Cultural Policy in


Prepared by Culturelink

© Copyright IRMO/Culturelink 1996



The Commonwealth of Australia occupy the whole of the island continent of Australia, lying between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. At the total land area of 7,682,300 km2 the continent-state is composed of six States and two Territories. The States are: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. There are also Northern and Australian Capital Territory.

The ethnic complexity of Australian society has its economic and cultural implications. Out of the more than 16 million of inhabitants (1989) Anglo-Celt group made the almost three quarters of the population, the other 20 per cent are of #&34;other European groups#&34; while the rest consists of Aboriginal and Asian groups. The economic factors seemed to play the most decisive role in turning Australia from taking exclusively British migrants to accepting large number of refugee settlers from Eastern Europe. Unlike Europe and North America, Australia did not have large rural reserves to tap.

Since the Second World War, Australia has taken an important place in Asian affairs and has strengthened its political and economic ties with India, South-East Asia and Japan. Two hundred years ago the culture of Australia was essentially the culture of its Aboriginal inhabitants. The earliest steps of immigration had slowly started to change cultural customs. A turning point concerning Australian cultural values was reached in the 1930s. The European migration was an important contributor to the change that brought to Australia many people with deep interest in cultural activities from Middle-Europe. This was followed by a massive post-war influx of immigrants from Europe, making the community receptive to change and exposed to wider cultural values. In addition, technological advances in transport and communication reduced Australia's isolation from the rest of the world.

In terms of attributes of post-industrial society which has become a prevailed idea in Australia and in relation to the accompanying socio-cultural benefits, particular efforts have been put in the development of culture, leisure and welfare activities.

General Directions of Cultural Policy

Australia does not have a blueprint (formal expression) for a national cultural policy, stated either on the federal level (the Commonwealth Government) or by the governments of the states, although the main political parties in their official platforms include a commitment concerning most aspects of cultural development.

Government (general) policy provides a broad framework of cultural objectives and funding rather than directives and funding allocations provide parameters within which implementation is possible. Cultural agencies formulate proposals for policy and programme implementation and advise governments on priorities.

Since the recognition of the ethnic minorities rights to their own cultural development has become increasingly important in recent years, the government policy emphasizes multiculturalism both on policy- and research-levels. The following two figures clarify the multicultural position in Australia.

Figure 1: Overseas born by citizenship


Source: Smolicz, J.J. Development; A Multicultural Perspective from Australia, in: Culture-Development Interface. Delhi, Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd, 1991, p. 143.

Figure 2: Ethnic composition of the Australian people (per cent)


Source: Smolicz, J.J. Development; A Multicultural Perspective from Australia, in: Culture-Development Interface. Delhi, Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd, 1991, p. 149.

According to this (governmental) framework the twin objectives of (implicit) cultural policy in Australia are: the promotion of excellence and the promotion of access.

Excellence may be defined in terms of its dual aspects:

  1. the achievement of a minority of talented individuals who surpass all others in establishing new levels in a particular area;
  2. the striving of each individual to surpass his/her own best efforts in direct participation, appreciation or interest.

Access implies the need to promote the appreciation of cultural values and their general application in the community. It also provides opportunities to identify and implement programmes for special groups.

A third element of cultural interest is emerging. It is manifested by the growing awareness of national cultural identity interacting in the same time with dynamic forces of cultural development.

Administrative and Institutional Structures

Public and Semi-public Bodies

  1. Major responsibility for cultural matters at the Commonwealth level is vested in the Department of the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories (DASETT) (see Figure 3).

    Figure 3: Program structure of the Department of the Arts, Sportthe Environment and Territories


    Source: Department of the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories. Annual Report 1988-89, (Vol. 1), Canberra, Department of the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories, 1989, p. 14.

    Other government ministries and their departments are also involved in cultural affairs. The Department of Communication is involved in the administration of government policy in the areas of radio and television including multicultural services. Multicultural and ethnic affairs form part of the responsibilities of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. The Department of Foreign Affairs has an important role in cultural exchange programmes. A number of statutory authorities (see chapter III) responsible for specific areas (heritage matters, the arts, the national gallery, a national broadcasting and television service) have been established by the Commonwealth Government.

  2. State governments have adopted policies which complement the policies of Commonwealth Government. Although they co-operate at this level in national programmes for cultural development, they tend to concentrate on cultural affairs within their own responsibilities.

  3. An important role in cultural development is played by the third tier of government in Australia - local (municipal) government. Restricted to the regional libraries and galleries they have recently undergone an extension into other areas of the arts.

