Culture of Tolerance?
20 March 2013
The Creative Australia policy released last week has been widely acclaimed as a great step forward for cultural life, and particularly the arts, in Australia. Some members of our arts community, however, were surprised to find no new funding to support their needs, and language that is at best poorly worded, at worst offensive, in the context of a national cultural policy.
Here is the offending paragraph. The context is a section about Regional development and social dividends through community-based arts and cultural programs
Continuing to build on the National Arts and Disability Strategy to improve access to culture for people with disability and apply arts-led approaches to increasing a culture of tolerance and inclusion for people with disability in line with the National Disability Strategy. The National Arts and Disability Strategy was released by Cultural Ministers in 2009. The Australian Government supplemented the strategy in 2011 with funding of $500 000, provided to Arts Access Australia.
The line about tolerance (emphasis added) created quite a stir, with a number arts and disability advocacy organisations calling for an apology. Arts Access Victoria's Veronica Pardo responded by saying "40 years after the establishment of the first arts access organisation in Australia, how have we suddenly found ourselves relegated back to the 1960’s, where people with a disability must be treated with tolerance, rather than celebrated for the quality of their creative products, lauded for their significant accomplishments and sought after as important cultural collaborators?" Arts Access Australia also criticised the policy and called for more support.
Today, any reference to 'tolerance' was removed from the Creative Australia website. This section now reads:
Continuing to build on the National Arts and Disability Strategy to improve access to culture for people with disability, and for promoting social inclusion through the arts. The National Arts and Disability Strategy was released by Cultural Ministers in 2009. The Australian Government supplemented the strategy in 2011 with funding of $500 000, provided to Arts Access Australia.
No doubt the Arts and Disability sector will continue to advocate for an increase in support for the national strategy, which was written with more resources in mind. The government should recognise the opportunities for its Creative Australia policy to specifically address disadvantage and challenges facing people with disability in the arts. At a glance we can see the Arts Ready initiative to support arts employment and the new funding for the Australia Council as opportunities.
Changing a few words in a document is a small step, but at least someone was listening.
Read the Creative Australia policy at http://creativeaustralia.arts.gov.au/