Arts West Letter to Candidates in the lead up to the Federal Elections.

The Hon Bill Shorten MP
Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
Member for Maribyrnong

                                                                                                                                                                                    12th April 2019

Dear Mr Shorten,

We are writing to you today on behalf of Arts West, a unique alliance of arts organisations and independent artists who together reflect the exciting, vibrant and ever-expanding arts and culture thriving in Melbourne’s west. Six of our seven alliance members and over 55% of our independent artists and small companies are based within your electorate, with the remaining members coming from neighbouring electorates; Gellibrand, Lalor, Fraser and Gorton.

With over 18.8 million tickets sold throughout Australia in 2016, and with millions more reached through free events, education, social outreach and broadcast, the performing arts sector employs over 34,000 people, it generates secondary economic activity in hospitality and tourism, and it helps project Australia to the world. Arts Organisations, Artists and consumers are socially engaged and have power and influence over political discourse and sentiment. 

Maribyrnong is home to many artists and creative workers: at the 2016 census, there were 3,085 people employed across cultural and creative occupations, accounting for 3.8% of the total electorate workforce, compared to 3.9% of the national workforce. (Source: Australia Council)

With an anticipated 32% population growth across the region before 2023, Melbourne’s west is one of Australia’s fastest growing areas, and is represented by over 130 cultural groups and 150 languages (source: Lead West). This shifting landscape is deeply informed by perspectives of gentrification, liveability and community well-being, all of which arts and culture plays a significant role. As you would appreciate, access to creative opportunities and cultural representation are key drivers to influencing a cohesive and healthy community, full of active and engaged citizens.

We stand behind our colleagues at Theatre Network Australia, a peak body working in partnership with other peak organisations to secure a creative future for Australia by working with your Labor colleagues to ensure our creative industries have a bright and secure future.

One of the recent wins of our sector’s collaborative work was pursuing the return in 2017 of the Catalyst Program funding to the Australia Council for the Arts - a campaign that we all contributed to through the 2014/2015 Arts Funding Senate Inquiry. However, successive cuts have meant that the Australia Council for the Arts remains unable to adequately fulfil its brief. We urge you to commit to your promise of increased Australia Council funding to secure the creative future of this country.

With escalating growth and gentrification in the Western region of Melbourne, we write to you to request that the Labor government announce your creative policy and commit to investing a minimum $20 million of new funding to the Australia Council each year as promised in your plan for a more creative Australian on June 4th, 2016. This increase would enable greater representation from a diversity of artists, companies and artforms from the west, and support arts organisations to build a sustainable financial model for growth over multiple years.

Thank you for your time in reading this letter and we look forward to your response.

Yours faithfully
Arts West