Reset’s Submission to the Inquiry into National Cultural Policy

March 2023

Dear Committee,

Thank you for the opportunity to make a submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications Inquiry into the National Cultural Policy. 

We represent Reset Arts and Culture a collaborative group comprising the arts and cultural sector, policy makers and academics in South Australia. Reset is advocating for a break with the economic and social instrumentalism so dominant for 40 years, and seeking new concepts and language drawn from heterodox economics, feminism, Indigenous thought, and environmentalism to develop new understandings of arts and culture as part of the foundations of social life.

We welcome the new policy and the energy, optimism and funding it returns to the sector. Revive is a strong and ambitious document that reflects the voices of the sector and its audiences through consultation processes as well as an acknowledgement of the pain the sector has experienced recently. The policy document demonstrates a commitment to multiple perspectives sought through consultation and research.

We also appreciate the launch of the policy early in this term of government which could help embed the forward-thinking initiatives in the sector.

However, we contend that work will need to be done to ensure that the policy can be implemented in a timely and resourced way and in a manner supports a bipartisan approach to cultural policy so that Revive can set a foundation for the sector for decades to come.

We call on the government in implementing the policy to address climate justice which is conspicuously absent in the policy document.  Art and culture and its workers and audiences cannot thrive on a decimated planet.  We call for support to assist the arts and cultural sector divest from fossil fuel funding.

We strongly support the policy’s focus on the centrality of the artist, and of art as work. We are keen to see this principle embedded in every aspect of government, including for arts sector work to be recognised as mutual obligations in unemployment income support. 

We appreciate the policy’s commitment to establish a Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces that will focus on issues of “pay, safety and welfare” for artists. This tranche of work needs to go further, however, to establish legal frameworks for fair labour conditions for arts and cultural workers across the sector to make meaningful improvements to lives..

Further to this, we call for work towards a basic income for artists scheme (or trial) in Australia as well as more research into and trials and evaluations of programs such as job guarantees, fellowships and public employment schemes.

We welcome the investment in the Australia Council for the Arts, soon to be Creative Australia, but wonder what will the governance structures be, what will this change mean for art forms and peer assessment panels. Without the required resources for this change and good governance structures there is risk to the sector. We are concerned about the commercial partnerships remit of the new Creative Australia.

We continue to argue for a Cultural Ministry model for supporting the arts and cultural sector and we note that this was also recommended by the National Cultural Policy Advisory Group in their Independent Advice to the Minister for the Arts. A ministry model would better encompass the increasingly diverse and complex work of supporting the sector.

The public sector has been hollowed out by years of neglect, economic rationalization and privatisation. A reinvestment in the policy expertise and capabilities will take a strong investment and leadership and is desperately needed to support the sector to navigate the significant challenges it faces.

We note that the word value appears in the policy document frequently, including the term intrinsic value, which is a good sign for how the policy and its implementers will understand the value of arts and culture. The policy commits to expanding data available for decision-making and for communicating the benefits of arts and culture, which is important. However, we contend that the sector needs support for developing evaluation approaches and evaluative environments that are consistent with broader purposes, benefits and values of arts and culture and assess more forms of value than quantitative data exercises can provide.

As we have argued, “Art and culture should not be imagined as an industry primarily driven by private profit, but a diverse and interdependent ecosystem essential to the public life of contemporary democracies. No matter how it is delivered, art and culture’s primary value is its public value: it enriches us both individually and collectively.” [1]

Tully Barnett, Emma Webb and Justin O’Connor
for Reset Arts and Culture

[1] Reset For a Progressive Arts and Cultural Policy Agenda in Australia p 5

Culture Goal? A New Vision for Art and Cultural Policy

16 September, OACPS House, Africa Room, Brussels

A half-day workshop was organised by Reset, Culture Concepts and Avril Joffe, UNESCO Expert, Witwaterstrand University, South Africa as a part of a series of events in Berlin, Brussels and Antwerp in September 2022.

This half-day symposium addresses the campaign for a cultural goal in the SDGs, less as a technical policy addition than a deep rethink of Culture’s current position in sustainable development and public policy per se.

The symposium will assess the reasons for UNESCO’s failure to secure a cultural goal in 2015 SDG process; what has changed in the global policy landscape and how this might impact the campaign for a cultural goal (#Culture2030Goal); and, consequently, what new themes and policy frameworks are emerging as priorities for Culture in the near-to-medium term.

