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Victorian Creative State Summit speech

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I’d like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners and First Peoples of this land – the people of the Kulin Nation, and pay my respects to their Elders past and present.

It’s wonderful to see so many people here today from across the creative and cultural sector.

Thank you Aunty Joy for your Welcome to Country – a welcome imbued with many thousands of years of cultural tradition, creative practice and connection to this land.

Earlier this year the Victorian Parliament passed the Creative Victoria Act.

Alongside formalising the government’s role in supporting Victoria’s creative industries and cementing the layers of worth and value being built on our diverse cultural content, the Act does one very important – and long overdue – thing.

It recognises the importance of the arts and culture of our First Peoples, enshrining in legislation a commitment to supporting and promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts practice now and into the future. They are the foundation stone of our creative state, so thank you Aunty Joy – and thank you to our modern, vibrant and growing indigenous cultural players.

To all our international and interstate guests, a warm welcome to Victoria – thank you for being here to provide a global context to our conversations.

In this room we have a wide range of people leading across Victoria’s creative industries.

I want to start by saying thank you all – not just for the work you do, but for the contribution you make to our contemporary creative and cultural life, as the heart of our creative state.

Exactly two years ago, we were embarking on another conversation about Victoria’s creative industries.

Ahead of developing what would become Creative State policy , we put a series of questions to those working in our creative sectors:

  • What would help you develop your creative practice, your organization or your business?
  • What are the biggest opportunities, and the toughest challenges?
  • How can we make Victoria’s creative sectors more sustainable?
  • How can we grow Victoria’s reputation and status as a creative state?

We had almost 10,000 contributions to this discussion over the consultation period.

After years without a state arts, cultural or creative policy, it was a conversation that needed to happen.

As we were embarking on the development of a strategy for Victoria’s creative future, that vision of a good future at a national level – one where funding models and sector engagement  were valued –  was taking a beating.

The arts and screen sectors, in particular, were reeling from  cuts to the Australia Council and Screen Australia.

It was a difficult time and the repercussions are still being felt.

If anything, this national context propelled us here in Victoria. It hardened our resolve to secure the elements of the current system we valued, and to work on those that needed reform and an entire new approach. We would do things differently.

Here in Victoria, we appreciate the intrinsic value of the arts and creativity to our society. The economic value our creative industries make to Victoria backs this up.

$23 billion a year; 220,000 jobs; and a growth rate of almost double the broader economy.

Coming from a strong base of great talent and new ideas  – the all-encompassing and imprecise catchphrase of “innovation”– the question with the Creative State strategy was ‘how do we harness different levels of value and engagement to the contemporary cultural content of what we do?’

This needed to include how the economic and social value of our creative industries builds the sector’s relevance and importance across the civic landscape . How, we asked ourselves, does a modern government create a contemporary and widely supported framework to achieve this?

We know we still have a challenge ahead – to remind our community of the importance that our sectors bring.

Data reported as recently as yesterday shows Australians are skeptical, and increasingly underestimating the importance of arts and cultural experiences to society. They want scarce and competitive taxpayers dollars to go elsewhere.

This is yet another reason why the Creative State strategy has so much to live up to.  It provides a counter to those who see no role for government – not just in the nation’s cultural life, but in any part of the nation’s life.

The Creative Industries idea, as particular Victorian idea,  is in essence an idea and aspirational policy frame that needs to be continually reimagined. It’s about re-engaging with people, communities, creatives and practitioners from many fields.

The Creative State strategy sees 40 targeted actions that take an entire ecology. They are whole-of-state and cross-sector views, built on the sector engagement work we carried out, while pointing to new levels of values and engagement it can bring.

When we started along this path, I know there was some nervousness, skepticism even.

On the one hand, in a creative industries paradigm, what is the value of the experimental? Of artistic excellence? Of the non-commercial? Isn’t it all about an excuse to fund those activities that deliver on return? Wasn’t it the accountants taking over?

On the other, would being forced into an arranged marriage with ‘the arts’ undermine the value of, say, design as a business capability, or be relevant to a commercially successful game developer?

Our view – the Victorian view – of this creative industries debate is that it’s not a matter of either-or. The Creative State we live in is inspired by big ideas and dreams, but grounded in the real world of funding, structures and outcomes.

This is not a Blair-esque excuse to pivot away from the non-commercial, nor a Brandis-esque model of building a cross between a Tsarist monument building or Medici-like personal patronage system.

Rather than pitting art against commerce; sector again sector; our view is that it’s all part of the same ecosystem – that we need to demonstrate real world relevance to the hard-nosed economist, and genuine creative excellence and community engagement to the contemporary practitioners .

We build our plans and outcomes around a new diverse field of cultural practice. Our argument is they are all the one thing – a spectrum of values and a spectrum of creativity that we support, enhance and fund.

When you start bringing expertise and experience from different sectors together, you pave the way for unexpected outcomes. You really do facilitate good, new and -dare I say it – innovative outcomes

Last weekend, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne scooped 56 awards, including agency of the year, at the Cannes Lion Awards, the Oscars of the advertising world.

The most awarded campaign of the night was their campaign for the Victorian Transport Accident Commission, Meet Graham.

For those of you who haven’t met Graham, he was developed by leading Victorian artist Patricia Piccinini, in collaboration with a trauma surgeon and a crash investigator to show what a person would need to look like to survive a car accident.

Not a collaborative partnership that readily leaps to mind, but Graham is the centrepiece of a ground-breaking road safety campaign that is part public education program, part travelling art exhibition – and all creativity .

