Australian cultural policy: an essay by me at NewMatilda.com

Over the 2008-09 summer break, my colleagues at NewMatilda.com ran a special series on the state of Australian culture. It’s one of the best short courses you can find online on the Australian cultural sector, including some fascinating pieces by noteworthy writes such as Andrew Frost, Ben Gook, Robert Miller, Jeremy Fisher and Scott Rankin.

At the end of the series, I was able to write a long essay drawing some of the threads together with a particular view on cultural policy.  You can find the essay here: http://newmatilda.com/2009/01/07/your-cultural-policy-has-expired

In this essay, I argue that cultural policy in Australia is about bureaucratic fashion, and history, and tradition — but not evidence. Absurd inconsistencies in who we fund and how we regulate cultural expression are not the exception, but the norm.

So, for instance, we fund large companies of professional musicians to play the musical treasures of the European world — but not of the Islamic, Pacific or Chinese traditions. We spend hundreds of millions a year supporting Australian films, but not Australian games. We have exhibited contemporary graffiti and street art in the hallowed halls of our key public art galleries, while vigorously prosecuting and even jailing graffiti artists. We enforce some of the most stringent and punitive copyright laws in the world, without examining the costs of these special industry protections to consumers, schools, libraries and the public sphere.

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