In 2015 the United Nations General Assembly adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals, “a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable development for all” and set to be achieved by 2030. However, despite lobbying from many cultural organisations and UNESCO itself (Hangzhou Declaration), Culture failed to become a distinct Goal.

Re-Imagining Cultural Policy: A Workshop from a Global Perspective in Berlin

14 September 2022, Art Center Kunstquartier Bethanien

A half-day workshop was organised by Reset, Culture Concepts and Avril Joffe, UNESCO Expert, Witwaterstrand University, South Africa as is part of a series of events in Berlin, Brussels and Antwerp between the proposal partners.

The world faces a convergence of crises – in a decade with enormous consequences for the future of humanity. The choices we make now about climate change, inequality, and other intersecting challenges such as the Pandemic, will determine the future for generations to come.

Yet whilst many cultural practitioners and activists know these challenges, current cultural policies are being set by priorities taken from an older era.

There is a need to identify clearly these new challenges and develop accelerated change strategies and interventions so that we can begin to make real transformations. This is one of the overarching paradigms for the Berlin Workshop.

The Berlin Workshop will focus on global issues and is not conceived as an internal German specific debate.

5 August: Artists Organise!

Artwork by Hollie Moly —

Artists Organise! was a half-day panel discussion at Nexus Arts, held on 5 August.

Here is the recording of the sessions:

And the transcript is available for download here

1pm – Welcome to Country
1.15pm – Introduction by Sam Whiting and Jen Mills

1.30pm – Panel: Artists as workers
How do we value cultural labour? What does fair pay look like in the arts, and what can artists and Unions offer each other? Artists, writers and performers bring their perspectives on labour and precarity in the original gig economy, how they make it work, and what needs to change. Panel members: Sam Wallman, Natalie Harkin, Joanne Sutton, Jess Alice (chair)

2.30pm – Afternoon tea

2.45pm – Panel: How we organise
From solidarity actions to the musicians’ minimum wage, the Freelance Charter and starting your own Union, artists and organisers share their experiences working within and outside Unions to organise for better pay and conditions, finding inspiration in local actions and global movements. Panel: Bronte Colmer, Kimberley Wheeler, Maize Wallin, Jen Mills (chair)

3.45pm – Short break

4pm – Discussion: Artists Organise!
Where to next for arts, culture and labour movements? Our open discussion/strategy session about the future of organised cultural labour will offer space for all participants to share skills, ideas and experiences, to build strength across disciplines and organisations, and to find more and better ways to work together in solidarity.

5.30pm to 7pm – Drinks and networking (drinks at bar prices)

Launch of ‘Art, Culture and the Foundational Economy’

Launch of the new CP3/Reset Working Paper,  ‘Art, Culture and the Foundational Economy’ was held on 24 June at Flinders at Victoria Square, presented by Professor Justin O’Connor, University of South Australia

Download the working paper here

In recent years there has been pushback against the reduction of art and culture to their economic impacts or being turned into ‘industries’. Debate has centred on how we should (re-) balance the cultural and economic, attention focused on how we might better value the former. But what about the ‘economic’? Do we know what its value might be?

In the last fifteen years mainstream economic orthodoxy has been challenged on many fronts, from feminists, ecologists, First Nations and Post-colonial thinkers, through heterodox and dissident economists, to older Keynesian and Marxist theorists – all now confronting a different, post-neoliberal age.

One such challenge to gain increased traction has been that of the Foundational Economy Collective. Rejecting the fetishization of GDP-led growth, they foreground those parts of the economy that provide the infrastructure, services and everyday needs of the majority of citizens. Breaking with models of growth that have eroded our public services, accelerated inequalities and impoverished our sense of citizenship, the Foundational Economy sets out a practical model for a radical reformism focused on providing for essential, basic needs for everyone.

Since 1994 art and culture have been told that becoming ‘creative industries’ would lead to a seat at the government table and the resources commensurate with its new importance. Though this has failed dismally the cultural sector lack a language to go forward. Might the Foundational Economy point to a new way for the sector to think itself as part of public policy? In this lecture Justin O’Connor will outline some of the challenges and possibilities opened up by this post-neoliberal economic agenda.

