Twenty-first century priorities for Australian arts and culture policy: What’s new? What’s endured? What’s next? 

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This Analysis Paper explores what Australians believe about arts and culture and what they expect from their national leaders in this space. We summarise the emerging trends as well as foundational principles that should inform the ambitious and bold national settings that Australia needs for a truly 21st century approach to arts and culture. Informed by these foundations and trends, this paper also outlines the priorities for change, to ensure all Australians have opportunities to participate in and benefit from a vibrant cultural life.

With a renewed appreciation for the value of arts and culture in their lives, Australians are eager for leadership in this area and would, we believe, welcome increased celebration of these parts of their lives that they value so highly. — Twenty-first century priorities for Australian arts and culture policy

Emerging Trends 

  • Changes accelerated by COVID–19
  • Democratisation of culture in Australia
  • Expectations that arts and culture should reflect contemporary Australia
  • Changing relationships to culture, place and experience
  • Technological advances and disruptions
  • Changing models of income and investment
  • Changing beliefs about arts and culture’s broader impacts
  • A changing role for public funding?


  • First Nations cultural and creative practice
  • Connection, belonging and cultural inheritance
  • Honouring and protecting our cultural heritage
  • Telling our stories to ourselves and the world
  • Copyright protection and income generation
  • Expression, including freedom of expression

Priorities for Change 

Priority 1

Develop and implement a National Arts, Culture and Creativity Plan to build stronger and more strategic leadership and collaboration between the federal, state and territory and local governments. Clearer policy direction will ensure the expected public value outcomes of cultural expenditure are better communicated, and provide a contemporary framework for Australia to design and implement mechanisms to boost cultural expenditure as a percentage of GDP to the OECD average within the next decade.

Priority 2

Continue to support arts and cultural organisations and individuals to financially survive the pandemic, and to pilot and/or scale-up digitally-rich, ‘antifragile’ business models suitable for a with-COVID environment for the future success of the cultural and creative industries. Live events, in particular, have been disproportionately affected, and any approach should include taking deliberate and coordinated action to rebuild those activities.

Priority 3

Position Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and creative expression as a core, shared part of Australia in the 21st century, including recognising the value of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural and creative practice in public policy measures designed to address equity and justice issues.

Priority 4

Prioritise using arts and cultural activities in existing and new initiatives across all relevant portfolios, especially in placemaking and community-building, to mitigate loneliness, social exclusion and isolation. Foster intra-government and interagency collaboration.

Priority 5

Build on the work of Infrastructure Australia to: 1) implement a coordinated national approach to arts and cultural infrastructure; and 2) facilitate greater collaboration between Commonwealth, state and territory and local governments for cultural infrastructure programs, taking into account existing cultural infrastructure and the capacity of communities and local governments to maintain and program new cultural infrastructure.

Priority 6

Continue to prioritise investment in new arts and cultural practices and products (including those that use new technologies) that reflect contemporary Australian demographics, stories and perspectives. This should include ensuring arts and culture are a central pillar of Australia’s public diplomacy activity, by including opportunities for collaboration and exchange in cultural practice and research between Australia and our regional neighbours.

Priority 7

Ensure we have a fit-for-purpose legislative, regulatory, tax incentive and investment environment, updated to address IP generation and copyright protections in the current environment. Legislative protections for expression must take emerging digital creation and distribution models into account, and balance legal protections for creative works, in terms of protecting creators’ rights to recognition, compensation and expression, with the potential impacts of the exercise of those rights on vulnerable communities and individuals.

Suggested Citation

Fielding, K. & Trembath, J.L., October 2021. ‘Twenty-first century priorities for Australian arts and culture policy: What’s new, what’s endured, what’s next?’. Analysis Paper no. 2021–03. Produced by A New Approach (ANA). Canberra, Australia.

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ANA acknowledges the cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia and their continuing cultural and creative practices in this land.

© A New Approach 

This work is copyright. All material published or otherwise created by A New Approach think tank is licenced under a Creative Commons — Attribution — Non-Commercial 4.0 International Licence.

The opinions in this Analysis paper do not necessarily represent the views of ANA’s funding partners, the individual members involved in the governance or advisory committees, or others who have provided input.

ANA thanks the people who generously reviewed this paper for their time and excellent feedback.

ANA Board

Rupert Myer AO (Chair), Sue Cato AM, Cass O’Connor,  Catherine Liddle, Craig A. Limkin and Dr Genevieve Lacey.

ANA Reference Group

Dr Genevieve Lacey (Chair), Ben Au, Jane Curry, Professor John Daley, Shelagh Magadza, Damien Miller, Rupert Myer AO, Alison Page, Laura Tingle, and Dr Mathew Trinca AM.

ANA Philanthropic Partners

ANA is supported by a unique collaboration of ten philanthropic organisations across the country. Beginning in 2021, this national coalition comprises:

  • The Myer Foundation
  • Sydney Myer Fund
  • Tim Fairfax Family Foundation
  • The Ian Potter Foundation
  • Neilson Foundation
  • Minderoo Foundation
  • Besen Family Foundation
  • Spinifex Trust
  • The Keir Foundation
  • Aranday Foundation

New Approach acknowledges that it meets, works and travels on the lands of First Nations peoples. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and to all First Nations peoples.