First Nations heritage alliance welcomes new national cultural policy

Article by Giovanni Torre for the National Indigenous Times

The First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance has welcomed the federal government’s new National Cultural Policy, Revive, for its focus on First Nations communities.

The Alliance noted that the new cultural policy outlines a government commitment to introduce legislation “to protect intangible First Nations knowledge and cultural expressions, including the harm caused by fake art”.

The First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance also applauded the $11 million allocated for establishing a First Nations Languages Policy Partnership between First Nations representatives and Australian governments.

“One of the world’s fastest rates of language loss is in Australia, given until the 1970s previous government policies banned and discouraged Aboriginal people from speaking their languages,” the Alliance said in a statement.

“Indigenous languages in Australia comprise only 2% of languages spoken in the world but represent 9% of the world’s critically endangered languages.”

Alliance co-chair Kado Muir, an expert in language preservation, highlighted the cultural damage caused by the loss of languages.

“Languages carry cultural knowledge. So, the loss of a language means the loss of culture, of Aboriginal people’s connection to their ancestors, which in turn has the potential to impact on Aboriginal people’s health and well-being,” he said.

Mr Muir said that while he welcomes the new Revive: Cultural Policy, there is still not enough done to acknowledge and support the works of senior law men and women who are the custodians of the oldest intangible forms of cultural expressions on earth.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples retain one of the oldest living traditions of intangible cultural heritage in the form of songs, dances, ceremonies and rituals, which have been continually practised for thousands of years,” he said.

“These traditions are of immense World Heritage significance and should be globally acknowledged and inscribed with World Heritage status.”

“As a desert man practising our law and culture in the deserts of Western Australia, Northern Territory and South Australia, I would love to see my Elders given recognition and support for the immense spiritual and cultural knowledge they hold and pass on to younger generations like me and my contemporaries.”

Mr Muir said he looks forward to seeing how the new Revive: Cultural Policy will support “the recognition of our traditions with an intangible World Heritage status”.

The First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance further acknowledged the creation of a specific First Nations-led body within Revive’s cultural policy centrepiece Creative Australia, to give First Nations people “autonomy over decisions and investments”.

The federal government said Creative Australia will be the government’s new principal arts investment and advisory body, and the governing body of Creative Australia will continue to be known as the Australia Council.

“Creative Australia will expand on and modernise the Australia Council’s work with additional funding of $200 million over four years – restoring the money cut by the former Liberal and National Government. Funding decisions will be made on the basis of artistic merit and at arm’s length from government,” the government said in a statement on Monday.

“Revive (the new policy) is built on five pillars but puts First Nations first – recognising and respecting the crucial place of these stories at the heart of our arts and culture.

“That’s why in addition to the Creative Australia First Nations body, Revive commits the government to:

• Introducing legislation to protect First Nations knowledge and cultural expressions, including the harm caused by fake art

• Developing a First Nations creative workforce strategy

• Funding the establishment of a National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs and an Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Perth

• Providing $11 million to establish a First Nations Languages Policy Partnership between First Nations representatives and Australian governments Revive also commits the Government to regulating Australian content on streaming platforms; improving lending rights and incomes for Australian writers; increased funding for regional art; and dozens of other measures.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said after “a decade of neglect and funding cuts” the new policy marks “a new chapter in Australia’s art and culture sector”.

Minister for the Arts Tony Burke said Revive is “a comprehensive roadmap for Australia’s arts and culture that touches all areas of government, from cultural diplomacy in foreign affairs to health and education”.

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