He is genuinely surreal, and would sit well in a Dali landscape as well as he does in a transport accident TV ad.

He is also an example of how art and creative industry services can be applied to social issues to extraordinary effect, and how creativity is infusing the wider community – and with it, successfully spreading the creative industry message.

Collaboration can also drive results in some of the so-called ‘traditional’ artforms if there is the preparedness to be bold – and the success of Victorian Opera is an example of this.

In the last couple of years the company has embraced technologies including virtual reality and 3D digital sets, staged an exclusively online production and incorporated life-sized puppets into its performances.

It has also collaborated with the likes of Circus Oz, Deakin Motion Lab and Malthouse Theatre.

The company’s out-of-the-box thinking was recognised with a nomination for an international  – here it is again – innovation award earlier this year. It’s one of the reasons it is being elevated to national major performing arts company status – a far reward for its efforts in new works, new talents, and new thinking.

From new opportunities across emerging platforms through to reinvigorating traditional artforms and onto driving social change; from experimental art to cutting-edge digital games – our Creative State strategy seeks to build an environment for creativity to flourish whatever the form and purpose.

The value that is created is multi-levelled. It is complex. It is also – I have no doubt – undervalued across the wider community. It is up to us all, particularly government, to champion and build the recognition of that value through support for the strategy we signed up to.

This includes increasing support for programs and creatives that we know are effective in building those different levels of value.

Programs like the Organisations Investment Program, which is supporting 90 small to medium arts organisations, – many of whom were subject to those Brandis cuts –  who collectively employ 2,300 people and reach an audience of 6 million people.

We’re also finding new ways of doing things, or adapting successful models from one sector and tailoring them for another.

It includes addressing longstanding gaps – such as support for activity in outer-metropolitan Melbourne.

It includes making inroads into enduring needs, like the lack of affordable workspaces.

It includes tackling significant challenges, like making sure our practice, our audience and our engagement reflect principles of inclusion and diversity – making sure that the Creative Industries values extend to the relationship between cultural forms and wider cultural change that will build diversity .

And it includes providing quick and readily accessible opportunities, like helping Victorian artists and companies break into new international markets.

We’ve taken big steps since the strategy’s launch just over a year ago.

We have:

  • Launched a new Creative Suburbs program for eight outer Melbourne arts projects that will employ 271 artists, and provide creative opportunities to 7,700 participants, reaching thousands of audience members.
  • Led successful Victorian trade missions and showcases in key international marketplaces across the arts, design, contemporary music, and digital games, resulted in expected new business for local companies – totalling over $18.6 million, as well as countless creative opportunities.
  • Announced the first Regional Centre for Culture program to take place in Bendigo and surrounds throughout 2018, including new grants for local creatives and a new partnership with the Dja Dja Wurrung people to participate – because creativity should go beyond our tram lines.
  • Introduced new business and skills development programs for screen practitioners, including dedicated leadership programs for women in the screen industries.
  • Won the bid for Melbourne to be the partner city for Hong Kong Business of Design Week 2018, the biggest design industry event in the Asia Pacific.
  • And we’ve completed a major study that charts a way forward for Melbourne to build its global profile as a cultural destination, based first and foremost on a diverse range of cultural content.

Of course, wherever you sit on the creative industries debate spectrum, one thing is indisputable: you can’t have a creative industry, and you certainly can’t have a creative state, without creative people.

Creators are the heart, soul and driver of our sector  – and they are too often overlooked.

One of the strongest messages we heard in the consultation for our strategy was that creators need time when it comes to producing major works and pieces of whatever practice .

More than money, more than equipment or supplies – time.

Time to focus on their practice.

Time to think, research and experiment.

I’m pleased today to announce a new program that will provide just that.

The Creator’s Fund will support creatives across all our established and emerging disciplines to undertake an extensive period of creative development.

It will provide grants of up to $50,000 to support individuals or collectives to work for three to six months to build the frame for these works  – and we will be providing $1.27 million to creators over the next two years to buy them that time.

Unlike other programs, this isn’t a commissioning program – it’s about supporting the research and development phase to then go on and to create. Let’s not occupy space others did already – let’s add value and support in new ways, and open up new areas.

This program is about giving creators the time and space to experiment and test ideas in order to gather new information and inspiration. It sums up what our Creative State strategy is about – difference, new ideas, creative outcomes and new levels of value that might flow from this.

Recipients will also be invited to participate in a lab-style program where they can share information and network with other recipients and the wider creative community.

It will give them the opportunity to present their concepts or ideas to potential partners, ranging from leading creative practitioners to philanthropic bodies and other Government departments.

In fields such as science and engineering we value and invest in research and experimentation. The creative industries should be no different. In fact, as you will see from some of the sessions around Science and cultural forms, they are intimately entwined.

This program is about genuinely giving creators the best chance to generate cutting-edge, career-defining work – it’s another foundation to our creative state.

Of course, creators don’t work in isolation. Getting any new idea or work off the ground needs a number of partners and supporters.

Collaborators, facilitators, mentors, administrators, marketers, volunteers, family and friends – not to mention audiences and consumers.

Everyone in this room plays a part in the success of Victoria’s creative industries, and everyone in this room can make a positive contribution to the future of our creative state.

I hope the next two days brings you some inspiration, a new idea or new connection that propels your career and our creative state forward.

And equally, I hope it propels ideas, and challenges what our creative state policy around content, diversity, opportunity and returns might look like. This is the first of our promised summits – but it certainly won’t be the last.

Our creative state cannot be a static one – and we look to you for that next wave of inspiration and building new levels of value.

It’s over to you now – and I thank you.