Facilities and Institutions

Organizations based on a specific locality or particular interest, formed to meet further the interests of individuals in various aspects of cultural affairs, are well developed.

In some cases, major national organizations are formed through the direct association of interested citizens. The Australian Ballet Foundation and the Australian Opera are examples of this type of non-governmental organization. Although operating on fully commercial basis these organizations are formed as a #&34;non-profit#&34; companies limited by guarantee in accordance with normal commercial laws.

A great number of Australian cultural organisations (institutions, agencies) can be put either under the category #&34;governmental#&34; or #&34;non-governmental#&34;. Here is the list with short descriptions of most interesting ones. Some of them have a status of statutory authority.

Artbank was established in 1980 with dual purpose of encouraging wider access to contemporary Australian Art by making it available on rental basis for display to the public and to recognize the achievement of Australian artists by purchase of their work.

The National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) was established in 1958 under the auspices of the University of New South Wales, the Australian Elizabethan Theaters Trust and the Australian Broadcasting Commission to encourage and promote knowledge and appreciation of drama, opera, music and other kinds of theaters by providing vocational training courses for live theaters, film, radio and television.

The Public Lending Right Scheme (PLR) was introduced in 1974 and annual programmes began in 1975-76. From July 1987, the provisions of the Public Lending Right Act 1985 came into effect. Its objective is to support Australian writing and publishing by compensating eligible Australian authors and publishers for the free multiple use of their books in public lending libraries.

The Australia Council was established by the Government under the Australia Council Act 1975. As the Government's arts funding and advisory body it provides national leadership in developing arts and offers national programmes of assistance. While the Council's particular commitment is to cultivate new and unique Australian art, it also works to encourage more Australians to become involved in the arts and develop awareness, both at home and abroad of Australia's cultural achievements.

The Australian Film Commission, a statutory authority, established under the Australian Film Commission Act 1975, contributes to the development of a stable and diverse Australian film and television production industry and to the promotion of commercial capacity and cultural benefits of Australian programs in the country and overseas.

Film Australia Pty Ltd., formerly a part of the Australian Film Commission, commenced operations as a wholly Commonwealth-owned company on 1 July 1988. It identifies, produces, promotes and distributes film and television programs that serve the national interest.

The Australian National Gallery traced its origins in 1911 but it was not formally established as a statutory authority until proclamation of the National Gallery Act 1975. Its objectives are to increase awareness, appreciation and understanding of the visual arts by developing and maintaining a National Collection of works of art in all media across all geographic boundaries and by presenting that Collection and other collections present a range of programs in the Gallery and elsewhere for the enjoyment, education and stimulation of all Australians.

The National Library of Australia was established under the proclamation of the National Library Act 1960 as a separate statutory authority. Before 1901, it had been part of the Commonwealth Parliament Library. It preserves Australian cultural heritage through the development and promotion of the national collection of library materials and meets the information and reference needs of Australian society through the development of information services and library collections, provision of equitable access to nationwide information services and through fostering the co-ordinated development of those services.

The National Museum of Australia is a Commonwealth statutory authority established with the support of a political parties by the National Museum of Australia Act 1980. The Museum's major functions are to develop, maintain, present, research and disseminate information on a collection of historical material of national significance relating to the Aboriginal Australia, the history of Australia since 1788 and the interaction of Australian people with the environment.

An another group of research activities of cultural agencies is also well developed. These activities arise from the specific interest of particular agency. The Australian Broadcasting Commission (the national radio and television service) and the Special Broadcasting Service (ethnic radio and television services) undertake audience-research as a basis for programme development and planning.

Instruments of Cultural Policy

Financing of Cultural Activities

Direct financial support for cultural development from Commonwealth and states governments is substantial, i.e. Australia's taxation-relief schemes for cultural purposes provide a substantial net-benefit to the cultural life of Australia.

Gifts and donations from private sector to cultural organizations are encouraged by the federal government through allowing certain of these sums to be deducted from income before levying of income tax.

There are no banks established to fund cultural development and in addition to business corporations and private patrons, a small number of private foundations support cultural development. Prominent among these are the Myer Foundations which offer assistance towards research projects and overseas travel; the Peter Stuyvesant Cultural Foundation which seeks to develop the arts in Australia; and the Utah Foundation which has a broad objective of promoting the welfare of the Australian community and which allocates a significant proportion of its annual disbursements to cultural projects.

In view of more empirical (statistical) data in last fifteen years the total Commonwealth spending on cultural affairs has been significantly increased (seeFigure 4).

Figure 4 Commonwealth heritage expenditure 1975-76 to 1987-88



Source: Department of Finance. What Price Heritage? - Issues for Discussion, Canberra, Department of Finance, 1989, p. 5.

