Understanding that a few nights out from the election, candidates can be busy – even tired – it was still disappointing that not one candidate from either of the major parties attended the Left Right* Think Tank’s arts election forum last night. They missed a treat, and an opportunity to engage an audience of motivated, well-informed young voters.

The Greens’ Larissa Waters didn’t miss the opportunity, despite being hoarse with a heavy head cold. With her fellow panelists, MetroArts’ Dan Evans and Circa’s Collette Brennan, Waters covered territory ranging from funding to regional programming to audience development to indigenous inclusion. It was a wide-ranging and vibrant discussion.

Some of the interesting ideas:

  • provide incentives similar to those provided to doctors, for artists to relocate to regional centres. Regional and remote communities are crying out for artistic and cultural programs;
  • offer short-term leases on disused public spaces for artists to create, workshop, teach, perform, exhibit and exchange expertise and ideas;
  • review funding of arts and culture development in light of funding of sports development: why should our sports stars be the only Australian talent on the global stage?
  • refine funding categories that encourage segmentation of arts forms, and fund more mixed, multimedia and multidisciplinary art forms that are more appealing to young people;
  • develop more – and more structured - peer mentoring opportunities for emerging artists;
  • review Centrelink rules which don’t recognise arts activity as legitimate activity.

A largely-ignored topic in election campaigning, the coherent development of arts and culture was of clear importance to this room full of young voters interested in public policy. The major parties ignore it – and them – at their peril.

*Left Right Think Tank is Australia’s first independent and non-partisan think-tank of young minds, with a mission to involve young people in public policy.