Multicultural Arts: Cultural Citizenship For The 21st Century

    31 October 2007

    Thank you Nicky, both for your kind introduction and for all your work in making today’s symposium a great success. Good afternoon, everyone.

    I would like to begin by acknowledging the Ngunnawal people – the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting today. And I’d like to thank you all for taking time out of your very busy schedules to make it along today.

    Our thanks go out particularly to the Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator the Honourable George Brandis, and Assistant Minister for Immigration and Citizenship The Honourable Teresa Gambaro.

    Their involvement today highlights the Australian Government’s commitment to our vibrant multicultural arts sector.

    Before you get back to your lunch, I’d like to say a few words about why the Australia Council thinks that multicultural arts are – as our emcee Effie would say – unreal.

    As we have heard many times this morning, they give our diverse communities a vibrant means of self-expression and are a vital bridge for cross-cultural understanding.

    But they do something else equally important – that I would like to speak about very briefly – because it is Australia’s cultural diversity that gives our artists their unique voice and style.

    The simple fact that more than 43 per cent of Australians were either born overseas, or have at least one parent born overseas, means that the multicultural experience is fundamental to the art we create here in Australia. And the artists who create it are frequently members of that 43 per cent.

    Take, for example, contemporary dance – although a similar story can be told of any artform from literature to music.

    As I am sure you are all aware, Australian dance is admired the world over for its distinctive physical style and the excellence of our dancers and choreographers. This style is influenced by a range of factors – such as our wide open spaces and world class dance companies and infrastructure.

    It is also influenced by a range of cultural influences – from the unique Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance forms, to traditional Indian dance, to Japanese butoh, to American hip-hop, to Brazilian capoeira, to Asian martial arts, through to, of course, the Western tradition.

    And, again, the dancers who continue to develop this style are frequently members of that diverse 43 per cent – such as the recently appointed artistic director of Sydney Theatre Company Tanja Liedtke, who grew up in Spain, or the Japanese-raised, Melbourne independent dancer Yumi Umiumare.

    The Australia Council has a strong commitment to multicultural arts precisely because the double role that they play fits perfectly with our twin missions to develop both distinctive Australian artistic voices and community engagement with the arts.

    Our policy – The Arts in a Multicultural Australia – articulates a vision for Australia in which dynamic artistic practices are created, embraced and celebrated by our many cultures.

    The range of programs and initiatives that are captured under this umbrella – from professional development and arts marketing programs to the kultour initiative – illustrate how the arts can give a voice to different cultures and bring communities together.

    Our strong commitment to multicultural arts was further underlined earlier this year with the announcement of a $600,000 initiative over three years to fund multicultural arts centres in Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide – the exciting results of which we will begin to see over the coming months.

    And it is a pleasure to see many of the artists, arts practitioners and participants in these programs here with us today.

    To conclude, I would like to thank you all again for coming along today.

    I strongly encourage you all to share your ideas over the rest of the day on how we can further advance the profile and value of multicultural arts.

    Enjoy the rest of your lunch.

    Thank you.

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