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The Australia Council for the Arts recently presented – Multicultural arts: cultural citizenship for the 21st century, a one-day symposium held on Thursday, 16 August at Parliament House, Canberra.

The symposium presented a unique opportunity to discuss the contribution of multicultural arts to cultural life, artistic practice and indeed, to Australian identity.

The day involved presentations, discussion and debate by government representatives, leading Australian commentators, policy makers and arts programmers and keynote addresses by the Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator the Hon. George Brandis SC, and Assistant Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, the Hon. Teresa Gambaro MP.

Program overview


The aim of the symposium was to encourage more effective working across all levels of government within a partnership framework to increase the effectiveness of how multicultural arts practices are supported.

The program

The program was designed to encourage best practice through the active exchange of ideas and to promote excellent multicultural arts practices.


There was a positive response to the symposium with close to 100 people attending the event.

Participants included leaders from the federal, state and territory governments and their departments, artists and experts from multicultural arts and multicultural organisations. Representatives from the corporate and media sectors were also present.


Participants were asked to suggest the future they would like to see, which resulted in the following themes being discussed:

  • Our multicultural arts policy is placed centrally within our Australian creative landscape.
  • The governance of our major cultural institutions should reflect the diversity of our nation.
  • The small to medium arts sector has the capacity to engage and with diverse communities and build their capacities.
  • To create a research program that:
    o Identifies community and artists’ needs
    o Identifies what is happening in multicultural arts nationally
    o Showcases successful work
  • The spectrum of multicultural arts and their creative pathways are highly visible.
  • There is sustainable development of diverse artists and communities.
  • Culturally diverse artists are part of Australia’s cultural dialogue and decision-making processes.
  • There are strategic partnerships and adequate funding to support artists of culturally diverse backgrounds to tell their stories and sustain social cohesion.

This was the first formal opportunity held in Australia for arts and multicultural leaders across the two tiers of Australian government to share information and devise a common set of objectives.

It also provided a unique opportunity for networking with many attendees meeting for the first time.

Other outcomes included:

  • The excellent multicultural arts projects and performances were met with warm acclaim and appreciation.
  • Successful networking between federal, states and territory agencies occurred. In particular the representatives from each state arts agency said that they had been exposed to a range of new ideas and would look more closely at their existing multicultural policies and programs.
  • The leadership role of the Australia Council received a higher profile with the arts and the multicultural sector as well as with parliamentarians.
Initial feedback

Positive feedback from participants has been received about the symposium, including:

  • Jill Morgan, Executive Officer, Multicultural Arts Victoria.

    ‘It is vitally important that we break down barriers and look at new ways of working to engage artists and communities from non English speaking backgrounds in a very real way – it is about systemic change both locally and nationally’.

    ‘Multicultural Arts – Cultural Citizenship for the 21st Century stimulated thought and raised important issues for the sector. Many thanks to the Australia Council for their vitally important leadership role in this area’.

  • Associate Professor Ruth Rentschler, Executive Director of the Centre for Leisure Management Research at Deakin University.

    ‘The feedback I have had from people who were there was that it was a most useful day for sharing ideas, networking and learning how to do diversity in the arts better. I learnt a lot and met a lot of new people who will provide me with opportunities to bounce ideas off them in the future’.

  • Jeremy Rice, Artistic Director, Barking Gecko Theatre Company.

    ‘Congratulations and thank you for organising the seminar last Thursday. I greatly appreciated the invitation, the opportunity to speak, the chance to catch up with interstate colleagues and make some new connections in the field’.

    ‘The array of speakers was great: diverse and informative, provocative and inspiring’.

Next steps

A discussion paper will be presented to the November Council meeting, covering the key issues raised in the Symposium and potential strategies for future consideration.

Promotion of multicultural arts is one of the Australia Council’s key priority areas. Our policy – Arts in a Multicultural Australia – articulates a vision for Australia in which dynamic cultural life and practices are created, embraced and celebrated by the diversity of our cultures.

It recognises the importance we place on fostering a strong and vibrant arts sector.


9.00am Arrival and Escorting
9.30am Welcome to Country
9.33am Welcome from MC Effie
9.40am Performance: Arte Kanela Flamenco (dance)

Arte Kanela Flamenco draws from the raw energy of rock and adds the rhythmic tapestry of Flamenco to their work.

