Kathy Keele Addresses 2012 Regional Arts Conference

Speeches and Opinions
Oct 26, 2012

Kathy Keele, CEO of the Australia Council for the Arts, speaks at the Kumuwuki / Big Wave conference, 18 October 2012.

Thank you, Jane.

Thank you also to the great team at Regional Arts Australia, and South Australia and the conference’s artistic director Steve Mayhew for making this conference possible.

It’s great to be here.

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we are meeting on the Ngarrindjeri people .

Thank you to Eileen McHughes and Major Sumner for your welcome to country.  It’s great to see you again Major.

I would also like to pay respect to Elders both past and present, and extend that respect to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders present today.

Allow me to also acknowledge the Federal Minister for the Arts Simon Crean and thank him for his tireless work in trying to bring the national cultural policy to fruition in what has been no doubt a challenging environment.

Can I also acknowledge South Australia’s Arts Minister John Hill who has personified South Australia’s energetic commitment to culture during his decade or so in the arts portfolio.

He has been inspirational and instrumental to my and the Australia Council’s thinking regarding the engagement of local councils and state governments in the development of the Cultural Places pilot projects, one of  which is taking place right here in Goolwa.

I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing more about this while I’m here.

This conference is something that I really look forward to.

I know that I will see old friends from across the country and meet many new ones and learn a lot about what are emerging issues and update myself on longstanding ones .

I’ll see some great work and even participate in some work and I’ll hear a lot of feedback about how the Australia Council is going.

In recent weeks I’ve received numerous phone calls from people from around Australia, asking to meet here in Goolwa to talk about issues and ideas and offering me the chance to listen to what’s happening in their communities.

I am really pleased to have been approached and I really look forward to those conversations.

For all of these reasons and more, the Australia Council has been a long term supporter of this conference.

Vast distances and remote landscapes shape us as Australians.

It is these distances and open spaces that at once bind us together and separate us.

They are critical to the regional experience and therefore to the artistic expression of regional Australia.

At the same time, this experience of distance and remoteness is something regional artists – and regional communities generally – work relentlessly to overcome

There a number of ways to negotiate these distances.

For example, as Minister Crean has highlighted high speed broadband is opening up many exciting possibilities.

However, touring, physical touring will continue to be crucial to how we deal with distances into the foreseeable future.

So I wanted to take this opportunity to speak with you about touring and what we’re doing at the Australia Council on this front.

It’s through touring that the rest of the country gets to experience the work of your artists.

And it’s through touring that your communities get to see work of artists from across the nation.

Touring is not easy work in Australia.

Which is why last year we commissioned research looking at the key issues confronting touring in this country.

Consultations took place over three months with more than 330 people, representing the interests of over 280 arts organisations from across the country – all contributing advice to Council.

The result of all this work is the National Touring Framework – a set of recommendations from across the country for how the touring system might better work for artists and audiences alike.

I encourage you to have a look at this framework which is on our website.  The key objectives in this framework are simple to state, but we don’t underestimate the challenges.  But the first step, in agreeing these objectives is notable:

The first objective is:

For Australia to have a truly national plan for touring.   There is a will to work together to build from our current patchwork to a more collaborative and integrated national touring framework.

The second objective is for Australia to have a harmonised and simplified funding process for touring.  More about that in a moment.

And the third objective is for Australia’s diverse creative output to reach an equally diverse audience across the country.

On the last point, we recognise that many regional and remote communities have limited resources.

It’s for this reason that we recently launched the Engage program to support the marketing and audience development skills for presenters in regional and remote areas.

Through this program we are offering up to six grants of $30,000 to regional and remote presenters to assist with audience engagement initiatives.

I encourage you to contact our Audience Development staff, some of who will be around over the next few days, or check out our website for more details on this program.

It’s through the lens of this National Touring Framework that I see unprecedented opportunities in the Minister’s recent announcement of the transfer of touring programs from the Office for the Arts to the Australia Council.

As many of you area aware, these programs are in the process of being transferred to the Australia Council, even as we speak.


• The Contemporary Music Touring Program,

• Festivals Australia

• Visions of Australia

• Playing Australia; and

• The Contemporary Touring Initiative for contemporary collecting institutions.

Our responsibility is to build on the substantial achievements of the Office for the Arts with these touring programs.

It’s important to acknowledge that through these programs, we will be working very closely with an even broader range of organisations, particularly collecting institutions.

Many of these institutions – such as galleries and museums – are either based themselves in regional Australia or promote and support wide ranging touring in regional Australia.

They are an essential part of the nation’s arts and cultural life and we are thrilled to be deepening our engagement with them.

I can assure you that in managing these touring programs, we will draw on the peer review system, and we will put in place independent panel, of your peers, who are suitably knowledgeable, skilled and experienced to assess the applications.

We have established a National Touring team within the Council’s Arts Development Division to transfer and manage these programs.  The Arts Development group are responsible for supporting the development of audiences and growing markets for our artists.

We’ll be keeping you abreast on the transfer of these programs as they are progressively moved to the Australia Council over the coming months.

In the near term, I can assure you that program guidelines will remain unchanged for immediate rounds and that any future changes will be made following discussion and consultation with the sector and be guided by the recommendations set out in the National Touring Framework.

So I wish you all a productive, exciting and invigorating conference.

And look forward to speaking to you all over the coming days.

Thank you.

The Kumuwuki / Big Wave Regional Arts Australia National Conference was held in Goolwa in South Australia, 18-21 October 2012.