Arts educators call for a visionary approach to arts education and creative work

Media release 27 February 2018

In meetings in Canberra yesterday with advisers from all political parties and senior staff from the federal education and arts departments, the National Advocates for Arts Education called for a rethinking of all political parties’ commitment to various key aspects of arts education, and made specific recommendations.

A delegation of members of the NAAE asserted yesterday that arts skills are at least as important as literacy and numeracy and should be prioritised alongside STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths).

NAAE is the coalition of peak education and national arts industry bodies for Australian dance, drama, media arts, music and visual arts. It has provided evidence that arts training fosters development of the kinds of entrepreneurship, innovation and critical thinking skills which are becoming increasingly essential as preparation for work in the 21st Century.

Chair of NAAE, Julie Dyson AM said today, ‘Informed predictions about the jobs of the future reveal that automation and artificial intelligence are changing the skills needs of the workforce. Entrepreneurial and exploratory thinking and communication capacity is becoming increasingly essential for achieving innovation in the changing work environment. These are the skills that an arts training fosters in students. It is essential that all political parties make a commitment to the provision of effective training across all five arts disciplines to equip students for this future.’

NAAE expressed its regrets that although it had succeeded in the arts being made a mandatory component of the national curriculum for school children up to year 8, this is not translating into practice.

Dyson continued, ‘Each state and territory makes its own decisions and the pre-service training of primary teachers to deliver the curriculum for any of the five arts areas is perfunctory. What is lacking is the provision of a properly resourced, logical, sequential trajectory throughout education and into work.’

Sandra Gattenhof, Drama Australia representative on NAAE, supported this by saying, ‘Of critical importance is the need for Australian students to have access to an equitable and quality arts education, which in turn supports their capacity to perform well in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) benchmarking that will track creativity and critical thinking from 2021.’

NAAE maintains that the division of policy responsibility between the two levels of government has led to silo thinking. It asked that they agree to mandate the allocation of sufficient time in curriculum and provide specialist teacher training, new teaching resources and artists in schools programs.

Another issue pinpointed by NAAE was the problem created by the sweeping changes to the VET Fee Help scheme. The delegation said that it was tentatively encouraged by the beginnings of a response to the concerns it had raised with the Education Minster, Simon Birmingham, at the cutting of 57 out of 70 arts courses from 2017. Recently a couple of these courses have been reinstated, but there are many others awaiting attention such as diplomas or advanced diplomas in Photography, Visual Communication, Ceramics, Jewellery and Object Design.

Dyson continued: ‘NAAE agrees that urgent measures needed to be taken to address the rorting of the VET Fee Help system. However, the unintended collateral damage to genuine students and their reputable providers is very serious and needs the Minister’s immediate attention’.

NAAE plans to offer policy advice to all political parties about how to remove many of the obstacles to creators being able to sustain a working career. Essential are changes to see the industrial rights of professional artists being brought into line with those of all other working people. New or revised legislation is needed in relation to issues such as taxation, social security and superannuation, copyright and freedom of expression.

For media comment contact

Julie Dyson: m 0412 211 513 or Associate Professor Sandra Gattenhof: m 0438 199 480.

NAAE members: Australian Dance Council – Ausdance, Art Education Australia, Australian Society for Music Education, Australian Teachers of Media, Drama Australia, Music Council of Australia, National Association for the Visual Arts, The Music Trust (observer)