Revive: a cultural roadmap for the future?

The Federal Government recently announced the first national cultural policy in almost a decade. The policy, Revive, was described by Minister for the Arts Tony Burke as “a comprehensive roadmap for Australia’s arts and culture.”

Revive — the first cultural policy since Creative Australia in 2013 — is structured around five pillars: First Nations First, A Place for Every Story, Centrality of the Artist, Strong Cultural Infrastructure, and Engaging the Audience. These pillars will be achieved following the restructure of the national body Creative Australia, which modernises the previously existing Australia Council for the Arts. Creative Australia is tasked with establishing a First Nations board, creating the organisations Music Australia and Writers Australia, and setting up the Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces to advise on issues of safety, welfare and pay.

This roadmap comes at a crucial time amidst a prolonged period of difficulty for arts workers, which was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. President of the Conservatorium Students’ Association Alexander Poirier provided a statement to Honi stating that, “There is not a single moment of our lives that some form of art is present. We particularly saw during the COVID-19 lockdowns the criticality of art to our lives, getting us through the many days physically separated but joined through shared cultural experiences. Yet it was music professionals and students who were left to the wayside – being refused from being included in JobKeeper – and created an incredibly stressful time for many.

“For arts careers not to be considered “real jobs” is an insult and a drastic misunderstanding of their contribution to our economy. Not only are arts for ourselves, it’s a $17bn industry that directly employs around 400,000 people.”

In the first two quarters of the pandemic, arts and recreation workers experienced a decrease of work hours by twenty one per cent compared to the average of five percent across other industries.

Poirier stated that, “after years of repeated cuts and ignorance from Liberal governments, the arts industry has continually struggled, and faltered, where it is needing massive support to get back on its feet. The absolute size of the funding boost being provided to the Australia Council for the Arts (soon to be called Creative Australia) is insane and sorely needed.”

In a case study focussed on engaging young people in the arts and supporting skills training, Revive acknowledges the price increase of arts and humanities degrees under the Job-ready Graduates reforms, but postpones the creation of any concrete solution until after a future broader review process and the development of the Australian Universities Accord.

Overall, Revive promises increases in funding supported by programs such as establishing artist residencies in Australian World Heritage Sites, conditional funding for artistic ventures in exchange for adopting minimum standards for employment conditions, developing Award coverage of the arts sector and minimum standards, increasingly national cultural research, introducing a Digital Games Tax Offset to support video game development and establishing a National Poet Laureate among other actions.

Acknowledging the growing use of streaming services, Revive outlines the introduction of content requirements for these platforms. While free-to-air broadcasters are already subject to content requirements (55% of content broadcast on primary channels between 6am and midnight must be Australian content), streaming services have thus far been free from these requirements. As of 30 June 2022, there were 2,345 Australian programs on Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, Netflix, Paramount+ and Stan. This is within a combined catalogue of approximately 22,972 programs (according to third parties estimates of each service’s catalogue). The policy is planned to introduce the requirements in the third quarter of 2023 (and must start before 1 July 2024) after consultation during the first half of 2023.

As a roadmap, Revive promises a lot. But after a decade of no cultural policy — and years of an arts department merged with communications, urban infrastructure and cities — hopefully this is a promising sign for the future.