9.55am Nicky Downer, Chair of the Australia Council Multicultural Advisory Committee introduces the Hon. Senator Brandis SC.
10.00am Future Visions for Australia

Senator the Hon. George Brandis SC

Minister for the Arts and Sport

Senator the Hon. George Brandis will welcome everyone and outline his views on the arts in a multicultural Australia.

10.20am A Business Case for Cultural Diversity

Dr Ian Lin examines the business case for establishing culturally diverse strategies employed by global investment and business.

11.00am Future Visions for Australia

The Hon. Teresa Gambaro
Assistant Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

The Hon. Teresa Gambaro will outline her views on the arts in a multicultural Australia.

11.25am Commentary and Debate

George Megalogenis (Journalist, The Australian) and Nadia Jamal (Deputy Chief of Staff, The Sydney Morning Herald) will comment on the issues facing Australia’s cultural diversity. They will pose questions to the Hon. Senator George Brandis SC.

11.45am Cultural Diversity – Working in Partnership

A panel of speakers including: Milos Milandinovic, The Arts Centre; Ruth Rentschler, Deakin University; Stefan Romaniw, Multicultural Arts Victoria will present true stories and facts about MixItUp – a unique ongoing collaboration between Victoria’s major arts centre and a multicultural arts organisation.

12.20pm Performance: William Yang

Acclaimed artist and performer William Yang weaves together stories from his life and family history in a performance that examines his relationship with Queensland.

12.30pm LUNCH with MPs

Effie will introduce Kathy Keele, CEO Australia Council for the Arts at the lunch held in the Mural Hall.

The lunch presents an opportunity for networking and to meet parliamentarians.

Performance: Flamenco Rocks (guitar)

1.50pm Performance: DIAFRIX (hip hop)

Independent hip-hop group Diafrix,have established themselves as one of Australia’s most exciting and original live acts.

2.00pm Trends to 2030

Mark McCrindle of McCrindle Research will predict what Australia will look like in 2030 and suggest what our cultural and social considerations might be.

2.30pm Cultural Diversity Collaborations – Snapshots highlighting successful project collaborations between arts and multicultural agencies.

Presented by: Jeremy Rice on Multicultural Arts Marketing Ambassadors Strategy (MAMAS) in Western Australia

Georgie Meyer – Multicultural Arts Professional Development

Kon Gouriotis and Kamalle Dabboussy – Collaborations between Casula Powerhouse and Liverpool Migrant Resource Centre

3.00pm The Value of Cultural Diversity and the Arts

Facilitated by Effie this open session is an opportunity for participants to comment and engage in debate and discussion.

3.40pm Performance: Weaver of Fictions performed by Genevieve Lacey of ELISION (music)

Weaver of Fictions, is the prelude to a new opera composed by Liza Lim, The Navigator. The opera is about journeying through desire and alchemical union of the soul. Genevieve Lacey is an acclaimed recorder virtuoso.

3.50pm Thanks and Concluding Comments

Nicky Downer invites final comments from Mark McCrindle, Dr Ian Lin and Effie.

4.10pm DRINKS with MPs
4.15pm Performance: DIAFRIX (hip hop)
4.30pm Performance: Flamenco Rocks (guitar)
5.30pm CLOSE


The Hon Senator George Brandis

Prime Minister John Howard appointed Senator Brandis as Minister for the Arts and Sport in January 30, 2007.

As Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator Brandis’ portfolio responsibilities include the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Sports Commission, the Australian Institute of Sport, Old Parliament House, the National Library, the National Museum of Australia, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery of Australia, the Australian Film Commission, Film Australia and the Film Finance Corporation Australia Limited.

Mary Coustas – Effie

Mary Coustas is a writer, performer and actor, well known for her performance in Wogs out of Work and for her character Effie from the popular television series Acropolis Now.
Mary’s film credits include Mull, for which she received an AFI nomination for Best Supporting Actress, Nirvana Street Murder, and the cult classic Hercules Returns.

As Effie she worked on Melbourne’s FOX FM breakfast team and recorded the hit single Amigos Para Siempre (Friends For Life) with Norman Gunston and appeared as guest host for The Norman Gunston Show. In 1993, Mary won the Logie Award and Variety Heart Club Award for Best Comedy Performer.

Nicky Downer

Nicky is the Chair Australia Council Multicultural Advisory Committee. Nicky was appointed to the Council as a community interest representative for three years from 18 December 2003 and is a member of the Decisions Review Committee.

She is a member of the State Theatre of South Australia Board of Governors, Helpmann Academy Foundation Board and of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival Advisory committee. She was chair of Country Arts South Australia from 1999-2004 and president of Regional Arts South Australia until June 2004.

