Creative Australia Bill 2023
SECOND READING DEBATE - HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Before the member for Nicholls leaves the chamber, I'd like to bring to his attention the fact that the program for the appropriations bill consideration in detail was brought into this chamber and not opposed by those opposite. That timeline was set by this parliament. It hasn't been gagged in any way, shape or form. It has been on the list since the budget.
I welcome the member for Nicholls' comments around this important Creative Australia Bill 2023. I had the absolute pleasure on 30 January of joining the member for Watson, lots of our colleagues and the creative industry members in Melbourne at the Espy hotel to launch this policy. It's a pleasure to be in the parliament today to support the legislation going through and to commend this legislation to the House. As the member for Nicholls said so eloquently, everyone in this place supports the arts. I want to mention why I really like the title of this being Creative Australia. If you look at it through the lens of creativity, it broadens the conversation about the arts. It broadens that conversation. It takes that conversation out to suburbs like the suburb where I live and the suburb where I grew up. Creativity does need to be at the forefront of our thinking. Creating vibrant, young, creative minds and a place where they can thrive is the business I was in for 30 years before joining the parliament, because creativity happens in our classrooms. Creativity happens in the curriculum that we create and mandate for our schools. Space and time in that curriculum needs to be provided for the development of creativity young people.
I want to note, with my education hat on here, that we often hear—even yesterday I was listening to someone talk —about our skills shortage and VET and VCAL and training and the thinking that we should look to northern Europe. They mean Scandinavia. They've stopped saying Finland. But when people talk about how well Finland do in education, I always want to remind them that one of the things Finland made a decision about was mandating the creative arts to the final year of high school, and they did so because they understood that all of the learning, put together, without creativity, doesn't create a new future; it just continues the old.
So creativity here and supporting the workers in the creative industries is, I think, incredibly important. I note, too, the notion from the member for Nicholls about workers in the arts, or artists, being able to sustain themselves. I want to see them thrive, not sustain themselves. I want to see them earn from their creativity. I want to see them not just be celebrated—as we do celebrate them in Australia—for their quintessential Australian riffs that we all hear in our heads when we think of particular times in history. We can hear the music that went along with those periods in history—the quintessential Australian riffs. Those riffs vary, obviously, according to the era and the sound track of your life. My sound track is very different to lots of sound tracks in this place. My sound track is quintessentially suburban Australia. That needs to be celebrated, but we need the support in place to ensure that that Australian voice, that Australian riff, goes on being created for the next generation and the generation after that.
I began teaching at the beginning of the great years for the Australian film industry. That has also been referenced here. I remember watching Peter Weir movies and being absolutely in awe. I was seeing Australian stories on screen for the first time and, as a teacher, I remember being able to take them into classrooms and watch children's faces as they recognised the places, the accent, the voice. I remember sharing Tim Winton with year 8 children and asking them what it was about this piece of writing that excited them so much and watching them dig down until they started reading it aloud and realising that what they were reading was Australian. I remember putting another piece of text, a universal piece of text, in front of them, but having them realise that their voice wasn't in this piece. But in Tim Winton's work they found their voice, they found their speech, they found their patterns, they found their turn of phrase.
Supporting Creative Australia is incredibly important. As others have said, the workers in this industry were abandoned during the pandemic and were not supported in the way that other workers in this country were, to our national shame. I think this legislation turns and pivots Australia back to a place where there's going to be money to support the industry and the creatives in this country. But, more importantly, it will ensure that they have safe work places, because some of the stories that we've heard that have emerged out of our creative industries have also been distressing, and it's very important that we create safe work places.
I want to spend a bit of time talking about another issue. There are those who will go on and make a living in the creative arts and who will thrive in the creative arts. There are others for whom, as the member for Nicholls referenced, art is a way of finding expression. As one who worked in schools, I know the power of art therapy for young people. Finding a way to express themselves through arts can often lead to a more stable existence, a way to express themselves that stays with them for life and that they go back to time and time again in their lives to pull themselves out of a place of despair perhaps or a place of loneliness or a place where they're feeling less than hopeful. I've seen young people be involved in art therapy and, having known them across their lifetime, they still reference those periods in schools when art therapists were supported and paid well to come into schools and work with young people to build their creativity and to help them tap into those things. So, like the member for Watson, I'm very excited about the Creative Australia funding and the policy, the pivot and the shift, the inclusion of safe workplaces as part of this program and the recognition of people involved in Creative Australia as legitimate workers who need to thrive in the industry in which they work.
