The initial values from NAVA's Arts Day on the Hill
Last week NAVA launched Arts Day on the Hill, an annual focus on national advocacy development for sustained government engagement with a long-term policy focus. The event was the first ever event of the new Parliamentary Friendship Group for Contemporary Arts & Culture.
The program gathered an artist or arts workers from every state and territory to be trained in policy engagement and advocacy with an aim to foster confident, informed advocacy by smart, connected artists and arts leaders. Speaking at Parliament House to a roomful of artists and arts leaders, Aunty Matilda led each Member of Parliament in recognising the centrality of culture to the place where we gathered, and to the life of the nation.
The Arts Day of the Hill Advocates spent two days in workshops at the NGA, the Museum of Australian Democracy and Parliament House, hearing regional, national and global perspectives on arts and cultural policy, as well as looking at advocacy in Australia today and the role of communities, public institutions, the media, government, parliamentarians – and artists. NAVA kept up that pace over the two days that followed, meeting 18 MPs across a range of parties to secure their long-term commitment to effective arts policy that survives a change of government.
Emerging from the event is their ‘three killer points’: putting First Nations first by championing and fully funding NIACA; investing ambitiously and strategically across all artforms through an Artistic Investment Framework that includes VACS; fair pay for artists by making industry standard pay a condition of all public funding. And that was just their starting point; NAVA delved into a lot more specifics around a range of urgent issues including superannuation reforms, cultural tourism and education.
The most consistent thing the Arts Day of the Hill Advocates were told, repeatedly, by MPs of all stripes, was that this was the first time they’d had arts people in their office. That they never hear about the arts from their constituents, or in their electorate. That nobody is raising the problems with them, nor the urgent need for change, nor what they can contribute.
Holly Morrison from NAVA encourages us all to think about that for a moment. All over Australia, NAVA has thousands of Members and tens of thousands of colleagues, subscribers and social media followers. And that’s just us in the visual arts, crafts, design and the contemporary arts more broadly. The arts-practising, arts-loving population is massive – 98% of Australians, according to Australia Council research – and yet the Australian Parliament isn’t hearing about what’s at stake when artists can’t sustain careers because their incomes, pathways and rights are dwindling.
After hearing this for many years, NAVA has initiated Advocacy Toolkits, Election Report Cards and guides on taking action right now – but to hear MP after MP say so was illuminating for all Advocates. It seems so simple, they said, and it’s easy to be suspicious about the impact it can have, but it’s needed precisely because it is simple and it is impactful.
Stay tuned through NAVA to hear more as the Advocates come together to make their next plans.
Image: L-R: Mish Grigor, Selena de Carvalho, Rebecca Selleck, Miranda Johnson, Esther Anatolitis, Georgia Mokak, Shaun Edwards, Nadeena Dixon, Emma Fey, Clare Armitage in the House of Representatives, Museum of Australian Democracy. Photo by Penelope Benton.