There were no prizes for guessing why the contingent of hard news journalists turned up this morning at Parliament House for the announcement of Regional Arts Australia’s national strategic projects by the Minister for Arts, Simon Crean.
For while the minister made a humorous attempt at welcoming the press pack and applauding their newfound interest in our national culture, but it was more than obvious they were there to extract comments from him on the prime ministerial leadership spill later announced.
Unfortunately for Mr Crean, he would later be sacked as Minister for Arts, Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, following his call for the leadership vote.
It was considerably more likely that Opposition arts spokesman George Brandis and the patron of Regional Arts Australia (RAA), Michael Bryce, were there this morning to follow developments in regional arts.
Introduced by RAA’s president, Dennis Goldner, Mr Crean talked up the recently announced National Arts Policy which he called “Creative Nation,” (whoops, that was Paul Keating’s arts policy), quickly amending that to “Creative Australia.” He said the challenge to RAA was to approach the enhanced Australia Council for funding, now possible, and to leverage funds from local and regional authorities as well.
It was no accident, Mr Crean said, that he was the Minister for both Arts and Regional Australia, for the “expression of culture in the regions” that he had recently observed in Grafton, while attending an art show, was of profound importance to Australia’s future.
The former minister’s main purpose, however, was to announce several important initiatives: the Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Engagement Project; the “Animating Spaces” project where arts events would be presented in non-traditional spaces; broadband and digital arts initiatives; a project to create social enterprise in the regions and finally, the “National Regional Visual Art Showcase,” to be held in Parliament house in March 2014 and followed by a national tour to key regional art galleries across Australia.
Mr Goldner, who heads up a committee comprised of directors, CEOs and chairs of the major regional arts agencies operating in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia, wound up by reminding those present that the next biennial conference would be held in Kalgoorlie in 2014.
As the press moved in on Mr Crean following his formal announcements, the federal secretary of RAA (and former Canberran), Elizabeth Rogers, was philosophical.
“At least we’ll be on TV and our signage will be seen,” she said. You can count on it.