Total government cultural funding amounted to almost $2 billion in 1988-1989. This is equivalent to $118 per head of population and represented an estimated 1.7 per cent of total public expenditure. The Commonwealth provided almost exactly half (50.1 per cent), State and Territory governments 35.4 per cent, and local governments authorities the remaining 14.5 per cent (see Figure 5).

Figure 5 Total cultural funding(1988-89)


Source: Australia Council. Cultural Funding in Australia. Redfern, Australia Council, 1991, p. 4.

The following figure shows the distribution of 17 sub-groups of cultural funding ranked by size.

Figure 6 Cultural funding sub-groups ranked by size(1988-89)


Source: Australia Council. Cultural Funding in Australia. Redfern, Australia Council, 1991, p. 11.


As there is no central body responsible for cultural policy at the federal level so there is no (central) normative act responsible for the coordination of cultural activities.

Special legislation has been passed by Commonwealth and state governments to establish statutory authorities as agencies responsible for cultural affairs in different cultural areas.

Australian adoption of international copyright conventions and the consequent passage of national copyright legislation is a further element of cultural legislation (The Copyright Amendment Bill 1988). Legislation administered by the Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories in 1988-89 included, inter alia the following items relating to cultural life: 1. Australian Council Act 1975; 2. Australian Film Commission Act 1975; 3. Australian Film Commission Amendment Act 1988; 4. Australian Film, Television and Radio School Act 1973; 5. Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975; 6. Australian Tourism Commission Act 1987; 7. Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976; 8. National Gallery Act 1975; 9. National Library Act 1960; 10. National Museum of Australia Act 1980; 11. Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986; 12. Public Lending Right Act 1985; 13. World Heritage Properties Conservation Act 1983.

    Sectoral Policies

    All of the sectorial policies can be presented by means of organization distribution by the Australian Council's Boards (see Figure 7).

    Figure 7 Australia Council - organisation chart


    Source: Australia Council. Annual Report 1988-89. North Sydney, Australia Council, 1989, p. 7.

    Therefore several aberrances have to be taken into account relating with sectorial policies in other countries.

    Aboriginal arts

    These programmes have been based on the premise that Aboriginal culture is not simply a remnant of the past but a living force with its own dynamism. The (Aboriginal Arts) Board aims to make this living force a part of the experience of all Aboriginals and a source of pride for all Australian. Central to this approach has been the principle that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people should control the development of their own forms of expression. Fundamental to the development of Aboriginal culture are the arts and crafts centres established by Aboriginal communities.


    Cultural education and training

    The Literature sector (Board) supports different forms of Australian creative writing in English and other languages through direct grants to Australian writers, script commission, a book publishing subsidies scheme, support for literary magazines and assistance to national literary organizations and events. It also supports interactions between writers and community through writers-in-residence and playwrights-in-residence programmes.

    Performing Arts

    The Performing Arts policy seeks to foster the development of dance, drama, music, puppetry and young people's theaters. Assistance and advance is given to individuals, groups and organizations engaged in professional activity. The Board encourages excellence in performance, the composition and creation of original work, new and innovative forms of presentation styles of performances, the further extension and enhancement of professional skills and the development of appropriate resources and means of communication.

    Visual arts/craft

    The roles of the Visual Arts/Crafts activities are to develop the quality and diversity of Australian visual arts and crafts, to expand the role of arts organization, art museums, public galleries and to promote visual Australian arts and crafts nationally and internationally. Its programmes reflect these main areas of interest as well as it broad advocacy and advisory role.

    Community cultural development

    This interesting and unusual sector supports community involvement in the arts with particular stress on participative, diverse and relevant culture. As a part of national organization the Community Cultural Development Unit (CCDU) sees its primary objectives as identifying and developing training opportunities, promoting the theory and practice of community arts, supporting community cultural organizations and encouraging research and development.

    Cultural Industries

    Effective management and production of culture-leisure industry is in a way the priority of Australian Government. Total supply of goods and services, relating to culture-leisure industry, in 1988 was estimated in excess of $14 billion. Government expenditure on recreation and culture was nearly $3.5 billion. A broad network if institutions and agencies are dedicated to formulate strategic policies, undertake effective planning and make right choices. The Australian Bureau of Statistics can be considered as a central institution for the #&34;ex-post#&34; control in this broad industrial field.

