Australian arts overseas
Arts Minister Peter Garrett and Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith recently announced a ‘new era' for Australian cultural diplomacy.
Co-chaired for the first time in February by the Minister for the Arts and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Australia International Council Committee (AICC) met and looked at ways to connect international cultural initiatives already in place with public diplomacy outcomes.
Cultural diplomacy is an exchange of ideas and values to promote understanding between cultures which can also work to positively influence public opinion of a nation's image in another country. It targets a non-government audience, so works at a grassroots level alongside official diplomatic channels.
Arts and culture are not constrained by language barriers. Culture crosses political boundaries and can open doors for dialogue where other more traditional approaches fail. In this way Australia is advancing our national interest, international policy and trade goals at the same time as projecting an image of Australia on the world stage as a creative, sophisticated and tolerant nation.
For the arts and culture sector cultural diplomacy provides greater opportunity for Australian artists and organisations to promote and expand cultural trade internationally, and strategically links the sector more closely to the nation's diplomatic activities.
The AICC has refined its regional priorities to reflect Australia's foreign and trade commitments. Future ‘focus countries' have been chosen, and Australia will engage with them to promote Australian arts and culture.
The focus country in 2010 is China. This coincides with the Shanghai Expo 2010. The Australian Pavilion will open on 8 June 2010 and will feature a program promoting the Australian lifestyle, environment and industry, painting Australia as an innovative nation.
The program will include a cultural component that will draw visitors to the Australian Pavilion and showcase the creativity and talent of Australia's performing artists, drawn from every state and territory. Based on previous Expo experience, Australia expects to attract seven million visitors.
The focus on China will extend beyond the Expo and the borders of Shanghai. The government is currently working together with the states and territories to put together a year-long showcase of Australian arts and culture in China. This will enable Australian artists to reach audiences that have not been accessed before and build an image of Australia to the wider Chinese community.
The benefits of linking diplomatic activities into existing cultural initiatives extend beyond developing and maintaining the Australian arts and culture presence internationally. It promotes closer and more valuable ties to regional and global nations through trade, investment, tourism, academic and people-to-people contacts.
More information on the Shanghai world expo can be found at www.expo2010.com.au www.expo2010.com.au
IN2OZ, sponsored by the AICC and DAFT, is a recent example of cultural diplomacy at work in Indonesia. The program sponsored Australian Idol star Jessica Mauboy to visit Indonesia in 2008.
Mauboy visited a community based program, Senang Hati Foundation, that provides physiotherapy to people with a disability in Ubud, and two schools of the 2,000 built and renovated under the Australia-Indonesia Partnership Basic Education Program. She also visited an Australian-funded project, Yayasan Pecinta Budaya Bebali, which supports sustainable livelihoods through the community’s traditional weaving, and made a trip to her ancestral homeland in East Nusa Tenggara. Mauboy’s visit, which attracted great interest and excitement among young Indonesians, demonstrates how targeted cultural diplomacy can support Australia’s foreign policy objectives. Her appearances received extensive media coverage, particularly in online and youth media which would not normally cover aid stories. Mauboy’s story—her father is Indonesian and her mother Indigenous Australian—struck a chord with audiences and reflected a modern, engaged bilateral relationship.
For more information about IN2OZ see www.dfat.gov.au/in2oz/index.html