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Chris Puplick

Platform Paper 18

An Effective Arts Advocacy

Chris Puplick

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This paper sets itself the daunting task of examining public funding for the arts. It asks: ‘How and why were these funding decisions made and who influenced their making?’ Whatever one may think, it is not public demand that determines the level of government support for the arts, and certainly not the advocacy skills of arts practitioners, it is the personal support of senior parliamentarians, business leaders or bureaucrats. It may well be said that in this context that the survival and growth of the arts sector in Australia is essentially dependent upon the kindness of strangers. Out of his long experience Chris Puplick has written a tough, uncompromising critique of arts lobbyists and provides sage advice on the skills and strategies needed. Advocacy requires inside knowledge and reliable connections. Only peak bodies are usually successful, he says, and the arts have no national advocacy body—and no national strategy. Getting heard, he says, is not difficult—having something to say is much more of a challenge. For arts professionals the better solution is to invest more time in engaging with the public. Politicians are more likely to fund those things for which they believe there is public support.

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About the Author

Chris Puplick, AM, was Senator for NSW 1979–81, 1984–90 and Shadow Minister for Environment, Arts, Heritage, and Sport 1987–90. He is a member of the Australia Council’s Theatre Board, the Board of NIDA and Chair of the National Film and Sound Archive.


Almost no area of public policy seems as repletewith Inquiries as arts policy in Australia, and noarea of policy seems to have been more shapedby the outcomes of inquiries