    According to the National Culture-Leisure Industry Statistical Framework ten categories (divided into 16 sectors and 54 sub-sectors) are included in culture-leisure industry production: 1. Heritage and Museums; 2. Literature and Libraries; 3. Music; 4. Performing Arts; 5. Visual Arts and Museums; 6. Film and Video; 7. Radio and Television; 8. Community and Government Culture-Leisure Activities; 9. Sport, Recreation and Safety; 10. Natural Environment.

    Defining the communication policy and media activity as a referential for cultural industries The Australia Film Commission (see: Chapter II, Administrative and institutional structure) can be stated as central as well as the biggest institution engaged in this matter. Its principal functions are: - to provide development funding and the equity investment for film and television projects; - to encourage innovation and experimentation in film-making; - to provide financial support and advice to developing film-makers; - to assist the marketing, distribution, exhibition and broadcasting of Australian programmes; - to provide a central information resource for the film industry; - to monitor development in film industry.

    Cultural Development

    Although the cultural development in Australia is not the subject of formal planning by Government or non-government authorities (see chapter I) it is well organized under the activities of single agencies.

    1. The Australian Film Commission's Cultural Activities Unit provides support for the development of an active, diverse and informative film culture through its funding programmes wherein the cultural development is one of them. It supports seminars, conferences, forums and awards which explore cultural, aesthetic, and industrial matters or recognize achievement within the Australian film and video community.

    2. Collection development and management of the National Library of Australia is central to the Library's future organization and services. The future collecting policy will be based on the assumption that those Australian libraries, which are public accessible, together provide a distributed national collection, where the National Library's own collection form only a part, albeit the single most important part.

    3. The Department of the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories' Corporate Plan for 1988-93 tends, inter alia, to develop and implement programmes on Cultural Heritage and Information. It has a task of promoting and developing of Australian society through increased awareness, understanding and appreciation of Australia's cultural heritage, especially through the national collections and through wider access to information services.

    4. The Australia Council's Community Cultural Development Unit (see chapter IV) supports and encourages the active participation of communities in the development of their own culture. The Unit gives particular emphasis to the defining and development of training opportunities in community arts, the promotion, documentation and dissemination of theory and practice of community development, assisting key for organizations, supporting network and piloting new contexts for practice.

    In addition, the field of arts and cultural research has been particularly developed and many statistic data either on Australian or on foreign population (visitors) has been produced and regularly presented.

    Thus in terms of domestic travellers#&39; cultural activities, the following figure shows them.

    Figure 8 Domestic travellers#&39; cultural activities ranked in frequency order(December 1990 - April 1991)

    Source: Australia Council. Culture on Holiday: A Survey of Australian Domestic Tourists#&39; Cultural Participation, December 1990-April 1991. Redfern, Australia Council, 1991, p. 5.

    The following figure presents a data showing the background in acquiring the interest in art.

    Figure 9 Influence for visitors in acquiring their interest in art

    Source: Australia Council: Art Galleries: Who Goes?, The Summary. Redfern, Australia Council, 1991, p. 7.

    International Cultural Cooperation

    Responsibility for cultural exchanges is vested in the Department of Foreign Affairs, whose Cultural Exchange#&39;s Programme utilizes the cultural resources of Australia in pursuit of foreign policy objectives, and government sponsored agencies such as the Australian Council.

    Although Australia does not actively pursue such formal connections, agreements have been signed with countries in Europe, Asia and South America. Others are being negotiated.

    Special attention has been given to developing cultural contacts with Asia, particularly Japan, China and the ASEAN (Association for South-East Asian Nations) area. These exchanges with Asian neighbors assist the development of greater Australian awareness and understanding of their cultural heritage and temper increasing contact between cultures.

    Australia is also member of multilateral international organizations including United Nations and British Commonwealth. It supports regional bodies such as the South Pacific Commission.

    A significant element in cultural exchange programmes in the last two decades have been exhibitions tourings in Australia ranging from large-scale archeological exhibition from China, Italy, Colombia to important exhibitions of European painting, from art museums in America and the Soviet Union, and more specialized exhibitions of various forms.


    Ministries, authorities and academies

    Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF - Österreichischer Rundfunk), Würzburggasse 30, A-1136 Wien

    Aboriginal Arts Board 168 Walker Street North Sydey

    Artbank 50c Rosebery Ave. Rosebery, NSW 2060

    Australia Council P.O.Box 788 Strawberry Hills NSW 2012

    The Australia Film Finance Corporation Pty Ltd. Level 6, Pacific Highway North Sydney, NSW 2060

    Australian Film Commission 8 West Street North Sydney, NSW 2060

    Australian National Commission for UNESCO UN Social Section Department of Foreign Affairs Canberra Act 2600 Tel. (19 61 62 )61.28.96.