The Hon Teresa Gambaro

In 2007, Teresa was promoted to the position of Assistant Minister for Immigration and Citizenship and is responsible for resettling refugees into mainstream Australian society.

Prior to this appointment, she served as Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, looking after the needs and safety of Australians overseas.  She was also Parliamentary Secretary for Defence.

Kon Gouriotis

Kon Gouriotis is the Executive Director of the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre and Liverpool Regional Museum. He is currently working on a $13.26 million dollar capital refurbishment program for the Casula Powerhouse that includes a 2.7km recreational and cultural facility along the Georges River for the City of Liverpool due to be reopened to the public in February 2008.

He is currently a member of the University of Western Sydney Regional Council.

Kathy Keele

Kathy Keele was appointed chief executive officer of the Australia Council and member of the Council (ex officio) for three years on 14 December 2006.

Before joining the Australia Council, Kathy was executive director of the Australia Business Arts Foundation. She has also held senior executive and marketing roles with iconic Australia companies Telstra and BHP Ltd. Kathy is a member of the Australia Institute of Company Directors.

Nadia Jamal

Nadia Jamal has been a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald since 1997, and is currently Deputy Chief of Staff.

She has worked on the World desk, helping to edit the daily pages and coordinate coverage of major events including the war in Iraq. She has also been the Herald’s Night Chief of Staff and education and urban affairs writer. Nadia is the co-author of an award-winning book titled, The Glory Garage – Growing up Lebanese Muslim in Australia.

Dr Ian Lin

Dr Lin is CEO of the Quo Vadis Consulting Group and is a social and business futurist who studies forecasts, trends, and ideas about the future of the world in which we live and work.

Dr Lin sits on a number of university advisory boards and has been an Associate of the Australian Graduate School of Engineering Innovation and for the University of Sydney a Visiting Professor of Engineering and Director of the Centre for Engineering Management and Innovation, and The President of the Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific.

George Megalogenis

George Megalogenis spent 11 years in the federal parliamentary press gallery before returning to Melbourne at the end of 1999 as a senior writer for The Australian newspaper.

He is the author of two books, Faultlines, race, work and the politics of changing Australia (2003) and The Longest Decade (2006), and is a regular panel member on the ABC’s Insiders program.

Mark McCrindle

Mark McCrindle is variously described as a futurits, demographer and a social commentator. He is regarded as one of Australia’s foremost social researchers. His research into the emerging trends and generational segments is recognised internationally.

Georgie Meyer

Georgie is currently the Community Engagement Manager at the Immigration Museum in Melbourne where she coordinates education and community programs and events.

She is also a volunteer member of the Public Programs committee at the Jewish Museum of Australia and is Producer/General Manager of the small theatre company Aubergine Theatre.

Milos Miladinovic

Milos has worked at the Arts Centre, Melbourne since 1999. He oversees programming, collections, research, presenter and administrative services, and production.

His professional background includes, Theatre Services Manager, The Edge, Auckland New Zealand where he oversaw programming, production and venue sales, and General Manager, Gladstone City Theatre, Queensland.

Ruth Rentschler

Associate Professor Ruth Rentschler is Executive Director of the Centre for Leisure Management Research at Deakin University. Ruth conducts research projects that focus on sports, arts, entertainment, events, marketing, and cultural tourism management.

Ruth has managed a range of projects, such as, assessing the ethical operation of the Indigenous art market; analysing diverse audiences for festivals and events; identifying best practice in sports and arts boards, evaluating cultural policy for capital cities; and analysing international art markets for the visual arts. She is author, co-author and editor of a number of books in the cultural field.

Jeremy Rice

Jeremy Rice is Artistic Director of Barking Gecko Theatre Company for young people and has been directing professional and community theatre projects for fifteen years.

Since joining Barking Gecko, Jeremy has directed a multilingual production in Cantonese, English and Mandarin, Trains of Thought, about racism among young people in Western Australia.

Stefan Romaniw

Stefan is currently the Executive Director of Community Languages Australia and Chairman of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations. The Premier has appointed him an Australia Day Ambassador for the past 4 years. He has been on the Board of NAATI Council of Adult Education and has participated in the work of the Ministerial Standing Council on Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.

He currently sits on the Ministerial Advisory Council for LOTE ESL and Multicultural Education, the Minister for Education and Training LOTE Analysis Committee, The City of Melbourne and Hume Safe City Task Forces.



Brianna Roberts


(02) 9215 9030


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