More on UniSA’s Creative People, Products and Places Research Centre (CP3)

More on Reset Arts and Culture

Culture and the Sustainable Development Goals

27 April 2022

Presented by CP3 and Hawke EU Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence

Watch the recording here:


Chair: Justin O’Connor, CP3 and Reset

In 2015 the United Nations General Assembly adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals, “a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable development for all” and set to be achieved by 2030. However, despite lobbying from many cultural organisations and UNESCO itself, Culture failed to become a distinct goal. 

Whilst pragmatically seeking to identify a role for culture in the other goals (such as education, economic development, sustainable communities, climate change), the lack of a cultural goal was experienced as a real setback. As the SDGs provide a focus for the activities of a range of national and international development agencies, and allow collaboration between them, many feel that the cultural sector is severely hampered by being excluded. For this reason many in the sector are calling for the addition of a cultural goal 18.

In this seminar we bring together four leading experts from Europe, lead contributors to a recent EU sponsored report on Culture and the SDGs. They will introduce the debate to those in Australia who might be unfamiliar with the SDGs and outline the challenges we face in articulating a new cultural SDG. At the same time, drawing on their report, they will suggest ways in which the role of culture is more important that ever in helping humanity achieve the SDGs on a planet rapidly running out of time.

Australian Cultural Policy Now: From quick fixes to long-term progress

Event details:
When: Tuesday 12 April 2022 at 2:00-3:30pm ACST
Cost: Free, but please register at

With the performing arts reeling from the impact of COVID, this webinar explores a pathway forward.

Grappling with issues such as whether cultural policy should focus nationally or locally, how to shift cultural policy from industrial policy to public service, how inclusive it could be, and how building for the future might take place, three distinguished speakers survey the landscape.

They will provide an overview of the settings for Cultural Policy in Australia and also explore how the substructure can be nurtured.


Professor Julian Meyrick
Julian Meyrick is an acclaimed director, Professor of Creative Arts at Griffith University, General Editor of Currency House’s Platform Paper series, and Literary Adviser for the Queensland Theatre.

Professor Justin O’Connor
Justin O’Connor is Professor of Cultural Policy at University of South Australia and visiting chair in Cultural Management at Shanghai Jioatong University.

Associate Professor Anna Goldsworthy
Anna Goldsworthy is a musician and writer, Associate Professor at the Elder Conservatorium of Music, Director of the J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice, and Director of Cultural Policy at the Stretton Institute, the University of Adelaide.

The Stretton Institute
The Stretton Institute shapes policy debate by bringing current research to policy issues. We facilitate stronger links between governments, industry and The University of Adelaide, driving a multi-disciplinary research approach with a strong social justice focus.

Reset abroad!

Professor Justin O’Connor is currently in Europe, where he will be presenting the ideas around Reset to a wider audience. In addition, Justin will be delivering guest lectures in a number of universities in the UK, focusing on the recent, second Working Paper.

23 FebruarySchool of Media and Communications, University of Leeds
Red Creative: China’s Cultural Reforms

24 FebruaryCentre for Cultural and Media Studies, University of Warwick
Reset: Art and Culture in the Interregnum
Full details here

25 FebruaryCentre for Cultural and Media Studies, University of Warwick
Red Creative: China’s Cultural Reforms
Full details here

3 MarchResearch Centre for Applied Social Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University
Reset: Art and Culture in the Interregnum
Full details here

8 MarchSchool of Arts and Social Sciences, City, University of London
Reset: Art and Culture in the Interregnum

9 March Centre for the Geohumanities, Royal Holloway, University of London
Reset: Art and Culture in the Interregnum
Full details here

21 MarchThe Bauman Institute, University of Leeds
Reset: Art and Culture in the Interregnum

24 MarchSchool of Culture and Creative Arts, University of Glasgow
Reset: Art and Culture in the Interregnum

We will update this page with further details of the events and possible live streams or recordings, as they become available.

Reset: A New Public Agenda for the Arts

11 & 12 November, Adelaide, Kaurna Yerta

Reset: A New Public Agenda for the Arts offers two days and nights of thinking and discussion about how the arts and cultural sector could work to break out of the current impasse through a radical reorganisation of cultural practice and policy.

Presented by: Arts Industry Council of South Australia and Reset (Flinders University, University of Adelaide, and University of South Australia), in association with the Don Dunstan Foundation.