    Australian National Gallery GPO Box 1150 Canberra, ACT 2601

    Australian National Maritime Museum GPO Box 5131 Sydney, NSW 2001

    Australian Network for Art & Technology (ANAT) 68-78 North Tenace Adelaide 80929 Hindley Street SA 5000 Adelaide

    Canberra Institute of the Arts PO Box 804 Canberra

    Crafts Council of Australia 100 George Street Sydney

    Department of the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories GPO Box 787 Canberra, ACT 2601

    Department of Communications Bldg 7, Benjamin Offices Barton, ACT 2600

    Department of Finance Newlands St. Parkes, ACT 2600 Department of Foreign Affairs Administrative Bldg. Parkes, ACT 2600

    Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs Benjamin Offices Chan St. Belconenn, ACT 2617

    Electronic Media Arts PO Box 316 NSW 2021 Paddington

    National Association for the Visual Arts 190 Cumberland Street Sydney

    National Library of Australia Canberra, ACT 2600

    National Museum of Australia GPO Box 1901 Canberra, ACT 2601

    The Public Lending Right Scheme 168 Walker Street North Sydney, NSW 2060

    World Vision Centre of Australia Information Centre GPO Box 399C Melbourne Vic. 3001


    Andersen, Arthur. Business Support for the Arts in Europe. London. CEREC, 1992, pp. 11-12.

    Bontinck, Irmgard. Integrative Evaluation of Cultural Policies: Aspects of Harmonisation of Policy Measures Affecting Culture in Austria. Mediacult-Unesco, Vienna-Paris, 1988.

    Australia Council. Annual Report 1988-89. North Sydney, Australia Council, 1989. Australia Council: Art Galleries: Who Goes?, The Summary. Redfern, Australia Council, 1991. Australia Council: Art Galleries: Who Goes?, A Study of Visitors to Three Australian Art Galleries, with International Comparisons. Redfern, Australia Council, 1991. Australia Council. Cultural Funding in Australia. Redfern, Australia Council, 1991. Australia Council. Culture on Holiday: A Survey of Australian Domestic Tourists#&39; Cultural Participation, December 1990 - April 1991. Redfern, Australia Council, 1991. Australian Film Commission. Annual Report 1989. Canberra, Australian Film Commission, 1989. Australia Film Finance Corporation Pty Limited. Annual Report 1988-89. Australia Film Finance Corporation Pty Limited, 1989. Australian Film, Television and Radio School. Annual Report 1988-89. South Melbourne, Australian Film, Television and Radio School, 1989. Australian National Gallery. Annual Report 1988-89. Canberra, Australian National Gallery, 1989. Battersby, Jean. Cultural Policy in Australia. Paris, UNESCO, 1980. The Commission for the Future. Perspectives on Australia#&39;s Future. Paris, Unesco, 1989. Department of the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories. Annual Report 1988-89, (Vol. 1), Canberra, Department of the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories, 1989. Department of the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories. What Value Heritage? A Perspective on the Museums Review and the Performance of Museums. Department of the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories, 1990. Department of Finance. What Price Heritage? - Issues for Discussion, Canberra, Department of Finance, 1989. National Library of Australia. 29th Annual Report 1988-89. Canberra, National Library of Australia, 1989. National Library of Australia. Collection Development Policy. Canberra, National Library of Australia.1990. National Library of Australia. Shaping Our Future, Preserving Our Past - National Library of Australia Strategic Plan 1990-95, Canberra, National Library of Australia, 1990. National Museum of Australia. Annual Report 1988-89. Canberra, National Museum of Australia, 1989. Recent Developments in Commonwealth Heritage Advisory Bodies and Policy on Museums, (paper). Smolicz, J.J. Development; A Multicultural Perspective from Australia; in Culture-Development Interface (Yogesh Atal, ed.). Delhi, Vikas Publishing House PVT Ltd, 1991, pp. 128-159. Statistical Advisory Group of The Cultural Ministers Council. The National Culture-Leisure Industry Statistical Framework. Adelaide Statistical Advisory Group of The Cultural Ministers Council, 1990. Tenth Meeting of Experts on Regional Co-operation in Unesco Cultural Activities in Asia and the Pacific: Australia, Tokyo, 15-19 March 1991. Tokyo, Asian Cultural Centre for Unesco, 1991, pp. 48-50. T.C.
    How This Document Was Prepared
    This monograph is based on data received from the Culturelink Cultural Policies Data Bank, and on documents collected by the Documentation Centre for Cultural Development and Cooperation, Culturelink, in Zagreb, Croatia.

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