Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts are a rich contribution to the world’s culture, and to Australia’s diverse contemporary culture and national identity.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts include classical, traditional and contemporary practice, including all new forms of cultural expression. This is applied across all art forms and in urban, regional and remote areas.

The Australia Council for the Arts regards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures as living forces with their own strengths and influences, not as remnants of the past. We aim to make these cultural expressions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a source of pride for all Australians.

The value of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts activity to individuals, families and communities is significant culturally, socially and economically, and its potential is significant in all communities. Research by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and the Telstra Foundation about the role of Indigenous festivals highlighted not only the economic benefits but improved well-being, as people reported that they had an increase in cultural pride and self-esteem stemming from a sense of inclusion and cultural identity.


Protocols for using First Nations Cultural and Intellectual Property in the Arts. 

First published in 2002 and revised in 2007, this protocol guide endorses the rights of Indigenous people to their cultural heritage and supports Indigenous creative practice. This protocol guide encourages self-determination and helps build a strong and diverse Indigenous arts sector. These are key goals and priority areas of the Australia Council for the Arts.

Creative practitioners who work with Indigenous artists or engage with Indigenous cultural heritage in projects, and are funded by Australia Council for the Arts grant assessment panels are required to comply with this protocol guide as a condition of funding.

Over the years, the principles and protocols contained in this protocol guide have also been applied nationally and internationally – educating readers and users on Indigenous Australian cultural heritage, and encouraging meaningful collaborations with Indigenous artists and creators.

Download the protocols 


Funding

Funding is dedicated to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, groups and organisations. This funding is assessed wholly by Indigenous peers.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, groups and organisations are welcome to make applications for activities with vibrancy in artistic and cultural expressions.

Need help with your application? Contact a Grants Officer now


Impacts of COVID-19 on First Nations arts and culture

This paper outlines the immediate and longer term needs, concerns and potentially catastrophic impacts for First Nations arts and culture in light of COVID-19. This includes potential for the most significant loss of arts, culture and language since the arrival of the First Fleet. Drawing on research and sector intelligence, the paper highlights opportunities for First Nations arts specific support and cross-portfolio advocacy and engagement.

Download the paper

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts are a rich contribution to the world’s culture, and to Australia’s diverse contemporary culture and national identity.

Closing the Gap

The Australia Council’s submission to the Closing the Gap Refresh advocates for increased investment in First Nations arts and cultural expression, cultural maintenance, and First Nations-led culturally based solutions across portfolios. It draws on the growing body of evidence showing participation in arts and culture supports outcomes across the Closing the Gap framework.

Our submission was developed in collaboration with our First Nations stakeholders. First Nations peoples’ indivisible rights to culture and self-determination are central in our submission. For decades, First Nations peoples have advocated for the critical role of culture – as a necessary part of the solution to Indigenous disadvantage, and for the healing and strengthening of individuals and communities. However, culture has been the missing element from the Closing the Gap framework to date. Funding for First Nations culture made up just 1% of total direct government expenditure for Indigenous Australians in 2015–16, and cultural outcomes have not featured in the measurement framework.

Now is the moment to invest in the inherent value and foundational role of strong culture in the Closing the Gap agenda.

Click here to read more.

Mary Katatjuku Pan from Amata (SA) with Punu Kutjara. 2016. Image by Rhett Hammerton. Copyright Tjanpi Desert Weavers
Mary Katatjuku Pan from Amata (SA) with Punu Kutjara. 2016. Image by Rhett Hammerton. Copyright Tjanpi Desert Weavers

Highlights

2020 Featured Grants

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