Julian Meyrick on Australian cultural policy


Julian Meyrick. Source: Monash University website.

In a recent presentation to SUNY’s University at Buffalo Law School, well-known Melbourne-based writer and theatre director Julian Meyrick gives a precis of the current Australian cultural policy environment.

Meyrick’s thoughts are particularly relevant because he is part of Peter Garrett’s hand-picked cultural advisory group (along with Marcus Westbury, Cate Blanchett and David Throsby). It’s an entertaining speech that includes some real gems:

“I have been involved in cultural policy for 21 years as supplicant, victim, analyst, clacquer and serial complainer.  While there’s been movement, there’s been little change. One document follows another in endless tirelss plodding succession, like a parade of elderly donkeys.”

Meyrick also sketches his amusing experiences in the Creative Australia group at the 2020 Summit, before moving on to Jim McGuigan‘s recent discussion of Tony Bennett‘s Foucoulvian research in the 1990s in Cool Capitalism, and then outlining the history of Australian cultural policy from the founding of the Australia Council on. There’s also a witty discussion of how the performing arts centres built in Australia in the 1970s were really constructed to address the problems of the 1960s but came online in the very different environment of the 1980s, plus some lovely throw-away lines about the redistributive nature of government arts funding, the intrinsic value of culture, the irreducibility of aesthetic experience, Clifford Geertz, the problems of federalism, and more.

Meyrick ends with a somewhat quixotic call for culture to be made an integral part of “universal citizenship”, a project about which, like John Gray, I am deeply skeptical.