Arts funding

House of Representatives - 27/06/2018

I've spoken here previously about the fact that Queenslanders receive the lowest per capita arts funding of all of the states and territories. As I've noted, that's not a recent phenomenon. It's a long-term trend that has existed for many, many years. It's an issue and a challenge that I've been keen to take up, along with my colleagues—the Queensland LNP members and senators, including yourself, Deputy Speaker Buchholz, who've collectively come to be known in recent times as 'Team Queensland'. Without in any way wishing to talk down the fantastic and amazing things currently happening in the arts sector in both Brisbane and Queensland, at the same time, it is really necessary to find opportunities to grow and to continue to support our vibrant arts sector. As I've said before, Brisbane and Queensland have some great things happening in their arts sector. There are hundreds of innovative, creative and vibrant artists who represent our diverse and expanding culture economy, from the four major performing arts companies and independent circus groups to cutting-edge digital offerings and Indigenous arts. The history and culture of arts in Brisbane and right across Queensland are an important part of our identity and our local economy.

Late last year, I provided an update on some recent funding wins that had happened around that time. Today I'm back to report on several additional success stories involving arts organisations in Queensland, including Queensland Ballet, Queensland Performing Arts Centre, the Gallery of Modern Art and QUT. Two weeks ago, I visited Queensland Ballet to make the very, very important announcement that this government has granted Queensland Ballet $3½ million over three years to help them transform the Thomas Dixon Centre that houses Queensland Ballet. That centre is the core. It's the home of Queensland Ballet, and this significant grant is critical to securing and growing Queensland Ballet's future. They are led by Li Cunxin, who is a force of nature and a huge advocate and ambassador for the arts scene in Brisbane and Queensland. Queensland Ballet has directly contributed to the economic and employment growth in Brisbane and around Queensland, and this funding will ensure that they can continue their excellent work. A new 350- to 400-seat theatre will enable both major and smaller independent artists to showcase their work and their talents. The centre will also feature state-of-the-art new technologies so that Queensland Ballet can better collaborate with other Brisbane arts organisations. It's that sort of collaboration which we really want to see and encourage to make sure that there are always exciting new things happening in our arts sector.

I was also pleased to announce recently that QPAC, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, has been granted $420,000 to deliver Armistice, a theatrical performance reflecting on Australia's wartime history. It opens in November this year, and that's a very important time because we'll be commemorating the Centenary of World War I. This performance, Armistice, will explore the sacrifice of wartime and how this experience has contributed to shaping Australia's national identity. This collaborative project will bring our history to life through materials from the Australian War Memorial and the National Film and Sound Archive.

I'm pleased and proud to support this family-friendly and veterans-friendly event which will give the Brisbane community an extra opportunity to celebrate Australia's service men and women and the sacrifices that they've made. Just as an aside, on the topic of the Armistice performance, QPAC has recently told me that they've identified a potential performance venue, called Hangar No. 7, at the old Eagle Farm airport. Hangar No. 7 was used by Allied forces in World War II to defend our shores, and it holds special significance to the people of Brisbane and for our wartime heritage. I'd certainly support exploring ways to try to hold some of their
performances there. While the exact venue's yet to be chosen and determined, I'm very confident that this performance will be a great one and that Brisbane residents will join me in supporting Armistice.

Another recent win for the Queensland arts industry is the acquisition of a south-west Queensland Indigenous shield. Through the National Cultural Heritage Account, the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art will be assisted to represent a unique element of Queensland's Indigenous history. The gallery told me that it is very excited for this Indigenous shield's arrival, as it's the only known shield of its kind still around, and it offers valuable display and research opportunities.

As the shield travels from Melbourne to its new home in Brisbane, a new exhibition will simultaneously be travelling to rural and regional Queensland. Thanks to a Visions of Australia grant, Museums and Galleries Queensland will tour an exciting sculptural exhibition called Safe Space. Based in Brisbane, as one of the state's peak professional bodies, Museums and Galleries Queensland strives to protect and help prosper the state's cultural future. This travelling exhibition will showcase the work of 12 emerging mid-career and established Australian artists, taking it out to the regions of Queensland that all too often miss out.

As that exhibition travels through regional Queensland, the Queensland University of Technology and the Festival of Contemporary Dance, Brisbane will be taking our creative artists to the world. QUT has been awarded $33,000 by the international cultural diplomacy fund, I'm very pleased to say. That grant will enable this leading Brisbane university to promote Brisbane student artists to an international education.

We have also recently seen the inaugural Festival of Contemporary Dance, which received $7,000 from the international cultural diplomacy fund. Through this funding, the festival has used contemporary dance to build a bridge between Queensland's innovative creatives and the rest of the world.

There's some great news there, and all of these really are fantastic pieces of news for Brisbane's and Queensland's arts community. At the same time, my colleagues in Team Queensland and I want to stay focused on the issue of Queensland receiving less than its fair share per capita of funding. The reason that's sometimes given for this entrenched imbalance is that not enough applications are received from Queensland's arts sector—a question of quantity, if not quality allegedly. That may or may not be true and we're certainly very happy to test that. Yet, simply put, this trend, if it continues, risks becoming self-enforcing. It will perpetuate itself if it sends Queensland's artistic talent and the managerial artistic industry talent that hangs off it to other, possibly better funded states. This unfair cycle has to be broken. It has to end to ensure that Brisbane's and Queensland's thriving and vibrant arts, music and dance industries can continue to grow and evolve and do the very exciting things for which they're famous.

In order to ensure that creatives across Australia, including those in Brisbane and Queensland, can have fair access to funding, I believe they really have to have access to professional mentoring. With this in mind, I'm pleased to report to this chamber that additional investments are now being made in improving mentoring workshops for creative and not-for-profit arts organisations. The mentoring is designed to help provide these Australians, including Queenslanders, with coaching that enables them to develop and be supported as they write more applications and higher quality applications. The aim is that, at the end of the day, young artists, developing artists and independent artists can gain the extra skills and help they need to make more applications and better quality applications to overcome, potentially, this reason that we're being given about not enough applications being made. We want to see equal funding, and we want to see more access to more funding because it means more jobs and more opportunities for our aspiring young, independent and emerging artists. This has a flow-on effect on all of our local economies across Brisbane and Queensland, and it's important, obviously, for the prosperity and vibrancy of Brisbane's arts sector.

In conclusion, Brisbane's arts sector has to be supported by fair federal funding. There's much more to do, which is why my colleagues and I in 'Team Queensland' will continue to fight for this cause. We know that Queenslanders aren't quitters, but it is hard to continue growing that sector without fair funding. Changing this imbalance will ensure that Queensland's and Brisbane's creatives will have equal opportunities, as will the production teams that will help support their efforts. So I'm pleased to see the positive benefits of our advocacy so far, and we're pleased to see the impacts of that on Queensland's growing arts scene. But this is just the beginning. There is more to do to turn around a long-term funding trend. Through more hard work and support, Queensland will be on track to receive its fair share and to build the thriving arts community that will serve us in years to come.