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2021 National Summit on First Nations Arts and Culture

The Australia Council for the Arts has a priority to cherish and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts which makes a rich contribution to the world’s culture, and to Australia’s diverse contemporary culture and national identity.

Australia is home to the world’s longest continuing living culture with a rich artistic context. Understanding and respecting First Nations cultures is essential to Australia’s social wellbeing and benefits both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

It was 1973 when the first national meeting of the First Nations arts and culture sector took place at ANU in Canberra. This significant gathering set in place the strategies that nurtured First Nations arts and culture for the next fifty years.

A great deal has changed in the world since then, so it is timely to hold another National Summit in 2021 to discuss future directions for the sector and industry, and identify key arts and culture priorities for its development over the next 50 year to 2070.

The National Summit on First Nations Arts and Culture will be held in Adelaide over five days from 24 – 29 October 2021.

The Indigenous cultural leaders participating in this Summit are charged with the task of developing the foundations that will lead to establishing an arts and cultural peak body, or National Indigenous Arts and Cultural Authority (NIACA). This authority will then create a national voice to cherish, nurture and protect First Nations arts and culture for future generations.

The 2021 National Summit for First Nations Arts and Culture is funded through public private partnerships and philanthropic support.

The Summit will enable considered discussion at all levels, and across a range of industries, about First Nations arts and cultures. Discussions will focus on the diversity and complexity of issues arising from consultations about the scope, governance, representation, structure and cultural authority of a national peak body with a remit to promote and protect First Nations arts and cultures. 

What will the National Summit do?

First Nations artists have been calling for recognition of their cultural and creative rights for half a century. The National Summit will provide the forum for critical discourse, networking, thought leadership and increased partnerships that leads to the establishment of a steering committee that will bring about an arts and culture peak body.

The establishment of an arts and culture peak body could protect and promote the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s arts and cultures in a range of potential ways. It provides an opportunity to develop mechanisms for government, industry and the broader community to better understand how to consult, seek permission, attribute, acknowledge and provide returns to First Nations artists and cultural custodians.

There are several existing First Nations arts and cultural peak bodies with strong mandates and governance structures that work across specific regions or art forms. However, there is no national peak body providing a collective voice across art forms;

  • promoting the rights of First Nations artists and cultural custodians across Australia.
  • building networks and capacity to support a flourishing First Nations arts sector in its diversity and entirety.
  • advocating and championing the issues and solutions to address and strengthen the capacity and capability of the First Nations arts and cultural sector and creative industries.

A peak body focused on First Nations arts, creative industries and cultures is a priority of national significance. It could provide a strategic and integrated response on culturally based solutions to arts and cultural matters, grounded in First Nations self-determination and the authority of cultural custodians.

The 2021 National Summit will build on the legacy of the 1973 seminar, and lead to the formation of a peak body that will develop the strategies that promote First Nation creative endeavours, change the standing of its arts/culture here and overseas, and direct much needed economic growth into communities, to empower First Nations People to thrive both now and into the future.

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