National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts policy
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts policy is a blueprint for the implementation of vital policy and programs promoting the artistic and cultural expression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this country.
The Australia Council has a long history of supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture and consults widely on developing new policies and appropriate programs of assistance. The Australia Council is regarded as the primary funding agency for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts.
As the Australian Government's major arts funding and advisory body, the Australia Council supports cultural diversity and inter-cultural activity through policies which reflect the goals and aspirations outlined in its Corporate Plan. These include the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Policy and Arts for a Multicultural Australia.
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts policy
The Australia Council is committed to supporting and growing the arts of Indigenous Australia.
We recognise the rights of Indigenous people to self-determination, which we demonstrate through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board.
With this policy, we embrace the vibrancy and vitality of Indigenous Australian art as a key element in the defining and celebrating of Australia.
This Policy creates the framework for each of us to work more effectively with and for the continued growth of Indigenous arts—locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. The staff of the Australia Council are focused on strengthening their relationships with the Indigenous arts sector.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture contributes to the richness and diversity that is contemporary Australian culture—from the northwest of the Kimberley region to Arnhem Land, across to the Torres Strait to the eastern and southern seaboards.
The arts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are valued and supported in Australia and on the international arts scene.
The Australia Council has supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts since its inception in 1968. Under the late Dr H C (‘Nugget’) Coombs, the then Australian Council for the Arts recognised that the arts and culture of Indigenous people are integral to Australia’s national identity.
From its inception the Council has had an Indigenous Board. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander A r t s Board (ATSIAB) provides the organisation with Indigenous leadership and authority. The Board assists Indigenous Australians to claim, control and enhance their cultural inheritance.
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Policy was adopted by the Council in May 1997 as a blueprint for the implementation of policy and programs promoting the artistic and cultural expression of Indigenous Australians. The Policy recognises the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts development to the work of the Australia Council and the broader cultural development of Australia as a nation.
In 2002 the Council began an initiative to help implement the Policy. It focused on the internal operational needs of the Council and resulted in: development of protocols for working with Indigenous artists and communities appointment of a policy advocate to the Council identification of ongoing training needs planning for an Indigenous employment strategy for the Council.
Also, ATSIAB has been working with the Music, Dance and New Media Arts Boards to produce protocols for working within these artform areas with Indigenous artists, artsworkers and communities.
At its June 2002 meeting, the Council re-affirmed its commitment to the Policy’s principles. The Australia Council is committed to recognising and respecting the boldness of the vision of 1968.
- We acknowledge and respect the Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders of Australia as the traditional owners and custodians of Australia and its territories.
- We acknowledge and respect the essential connection between the arts, culture, heritage, land, sea and (customary) law in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander society.
- We will encourage the awareness and maintenance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural protocols throughout the arts.
- We recognise that Indigenous authority and self-determination are essential in relation to the arts.
- We recognise the rights of Indigenous people to claim, control and enhance their cultural development and cultural maintenance through the arts.
- We endorse the right of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders to own and control their cultural and intellectual property.
Rights and Responsibilities
- We endorse the rights of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders to fully express their spirituality, integrity and authority through the arts.
- We accept the responsibility of representing the rights and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and artsworkers.
- We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural diversity and cultural pluralism.
- We acknowledge Australia’s cultural diversity and embrace cultural cooperation.
- Ensure that all decisions related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts within the Australia Council are guided by the Policy.
- Identify and implement the Australia Council’s priorities for development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts.
- Develop better ways to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and arts organisations.
- Build links with other key stakeholders.
- Maintain and improve networking opportunities.
- Monitor and report on the level of support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts activities.
In using The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Policy a framework for action may help thinking about all the areas in which people and organisations may make a contribution has incorporated the priorities identified by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission’ s Cultural Policy Framework.
This framework's priorities encompass many elements that are not core business for the Australia Council. However, the Framework ensures integrity of arts and cultural expression and practice. It also highlights the relationship between these areas for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts.
National Oversight and Strategic Coordination
The Council considers National Oversight and Strategic Coordination a policy priority to ensure the identification, development and administration of strategies and outcomes of the Policy.
This may include improved data collection, research, consultation and negotiation, consultative arrangements, governance, representation, policy and strategy formulation, coordination, implementation, accountability, monitoring and evaluation.
The Council considers Arts Development a policy priority to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, organisations and communities to realise their right to participate in a cultural life and to determine their participation within the wider arena of arts and commercial industries at a national and international level.
Assisting Indigenous artists to develop professionally is seen as the responsibility of all sections of the Australia Council including the ATSIAB and all funding divisions.
Regional Cultural Development
The Council considers Regional Cultural Development a policy priority and recognises arts practice as a means of enriching community life and accordingly sees support of artists and arts organisations at the community level as essential to ensure long term arts development in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The Council sees the development of regional arts strategies and cultural plans as an essential part of regional cultural development.
The Council considers Infrastructure to be a policy priority supporting the development of a strategic group of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander arts organisations in conjunction with other funding bodies.
This will form the basis for improved access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and communities to arts projects and services on a regional, state or multi-state basis.
The Council considers Industry Development to be a policy priority in recognising Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders determining and managing their economic development through the arts to enhance opportunities and resources.
Council recognises and supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in the cultural industries as legitimate employment and productive economic activity. Industry development is seen as a responsibility across all of Council.
Distribution, Promotion and Market Development
The Council considers Distribution, Promotion and Market Development a policy priority in achieving increased exposure of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts in local, regional, national and international markets.
Communication and Strategic Promotion
The Council considers Communication and Strategic Promotion a policy priority in achieving a greater understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture as expressed through the arts.
Copyright, Intellectual Property and Moral Rights
The Council considers Copyright, Intellectual Property and Moral Rights a policy priority in safeguarding the integrity and ownership of Indigenous cultural property in a manner which recognises the particular features of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ownership, including perpetual and communal rights.
Broadcast Media, Multimedia and Information Technologies
The Council considers Broadcast Media, Multimedia and Information Technologies a policy priority in achieving increased access of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders to information and new technologies in order to enhance control and assist development in local, regional, national and international markets.
The Council considers Cultural Heritage a policy priority in recognising the importance of cultural heritage as philosophically underpinning the cultural integrity of arts practice.
Cultural Heritage and Cultural Resource Management
The Council considers Cultural Heritage and Cultural Resource Management a policy priority as it impacts on the integrity of arts and cultural practice.
Cultural and Environmental Tourism
The Council considers Cultural and Environmental Tourism a policy priority to enhance opportunities for the arts.
We produce a range of publications for people and organisations who wish to seek financial and other support from the Australia Council. Most can be downloaded from this website.
For further information:
Tel: (02) 9215 9000
Toll-free: 1800 226 912
Fax: 02 9215 9111
Join the Register of Peers The Australia Council encourages artists from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to join the Register of Peers.
Our thanks to the many Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous people who have contributed to the development and implementation of this policy over the last decade.
© Commonwealth of Australia 2004
This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the Commonwealth available from the Australia Council for the Arts. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to the Managing Editor, Australia Council, PO Box 788 Strawberry Hills NSW 2012 Australia or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication data:
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts policy. 2nd ed.
ISBN 1 920784 20 9.
1. Aborigines, Australian - Art.
2. Ethnic arts -
Government policy - Australia.
Published by the Australia Council
PO Box 788
Strawberry Hills NSW 2012
The Australia Council is the Australian Government’s arts funding and advisory body. It supports and promotes the practice and enjoyment of the arts. Original [online] art and design by Adam Hill (Dhungatti)
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