The Australia Council’s submission to the Closing the Gap Refresh (PDF 2MB) advocates for increased investment in First Nations arts and cultural expression, cultural maintenance, and First Nations-led culturally based solutions across portfolios.
It draws on the growing body of evidence showing participation in arts and culture supports outcomes across the Closing the Gap framework.
Our submission was developed in collaboration with our First Nations stakeholders. First Nations peoples’ indivisible rights to culture and self-determination are central in our submission.
For decades, First Nations peoples have advocated for the critical role of culture – as a necessary part of the solution to Indigenous disadvantage, and for the healing and strengthening of individuals and communities.
However, culture has been the missing element from the Closing the Gap framework to date. Funding for First Nations culture made up just 1% of total direct government expenditure for Indigenous Australians in 2015–16, and cultural outcomes have not featured in the measurement framework.
Now is the moment to invest in the inherent value and foundational role of strong culture in the Closing the Gap agenda.
Australia Council’s recommendations to the Closing the Gap Refresh
- Consolidated, targeted investment in First Nations arts, culture and cultural maintenance outcomes as a strategic priority area within the Closing the Gap framework. The aims are to increase opportunities for First Nations people to directly engage in arts and cultural activity, and cultural maintenance and renewal. This requires outcome measures in the framework.
- Simultaneous recognition of Indigenous cultures as a foundation across the framework, with investment in culturally based programs to improve outcomes in early childhood, education, employment, health and wellbeing, community safety, justice and suicide prevention.
- A flexible, localised community development approach that empowers communities to utilise their cultural knowledge and build on their unique strengths, with prioritised funding for First Nations-led organisations and solutions that is sufficient for long-term planning.
These recommendations are in line with the holistic cultural determinants approach to First Nations health and wellbeing articulated in the 2017 My Life My Lead consultation report by the federal Department of Health.