Academic journal article Innovation: Organization & Management

Australian Cultural and Innovation Policies: Never the Twain Shall Meet?

Academic journal article Innovation: Organization & Management

Australian Cultural and Innovation Policies: Never the Twain Shall Meet?

Article excerpt


As Australia's best-known cultural economist observed in 2006, Australia doesn't have a formally stated government cultural policy (Throsby 2006). Instead, Australian cultural policies are the product of an evolutionary history that has tended to accrete new policy frameworks around existing structures of funding and support (Craik 2007). The result is that 'innovation', however defined, has only occasionally been a policy goal of Australian state and commonwealth governments in the realm of arts and culture.

In contrast, when Australian governments have turned their policy attention to innovation in the broader economy, they have (unsurprisingly) concentrated on different industries - like automotive manufacturing - and different cognitive disciplines, especially science and technology. These two tendencies are perhaps best illustrated by the Hawke Government's iconic industry policy of the 1980s, the Button Car Plan (Capling & Galligan 1992). Policy responses in this sphere have tended to focus on direct public investment in national research organisations and tax incentives for corporate R&D (Cutler 2008).

The result is that innovation and cultural policies have seldom linked up or even addressed each other in the Australian political economy, despite the recent trend by state governments to define cultural policy in terms of the so-called 'creative industries' (Hartley 2005). Commonwealth and state innovation policies deal only tangentially with innovation in the cultural or creative industries: Cutler's Venturous Australia (2008), for instance, mentions the phrase 'creative industries' only once in 228 pages, and the Australia Council not at all. Discussion of the arts and cultural sector is confined to a plea for 'better understanding of the connections and commonalities between science and the arts'. Cutler (2008: 48) continues:

After all, both science and the arts are concerned with the endeavour of making sense of apparently random phenomena, to explain why things are as they are or could be. It is instructive to recall Charles Darwin was first and foremost an obsessive collector, and it was this obsession with taxonomy that generated his world-changing insights about the evolution of species and living systems. Today he may have been director of a museum.

Cutler (2008) goes on to recommend a modest reform in the funding of creative arts training - essentially to address the funding imbalance between institutions funded by the Environment, Heritage and the Arts portfolio as the National Institute of Dramatic Arts and the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, and those funded out of the federal Education portfolio, such as university-based arts academies like the Victorian College of the Arts. But by late 2008, the Australian Government had moved in the opposite direction, defunding the Australian National Academy of Music and transferring its operation to the University of Melbourne (Chandler 2008). Venturous Australia's modest interest in the arts is notable because its author, Dr Terry Cutler, is a former senior government arts official. It illustrates the history of disconnect between Australian arts and innovation policies, particularly at a federal level.


Meanwhile, on the cultural policy side of the fence, the late 1990s and early 2000s saw an interesting trend in Australian cultural policy at state and municipal levels. While the Australian Government under John Howard's succession of junior arts ministers embarked on a cautious strategy of policy-by-inquiry, many Labor administrations at state and local government level began to embrace an industry policy model of cultural policy as a pathway to regional industry development. Writers and academics such as Charles Landry (2000) and Richard Florida (2003) became extremely influential, especially at a local government level. …

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