[lg policy] Australia: Are We Taking Culture Seriously Enough?

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jul 22 15:03:50 UTC 2010

Are We Taking Culture Seriously Enough?

Cultural institutions under valued

Tione Chinula

Are we taking our culture too much for granted? One Pacific cultural
specialist believes that in terms of policy and sustainable
development, culture is not taken seriously enough in the Pacific.
“Because islanders are busy “living” culture, many leaders do not see
it as something to be studied, or enshrined in and supported through
policy or funding,” says Katerina Teaiwa, Pacific Studies Convener at
the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific.
“Cultural institutions such as centres, museums and galleries, for
example, aren’t on the priority list, and degrees in culturally
related disciplines are undervalued.”

Dr Teaiwa spoke at a regional workshop held at the Secretariat of the
Pacific Community’s headquarters in Noumea, New Caledonia in March.
The workshop, which she co-facilitated, provided guidelines for the
process of cultural mapping, planning and policy development.
Co-facilitator Colin Mercer, an international expert in cultural
mapping and planning for the cultural and creative sector, said
cultural mapping was about discovering an area’s indigenous resource
base for the purposes of social, economic and cultural development.
“In Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australasia and Europe, cultural
mapping and planning have enabled people to harness and develop their
creative resources and content in music, visual arts, design,
literature, dance, performing arts, film, radio and television, and
heritage. This has enabled the creation of new jobs, new forms of
expression, and new senses of self, place and identity.” This has been
particularly important in the context of the globalisation of new
media platforms such as the Internet and mobile telephones, he says.

New digital media offer new possibilities for creating, distributing
and consuming new and distinctive cultural products and experiences.
“[These media] have greatly enhanced access to cultural products and
experiences, and enabled new forms of transnational creativity across
borders. Witness the success of “world music” for example, and its
importance for both employment and creative expression to Africa,
Latin America and the Caribbean.” New digital media create an immense
potential for the Pacific region if the right policy settings to
support and sustain the cultural and creative sector are put in place,
says Mercer. “This is what cultural mapping and planning should aim
for. The creative economy is one of the fastest growing economic
sectors globally and it is important to understand its nature and
momentum for the Pacific region in order to confidently join it with
its own distinctive cultural and creative resources.”

Dr Teaiwa says that to make mapping, planning and policy work
effectively, it is necessary for an in-depth discussion to take place
on what culture is and what the stakes are in promoting, safeguarding
and harnessing culture for sustainable development. Workshop
participants were encouraged to support each other by drawing on
common knowledge and resources. They took part in several exercises to
help them imagine and develop the cultural mapping and planning
process. “One activity involved imagining how you would go about
creating a national conversation on culture, how you would create a
rationale for this, and what strategies you would use to go about
consulting with communities and then sharing your findings,” says Dr

“This was followed by a more detailed activity where participants
imagined a specific cultural project and then created a list of all
the key stakeholders for that project.” Another exercise involved
understanding how qualitative and quantitative data can be used to
create meaningful indicators in support of development policy. “For
example, combining the number of cultural producers, commodities and
programmes, and the amount of funding with cultural values (i.e.
people’s opinions, ideas and customs with regard to cultural practices
or ideas), can be translated into indicators that are evaluative and
not just descriptive,” she says. The social, cultural and economic
well being of a community could be measured over time by combining
both quantitative and qualitative cultural information.

The workshop was the first step in an important regional project that
aims to enhance human development efforts in the Pacific by
structuring and strengthening the culture sector. The 713,474 euro
project is funded by the European Union and will be implemented by
SPC, with partner organisations and member countries over the next
two-and-a-half years. The workshop was the initial step in the first
of four distinct but related components targeted by the project. The
second component of the project focuses on promoting the region’s
cultural industries. SPC will work with the Pacific Islands Forum
Secretariat on this. Component three deals with preserving cultural
heritage, and will focus on mapping threatened cultural heritage areas
in six countries: Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea
(Bougainville), Tuvalu and Vanuatu. This exercise will be coordinated
by SPC and the Pacific Islands Museum Association. The last component
relates to establishing inter-regional partnerships through cultural
exchanges between Pacific and Caribbean heritage institutions.

[reprinted from Islands Business]

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