The Federal Government has announced the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Consultation Paper which sets out intentions to develop an Indigenous Visual Art Action Plan to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives, their artwork and their cultural rights and interests.

The plan was announced by Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher and Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra on Wednesday.

Minister Fletcher noted the Indigenous Visual Art Action Plan aims to recognise the significant importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture. Minister Fletcher also spoke of the impact of COVID-19 upon the industry.

“Australian Indigenous visual art is highly sought after both in Australia and abroad for its quality, innovation and cultural richness. It also strengthens economic opportunities for communities by providing employment, skills development and income,” he said.

“Until the start of COVID-19, art sales had been growing for almost a decade, but the pandemic has dramatically impacted the industry with art centres, galleries and studios closed, and art fairs and events cancelled or postponed, which only strengthens the need for a plan.”

The Indigenous Visual Arts Action Plan will be developed through consultation with those involved in the Indigenous arts sector.

“As part of this consultation we want to hear from stakeholders across the Indigenous visual arts sector—artists, art centre directors and managers, arts workers, art dealers, gallerists, art market professionals, purchasers, collectors, industry bodies or peak bodies representing these groups,” Minister Wyatt said.

“I invite all interested stakeholders to have their say to inform an Action Plan that will help the sector recover from COVID-19 and achieve maximum benefit for artists and their communities.”

This co-design process builds upon the work of the Inquiry into the Report on the Impact of inauthentic art and craft in the style of First Nations peoples.

“The Government has a number of initiatives underway to better safeguard Indigenous art including a digital labelling trial and additional funding to support the Indigenous Art Code, in collaboration with the states. The plan we are announcing today is part of our response to this report,” Minister Fletcher said.

“The Action Plan and tabling of our response to the House of Representatives inquiry comes at a time when the long-term effects of COVID-19 are beginning to emerge, so it is timely to think about how we rebuild a vibrant and sustainable Indigenous visual arts sector,” added Minister Wyatt.

Bruce Johnson McLean, Assistant Director of Indigenous Engagement at the National Gallery of Australia, who hosted the event, noted the dedication of Indigenous artists.

“It is important to … acknowledge that this great art doesn’t magically appear. It is the result of great thought, thorough planning, strong business and the hard work, mentally, spiritually, conceptually and physically of the artists,” McLean said.

“Our artists are the heart and soul of this industry.”

“We need to ensure that artists, their communities and the structures around them are supported so they continue to do this important work that benefits us all.”

Consultations close on December 18, 2020 and the Action Plan is estimated to be released in 2021.

To read the consultation paper, participate in the consultation and access the Report on the Impact of inauthentic art and craft in the style of First Nations peoples, visit: www.arts.gov.au/have-your-say/consultation-paper-growing-indigenous-visual-arts-industry.

By Rachael Knowles