Please note: Some of the content on this page was published prior to the launch of Creative Australia and references the Australia Council. Read more.
Speeches and Opinions

Harness creativity to build a better future

Robert Morgan, The Australian, 21 December 2021.

I’ve spent almost all my working life in a creative industry surrounded by some of the most extraordinary creative minds. Our whole raison d’être in advertising is creativity – commercial creativity. I’ve seen just how powerful creativity is when applied to building brands and selling products.

So this year I was honoured and excited when asked by the Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, to chair the Australia Council for the Arts.

He is a true believer in the role the creative industries generally can play in the future growth of the Australian economy. Our future will be increasingly based on the ability to harness, develop, nurture, and grow our economy and society based on creativity, innovation and entrepreneurialism – the creative economy. We must apply creativity to the future of our country.

The creative industries in Australia are already estimated to account for some $110bn in the economy.

More than 600,000 people are employed and this covers music, literature, performing arts, First Nations arts, visual arts, fashion, video games, photography, film making, editing, design, architecture, computer systems, publishing, television, radio, sound recording and advertising in all its forms, along with a whole host of endeavours that form part of the creative industries ecosystem.

Most importantly, the skills are often interchangeable between many of these activities.

Many filmmakers started making TV commercials and many artists started doing layouts for advertising.

Some of our greatest novelists started in advertising agencies.

There are musicians, makeup artists, editors, set designers, lighting experts and programmers who move readily between the various areas of the creative industries.

Original creative ideas and their execution will increasingly be the currencies of the economy and will be the drivers of our future prosperity.

A whole creative mindset is needed for business, industry, education, health and wellbeing, innovation and government policymaking.

Now, and moving into 2022, creativity needs to be at the centre of our thinking as governments look for new ideas and fresh approaches to respond to the economic and social challenges thrown up by the pandemic, as well as being poised to seize the post-pandemic opportunities that emerge.

It is creativity that generates new ideas, new connections and new ways of problem solving.

It increases our quality of life, boosts productivity and creates huge economic opportunity.

Creativity can also be Australia’s global competitive advantage.

We’ve already demonstrated our world-class capability across different creative forms.

We can and should be one of the world’s creative leaders.

We should be known for applying creativity to everything we do.

Australian enterprises are already demonstrating the power of creativity in building global best-of-class companies based on a ‘‘big idea” – Canva, Atlassian, Afterpay, RealEstate.com and Seek, to name a few, are showing how we can lead on the world stage.

These types of businesses are demonstrating our ability to compete in the global digital economy.

But now, Australia needs to set a creative agenda that draws from across the public and private sectors, different levels of government and the breadth of our creative businesses and individuals. Many are already doing important and groundbreaking work, but there is value in bringing this creative enterprise and innovation into much clearer focus to drive policy and new opportunities.

The Commonwealth has already identified this need with the formation of the Creative Economy Taskforce to advise on its response to the impact of Covid-19. This is the start of what needs to be a determined, multilevel commitment to put creativity at the centre of the future of our country.

Other countries have also identified the importance of creativity to their future prosperity. The UK has recently launched Creative UK – an organisation representing all the creative industries, whose purpose is to cultivate a world where creativity is championed, valued and fundamentally nurtured. It is there for those who dare to imagine a fairer, more prosperous world achieved through the power of creativity. It squarely puts creativity at the heart of the UK’s culture, economy and education system. Canada has a similar organisation.

It’s time for the creative industries in Australia to get together to help demonstrate the value that creativity will bring to our collective future. Certainly, the arts and commercial creative industries can get together easily and quickly. But we must not stop there.

There are numerous examples of how the arts and creativity have brought prosperity to our country. But there’s none better than the example of MONA in Tasmania. Conceived and championed by visionary David Walsh, this gallery has been catalytic in building a whole new image and creatively based tourist infrastructure to Tasmania – restaurants, hotels, other cultural festivals have in essence repositioned Tasmania as a centre of cultural and eco-tourism and attracted a whole new tourist market. And MONA is one of a number of examples from around the country where cultural institutions or events are driving new and exciting opportunities for local communities, regions and our cities.

Let’s make 2022 the year we recognise that Australia’s future is creative. We all need to get behind this and make it happen.

Robert Morgan is chief executive and chairman of the Clemenger Group and chair of the Australia Council. This piece was written for The Australian and Advertising Council Australia’s The Growth Agenda series.

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