What the NSW Coalition will deliver for the arts

As NSW Minister for the Arts, Ben Franklin tells ArtsHub readers what he promises to deliver for the sector, come Election time.

As the NSW Arts Minister, I strive for two things: for NSW to be globally recognised for its vibrant and dynamic cultural sector, and for every single person in NSW to have access to quality arts and cultural experiences regardless of their social, physical, geographic or personal circumstance. 

In NSW, we have an arts and cultural industry to be proud of. We are home to Australia’s largest performing arts sector and our state accounts for 48% of all film and television drama expenditure in the country. We have the workforce to match, with 45% of Australia’s total creative industries jobs in NSW.

The creativity and uniqueness of our artists and creative organisations is well recognised. In 2021-22 alone, the NSW Government invested $66.5 million in creativity through the Arts and Cultural Funding Program, enabling more than 14,000 events that were enjoyed by 8.1 million people.

Throughout this term, the NSW Liberal and Nationals Government has capitalised on every opportunity to enhance the prominence of creativity in each corner of the state. Building upon the successes of the past while confronting the challenges ahead, we are embracing our state’s rich creative culture to provide more opportunities for people to enjoy arts experiences, and for artists to reach their creative potential.

First Nations artists in NSW

Australia is home to the world’s oldest continuing culture, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture playing a seminal role in the definition of our state’s identity. First Nations artists in NSW contribute to our global reputation as a producer of meaningful contemporary cultural expression.

Working closely with our Aboriginal Arts and Cultural Advisory Board, we will continue to identify initiatives that deliver stronger, more supportive opportunities for NSW artists and arts workers. For example, we will build upon the successes of our Creative Koori program to enhance support for Aboriginal creative practitioners, and encourage truth telling and cultural expression in every form.

One of the most pressing issues facing the global museums sector is the repatriation of ancestral remains and secret sacred objects to their communities of origin. The NSW Liberal and Nationals Government is committed to the ‘Bringing Them Home’ repatriation project. We are funding a dedicated team of professionals at the Australian Museum to repatriate ancestral remains.   

Valuing regional voices

Regional NSW is home to some of the state’s most innovative artists and compelling creative experiences. I want every town and city across NSW to tap into the talent and enterprise of the NSW creative sector and unleash the myriad social and economic benefits that comes from embracing arts and culture. I want our artists to thrive, and our local economies to be propped up by the festivals, galleries, theatres and venues that define our towns.

One of the proudest achievements of my time as Minister is the fact this government has created an environment where a community fuelled by arts and culture is not a pipe dream, but a realistic opportunity.

Cultural infrastructure

Over the past four years, the Liberal and Nationals Government has invested a record-breaking $2 billion in cultural infrastructure. Thanks to programs like the $100 million Regional Cultural Fund, the $72 million Creative Capital program and the $24 million Public Library Infrastructure Grants scheme, we have secured world-class venues for our world-class artists to create, produce and present.

Reinforcing Sydney’s position as a nation-leading cultural hub, we completed the Sydney Modern Project to open the expanded Art Gallery of NSW campus to locals and visitors alike. The Sydney Opera House received a well-deserved facelift with the NSW Government’s Decade of Renewal. We launched our plans for Powerhouse Ultimo, which include Australia’s most innovative facilities for the study of STEM, we opened a bar on the roof of the State Library of NSW … and then there was Progress Shark.

While few could fault these achievements, there is always more to do. We continue to actively assess how we can build upon our successes and direct investment where it will have the greatest benefit. 

Western Sydney not forgotten

In addition to what we’ve achieved in the regions, I’m also proud of this Government’s unprecedented cultural investment in Western Sydney, including an $840 million commitment to deliver Powerhouse Parramatta and the Castle Hill Discovery Centre. We make no apology for providing Western Sydney with access to the same world-class museums, galleries and theatres as those in the Sydney CBD, and we are proud that it has been on our watch that the first major state-run cultural institution has been established in Western Sydney.

At the heart of our vision for Parramatta is a vibrant creative precinct, and complementing Powerhouse Parramatta will be the renewed Riverside Theatres, and the rescued Roxy Theatre, on which work is currently underway to identify how this historic theatre will best service the creative community.

Our investment in Western Sydney touches each corner of this vast region. We have announced funding for 14 arts and cultural projects valued at over $345 million through our WestInvest Fund, which will enhance and strengthen Western Sydney’s reputation as a leading creative and cultural hub. This record-breaking investment in cultural infrastructure will redefine how arts and culture is made and consumed. Yet, to unleash the full value of this investment we must look towards our greatest asset: our artists.  

During our term, we have increased our investment in the Arts and Cultural Funding Program. This has ensured that more money is available for artists to experiment, take risks and create ambitious works of scale ­– regardless of which sector they work in.

We have established a suite of professional development programs for musicians, theatre makers, writers, dancers and visual artists, and we are committed to investing even more in our capacity building initiatives to ensure artists and arts workers are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to participate in the contemporary arts workforce.

Like no other industry I know, the arts and cultural sector is in a state of continuous evolution and reinvention. Our artists and creative organisations challenge norms and push boundaries, and we must expect the same from our governments.

A re-elected NSW Liberal and Nationals Government will continue to be the biggest supporter and advocate for the entire sector and we will ensure that no one misses out on dynamic and creative cultural experiences. Whether you go to gigs, or produce for the silver screen, whether you do salsa or sculpture, or you participate in a full gamut of creative experiences, the NSW Liberal and Nationals Government believes in you, invests in you, and trusts in you to deliver world-class creative experiences. 

The NSW State Election will be held on Saturday 25 March 2023.

ArtsHub has approached each of the major parties to present their Arts Policies ahead of the election. Read the Greens’ plan to make NSW the State of the Arts and Shadow Minister for the Arts John Graham’s election pitch here.

The Hon. Ben Franklin, MLC is Minister for Tourism, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for the Arts, and Minister for Regional Youth in the 57th NSW Parliament. He is a Member of The Nationals.