The alliance of Performing Arts Peak organisations' joint submission to Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee Inquiry into Nationhood, National identity and Democracy highlights the valuable contribution the arts can make to social cohesion and national identity . It argues we can do more to strengthen social cohesion and national identity by building the role of the arts into future policy initiatives.
The submission outlines how Australians gain identity, meaning and a sense of belonging by being seen and seeing their stories, experiences, ideas and inspiration reflected in our arts and culture. Arts and culture inspire and connect both individuals and communities. Australia is home to both First Nations traditional owners, the world's oldest civilisation, while also having every single country from around the world represented in its population.
Australia's national identity cannot default to a single or linear narrative - our national identity is fuelled and transformed as our population changes. The critical factor in building a resilient and inclusive national identity is the extent to which individuals can engage and contribute to an understanding of who we are as a nation.
National identity: The arts are vital enablers helping us to explore identity – who we are as individuals, Australians, and our connections to one another.
Our nation begins with our First Nations. It is imperative for our modern nation to recognise the critical role of cultural practice in closing the gap for First Nations people, and that national identity is strengthened or weakened by our First Nations’ relationships.
Bridge the regional – metropolitan divide. Nation-building must include investing in a robust civil society that nurtures connections and insights between and across individuals and different communities in metropolitan, regional and remote settings.
Enabling other nations to gain insight into our own national identity, our values, our people through cultural engagement. This typically occurs in fields such as visual art, sport, literature, music, theatre and science. These endeavours have the potential to build respect between cultures, based on a heightened understanding of a nation’s values, and a reduced susceptibility to stereotypes
The Australian cultural and creative industries play a critical role in contributing to the creativity, diversity and prosperity of Australia’s economy. The arts make a real contribution to Australian and international tourism and our soft power through cultural diplomacy.
There is a growing prevalence of anxiety in our community, an erosion of trust in our political and social institutions and economic uncertainty – all of which contribute to undermining people’s wellbeing and sense of security and belonging. The arts have the capacity to explore and express diverse experiences to build collective insight and ponder potential futures that can reconnect and inspire individuals and whole communities.
An increase in public investment in the arts will grow these drivers.