Reset #6 Art and Culture after the Creative City

Event date: 10 September 2021 at Waterside Workers Hall, Port Adelaide

The idea of the ‘creative city’ has its roots in the 1980s. In the face of accelerating de-industrialisation, the rise of grassroots social movements, alternative arts and new popular cultures held out the hope of a new kind of post-industrial city. They rediscovered the joys and energies of the urban realm, after the top-down, technocratic ‘master-planning’ of the industrial city. New kinds of cultural practice, messing with the boundaries ‘art’ and ‘popular’, mostly outside formal arts policy, occupied the ‘decaying’ spaces of the city. They re-invented both old industrial buildings and the kinds of ‘creative work’ that might take place within them. By the late 1990s city governments began to promote and celebrate these new spaces and activities, with ‘gurus’ such as Charles Landry and Richard Florida promoting the ‘creative city’ as the key to the future, exporting the model across the globe. 

Already by 2008 things weren’t looking so good. Gentrification was relatively benign in the 1980s and 1990s, as derelict spaces and run-down areas attracted artists and cultural workers, some of whom had money. By 2008 gentrification was in hyper-drive, with city governments courting global development capital and up-market leisure, hospitality and retail, with little need of the artists to do the groundwork. Property prices had gone through the roof and rents with them. The industrial city had become a developer city, with planning laws organised around the maximisation of tax/ rent yield and selling to the highest bidder. What had begun as a re-discovery of urban living ended with the mass construction of ‘city centre living’, most of it unaffordable for artists and locals, and frequently opposed to the urban ‘vibrancy’ which had been the original selling point. Cuts to culture budgets, increased freelancing, precarious employment, minimal social welfare, education debts – by 2020 cities were no longer hospitable to those whose energies had helped re-invent them 30 years before. 

Where to next?

The Reset series, responding to the general crisis of arts and cultural policy, aims to introduce new ideas to the arts and cultural sector. Using heterodox economists, labour and community activists, environmentalists and alternative urban designers we have sought ways of reframing arts and culture as part of a new post-pandemic, post-climate emergency public policy. Art and culture can no longer present themselves as engines of economic growth. They need find a new place in a policy landscape of public-investment into social ‘foundations’, centred on human services (education, health, social welfare) and utilities, all within sustainable planetary limits.

How then are we to re-think the city, and the place of art and culture within it? This is the question we will address in this half-day seminar hosted by Reset and Vitalstatistix in Port Adelaide.

We chose Port Adelaide for three reasons. First, we wanted to ground discussion in a concrete local case, and as an old industrial waterside city, the Port is – theoretically at least – prime ‘creative city’ material. Second, we felt that the Port’s radical history, and its more recent activism in opposition to on-going redevelopment, could provide a different story to that of the usual city boosterism and developer PR. Third, we would like to explore how the Port might play a lead role in a new kind of culture-led regeneration: can we outline a vision (utopian or otherwise) for a city in which art and culture are part of the sustainable social, economic and environmental fabric of the city?

To help us do this we propose a half day of shared ideas and experiences, in the convivial atmosphere of the Waterside Workers Hall.

We begin with a walk to highlight some key sites of community campaigning, resistance and urban redevelopment in the inner Port Adelaide area, led by Emma Webb, Director of Vitalstatistix, a local contemporary arts organisation, along with Kaurna Elder, Aunty Margaret Brodie, and local activist and photographer Tony Kearney.

This is followed by a panel, with Emma Webb from Vitalstatistix, in conversation with: Aunty Margaret Brodie; Anthony Coupe, Director of Mulloway Studio; Campbell Duignan, Organiser with the Maritime Union of Australia; Kirsty Hammett, Port of Adelaide National Trust and Save Shed 26; and Lindl Lawton, Senior Curator of the South Australian Maritime Museum.

Next is a zoom presentation from Dan Hill, based in Swedish Innovation Agency, Stockholm (previously London and Sydney) whose Slowdown Papers are to be published by Verso and who spoke at Reset #5 (both lectures supported by UniSA’s EU-Hawke Centre). He will be interviewed by Rory Hyde, Associate Professor of Architecture at University of Melbourne.

To end we will have a panel on new visions for the creative city, led by Justin O’Connor (UniSA), Sebastian Olma, activist from Amsterdam Alternative, and a spokesperson for the Rome Charter, a statement on culture and cities building on citizens’ rights to the city.

We will then have food and drink.