Let's think about Australian music. If you're like me and you're from the suburbs—I've never been to the ballet and I've never been to the opera, and I'd probably never go to either, ever, but for me—the importance of Australian stories being told can't be overestimated. Whether it be through music, whether it be on stage, whether it be through film, whether it be through performance art, whether it be through any form of art, that recognition of yourself, of us as a country and of the place you live and having it celebrated or having the world presented to you through a prism that is your home can't be overestimated in terms of our own identity but also in terms of our self esteem.
As young teacher, I watched those Australian films in that period. I saw them on the big screen, and it filled me with a pride about who we are and the unique way that we see the world. Having our stories from our local communities being performed, whether that be locally or whether they end up on much larger stages or travelling the country, those moments are critically important, because it's through the reflection of those stories, through an art prism, that we come to new understandings about how we get things done, how we change things, how we celebrate things.
All of these things are incredibly important, and I'm really pleased to be member of this government. I notice the member for Watson has joined us in the chamber. I want to congratulate him, personally, and his team for the work that they are doing in this space. It's a lifetime of commitment for the member Watson. I know everyone has memories of election night, but I remember a moment when I went: 'We're back. Labor are back. The arts are back. Australians will feel proud of themselves again,' because the bottom line for me is that when we celebrate the arts, when our artists thrive, we get to feel pride in our country, in our way of life and in our unique way of seeing the world, as someone said yesterday, from the bottom of the world or the top of the world, depending on where the globe is turning. We like to think of ourselves on the bottom of the world and shining bright and much larger on an international stage. Our artists give us that.
In our lounge rooms, in our kitchens or at our backyard barbecues, we hear that quintessential Australian riff, whatever it is for you—it's not hip-hop for me; I believe it is for the Treasurer. It's not DJ Albo's music for me. It's likely to be a much more suburban version of all of those things for me, but, when you're at that barbecue and you hear that music—I can give you this moment. I've got friends at home, they're the netballers that I've coached for many years, and one of them is overseas and has been for some time. We get a phone call, and in the background someone changes the music, because the person on the end of that phone needs to feel homesick while they talk to us, they need to think about Melbourne, they need to think about the MCG. I can't imagine who we played! Everyone in this chamber knows! Those moments are really important, they fill me with pride.
When I walk into this place in the morning, it's Australian music in my ears. It's Australian music in my ears as I come through and walk along the road and look at the Australian flag above Parliament House, because we are all proud of our country, we're all here to create a better country, and this goes some way to delivering on all of those things. I'm really proud to be part of a government that is going to deliver it.
I want to congratulate the member for Macquarie, as well, for her role as the envoy. Her commitment is also quite amazing to watch and absorb. Her interests are much broader and wider than mine, but in terms of the arts, there's an artist in all of us; there really is an artist in all of us.
I'm a girl from Werribee. I grew up admiring lots of people and lots of people's creativity. I was involved in a grassroots campaign that went for about 2½ years. About a year after we'd won this campaign and defeated Jeff Kennett and CSR, the multinational that was coming to destroy our lives, a friend of mine said to me, 'Joanne, we should write the play.' This person is now thriving as a playwright. We co-wrote a play that was dramaturged by the MTC and had a week's screening at home in Werribee in our local arts centre and at La Mama Theatre. So, I had an 18-month period when I was embedded in the world of these artists and had the pleasure of meeting the actors who are so committed to their craft, to performance and to Australian stories and to work with them and watch them work. And then to sit and see our story on the stage at La Mama was the most extraordinary thing. It was incredibly special, and it also gave me an insight into the precarious nature of these workplaces, where, from one week to the next, they have to ask, 'Will I be working or won't I be working?'
Anything we can do in this parliament to support those creative people amongst us to do this work, to tell our stories and to share who we are and what we are is important. This is a fabulous first step around that. I love the wording; I love the phrasing. For me, it brings the arts right back into my backyard, at my barbecue. Thanks, Member for Watson. I commend the bill to the House
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July 31, 2023