Indigenous Culture Support fact sheet
Indigenous Culture Support (PDF 1.3 MB)
Australian Government funding to support the maintenance, transmission and expression of Indigenous culture
The rich and diverse cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are amongst the oldest continuing living cultures on earth.
Keeping culture strong is vital to the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and is at the heart of the development of a strong national identity.
The Australian Government's Indigenous Culture Support (ICS) funding assists participation in a wide range of Indigenous cultural activities throughout Australia, and enables the transmission of cultural knowledge across age groups.
New and imaginative forms of cultural expression are encouraged, and cultural exchange among different Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and between all Australians is promoted.
ICS places an emphasis on participation and achievements that enrich Indigenous culture, develop skills and encourage a strong sense of cultural identity in communities.
The Australian Government's ICS funding aims to:
- support the maintenance of Indigenous culture
- support new forms of Indigenous cultural expression
- support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' engagement in cultural activities
- promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing by strengthening pride in identity and culture.
As strong cultural identity is fundamental to Indigenous health and wellbeing, support for Indigenous culture is essential for Closing the Gap.
Culture is fundamental to identity—it is our past, our present and our future... We need our culture to sustain us and to keep us well. But importantly, we need culture because it tells us who we are.
Image: Major 'Moogy' Sumner demonstrates how to build a traditional Ngarrindjeri bark canoe. Goolwa Canoe Project, Ananguku Arts, SA. Source: Iain Morton, Ananguku Arts
Research shows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with high participation in cultural activities:
- are more likely to participate in early childhood education2
- have markedly better physical and mental health
- have higher rates of secondary school completion
- are more likely to be employed
- are less likely to abuse alcohol or be charged by the police.3
What Indigenous Culture Support (ICS) is achieving
Helping keep Indigenous culture strong
In 2011–12, ICS provided $7.2 million to 125 activities across Australia.
In 20011–12, ICS activities involved multiple cultural forms
I see that the kids really feel they belong now—they have a real belonging. It seems to bring them in… before, many of them were out of school, on the streets, at the shops.
Teacher at the school, Ba-ra Boolarng Dance and Culture program
My boy is so proud of being part of all this. It's all he talks about on Tuesday nights [after his dance group]. He's always asking us questions about what we did when we were young but we never know what to say cause we never had this.
Parent of participant, Ba-ra Boolarng Dance and Culture program
Image: Boys dancing on NAIDOC Day. Ba-ra Boolarng Dance and Culture program, Port Stephens Family Support Service, NSW. Source: Susan Pollock
Image: Helping the younger children with art. Ba-ra Boolarng Dance and Culture program, Port Stephens Family Support Service, NSW. Source: Susan Pollock
Helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to connect with their culture
- In 2011–12, over 59,600 people were involved in ICS activities across Australia
- Participant numbers for each activity range from one position supporting Indigenous arts and culture in a community or region, to thousands of people participating at an annual festival or engaging with a cultural centre
- 49% of activities involved members of the Stolen Generations, with estimates of between 900 and more than 1100 Stolen Generations members participating in ICS activities in 2011–12
- Connections to culture can have significant healing and rehabilitative effects.
Supporting new platforms for Indigenous cultural and artistic expression that are particularly engaging for young people
In 2011–12, ICS activities developed a range of resources and utilised new media
Image: Kateesha Yates records an interview during a Change Media Ngarrindjeri collaboration for
Moogy’s Yuki in Kalangadoo, SA, Tallstoreez Productionz. Source: Jennifer Lyons-Reid, changemedia.net.au
Providing training and employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- Around 4,450 people received training and skills development through ICS activities in 2011–12
- 97 jobs based in ICS funded organisations were supported through the Australian Government's Indigenous Employment Initiative, in roles such as cultural administrators and support officers.
In 2011–12, ICS activities resulted in training and skills development
Supporting community organisations and collaborations in urban, regional and remote Australia
In 2011–12, ICS provided:
- $2.5 million to support organisations in remote Australia, including $117,600 provided to fund activities in priority remote service delivery communities
- $2.8 million to support regional organisations
- $1.9 million to support organisations in major cities.
In 2011–12, ICS activities involved multiple collaborations with other sectors
Closing the Gap
As strong culture is fundamental to Indigenous health and wellbeing, support for Indigenous culture provides a solid foundation to enable outcomes across the Closing the Gap building blocks and targets.
Contributing to other policy objectives
ICS contributes to a number of other Australian Government policy objectives and international commitments, including:
- National Indigenous Languages Policy
- Indigenous Contemporary Music Action Plan
- Indigenous Economic Development Strategy
- Stolen Generations Working Partnership
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
The National Broadband Network (NBN) and new information and communication technologies hold immense potential for the safeguarding, documentation, transmission and promotion of Indigenous culture, including opportunities for Indigenous creative content.
Support for Indigenous culture also contributes to other government objectives, such as social inclusion.
ICS funding is administered by the Office for the Arts.
Image: Raymond Zada (website designer/developer) with Nunga Wangga radio announcers. Source: Christine Brown
Image: Young people involved in a circus workshop as part of an arts and culture based remote community leadership and mentoring program, Yalata and Oak Valley, SA. Source: Finton Mahony and Lee-Ann Buckskin, 2011. Carclew Youth Arts
Image: A crowd of people from Kellerberrin turned up for the family photo field trip at Kokerbin Rock. Community Arts Network WA. Source: Michelle White
- Calma, T., 2008, 'Our culture: Preserving the legacy,' speech given at the Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Knowledge Conference, 3rd July 2008. University of Tasmania, Hobart.
- Biddle, N., 2011, An exploratory analysis of the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children, CAEPR Working paper 77/2011.
- Dockery, A.M., 2011, 'Traditional Culture and the Wellbeing of Indigenous Australians: An analysis of the 2008 NATSISS,' in Social Science Perspectives on the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 11–12 April 2011, CAEPR, ANU, Canberra.*
* Findings based on analyses of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) data do not support arguments about causation but show positive associations after controlling for other factors.