Action Plan to shape a post-COVID future
The Consultation Paper and subsequent resulting Action Plan, comes at a time when the Industry is considering the full long-term effects of COVID-19.
‘It is important that the Action Plan is based on the views of the Indigenous visual arts sector,’ encourages the introduction. ‘Action Plans help to give everyone a clear work plan. They help to make it clear what the Government does now and how it can support the industry into the future.’
Minister Fletcher said visual art, ‘strengthens economic opportunities for communities by providing employment, skills development and income. Until the start of COVID-19, art sales had been growing for almost a decade but the pandemic has dramatically impacted the industry with art centres, galleries and studios closed, and art fairs and events cancelled or postponed, which only strengthens the need for a plan.’
The shutdown of domestic and international travel, combined with the economic downturn, has led to a drop in the primary market for Indigenous artwork, leading to an immediate and significant loss of sales and income for artists, art centres and many art market professionals.
Minister Wyatt added: ‘As part of this consultation we want to hear from stakeholders across the Indigenous visual arts sector — artists, art centre directors and managers, arts workers, art dealers, gallerists, art market professionals, purchasers, collectors, industry bodies or peak bodies representing these groups.’
Consultation closes on 18 December 2020 and the Action Plan is expected to be released in 2021.