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The Australian National University

Developing an Indigenous Arts Strategy for the Northern Territory: Issues paper for consultations

Working Paper 22 / 2003

Abstract

This Issues Paper is a first step in the development of an Indigenous Arts Strategy (IAS) for the Northern Territory (NT). It aims to do two things. First, to assess the current state of Indigenous arts in the NT. Second, to canvass issues for consideration by arts stakeholders and to facilitate the development of an Indigenous arts support framework for the NT. It should be noted at the outset that the development of such an Indigenous arts strategy is unprecedented in the NT, and possibly in Australia. Strategies have been developed for the arts generally and arguably for the Indigenous visual arts industry nationally, but there has never been a comprehensive attempt to develop a strategy for Indigenous arts at the State level. To some extent it is fitting that the NT is taking the leadership role here, because not only is it the most significant Indigenous jurisdiction in terms of relative population (29% of the NT's small total population of just under 200,000 is Indigenous according to the 2001 Census) but also because Indigenous arts here, and especially the visual arts, have such high regional, national and international profiles.

This Issues Paper seeks to chart a realistic pathway to ensure Indigenous arts success under an NT Indigenous arts advocacy and support framework. The challenge for the NT Government's IAS will be to develop a positive and achievable Indigenous arts policy umbrella that is warmly welcomed by the NT arts community and the NT constituency and that is regarded as valuable by other major Commonwealth funding agencies. This suggests, on one hand, that these other Commonwealth agencies are also stakeholders in the development of the IAS-it is in the Commonwealth's interests to seek to sustain a national Indigenous arts sector, and to ensure that the important NT component is sustainable by supporting it institutionally and financially. On the other hand, while it is in the NT Government's interest to form an effective alliance with the Commonwealth because of its current financial dominance in the sector in the NT, both interests, as well as Indigenous arts stakeholders, will be well served by strong coordination.

Resolving such issues will require astute political judgments by the NT Government. The challenge for the development of the IAS is to seek to convert the undeniable current of NT Government goodwill, and broader Commonwealth concurrence (recently evident in the March 2003 CMC Communiqué), to a focus on Indigenous arts as a priority for positive policy action. How can the NT Government ensure that it enhances and maintains the national leadership in Indigenous arts, and especially visual arts, that the NT clearly enjoys? This, ultimately, must be the aim of the IAS.

ISSN: 
1442 3871
ISBN: 
0 7315 4921 X

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