Economic independence through Indigenous art in Australia’s far north

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in ANZSOG News and is reproduced with permission.

Tiwi Islands flag

Economic self-determination through art and culture can be empowering, but for some remote communities, it can be difficult to achieve. Carissa Lee Godwin, Editor, APO’s First Peoples & Public Policy Collection explores art and cultural production as a source of economic income for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in the far north of Australia.

Report on the North-West Northern Territory and Tiwi Islands

A recent addition to the First Peoples & Public Policy CollectionIntegrating Art Production and Economic Development in North-West NT and the Tiwi Islands, presents the findings of one component of a major national survey of remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. This national survey is being undertaken in the Department of Economics at Macquarie University progressively across six regions in remote Australia, and is scheduled for completion in June 2020.

Report authors, David Throsby and Katya Petetskaya, use the survey data to focus on strengthening Indigenous arts economies in the North-West region of the Northern Territory and the Tiwi Islands. The report presents the diversity of cultural practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in remote towns, settlements, homelands and outstations across the region.

Artists’ cultural economic activities

The report reveals that the most common cultural activities that survey respondents practice is visual arts (with just over 75 percent of survey respondents receiving income working in this field). The next most common art form in the survey region is performing arts (primarily music and dance), with almost half (45 percent) of artists currently engaged in and receiving income from choreography, writing and storytelling, music composition, filmmaking and multimedia, and other performing arts.

Tiwi Islands art gallery by Satrina Brandt on Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

On average, individual artists in the region have engaged in eight or nine cultural economic activities at some time in their life. Respondents also received some form of income for their work in at least one of the artistic activities and about two other cultural activities.

While almost everyone with experience in visual arts continues to be engaged in this art form (96 per cent), only three in five of those with experience in composing or choreographing and in writing and/or storytelling are able to practise in these fields, due to a lack of access to facilities.

In the case of other cultural activities, the vast majority of artists with experience in the everyday cultural practices of caring for country or fishing, hunting and collecting bush food are currently engaged in these activities (90 and 93 per cent, respectively).

Key policy recommendations

The main findings in the report are grouped into the following categories:

  1. Infrastructure needs: Improved funding and facilities are required to better assist artists in accessing and developing their creative work.
  2. Expanding economic opportunities: Culturally sensitive employment opportunities and income generation should be explored in this region.
  3. Training and skill development: One of the most important areas for policy formulation to support Indigenous peoples in remote communities is through education and training. The findings show that the primary pathways for transfer of arts and cultural skills and knowledge are found within the communities through family and community members.
  4. Cultural tourism: Tourism is a means to bring income directly to the source of supply. By promoting cultural tourism, tourists who visit remote communities can engage with Indigenous culture firsthand and support the regional economy by buying artworks or attending performances by local artists.

The report explicitly states that the researchers acknowledge that art and cultural production cannot on its own transform any remote community. Rather, in the right conditions, it can be an effective avenue towards employment creation and income generation, helping to improve the overall long-term prospects for economic sustainability and social viability, while respecting the fundamental importance of Indigenous culture.

About the First Peoples & Public Policy Collection

As part of its mission to improve Indigenous policy in Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand, ANZSOG is working to increase knowledge of Indigenous culture and history. Part of this is through supporting the APO First Peoples & Public Policy Collection, launched at ANZSOG’s Reimagining Public Administration conference in February 2019.

The First Peoples & Public Policy Collection is curated from a broad selection of key Indigenous policy topics, and provides a valuable resource on Indigenous affairs, with a focus on diverse Indigenous voices.


Guest blog: Practical tested actions for the social sector in the digital economy – by Professor Jane Farmer

In the lead up to the Society 4.0 Forum, Director of the Social Innovation Research Institute at Swinburne University of Technology, Professor Jane Farmer, explains why it is crucial to ensure that social good is supported as automation increases.

Social good in the digital economy

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) is already upon us. Industry 4.0 means disruption to how society works – due to the potential capabilities of mass data digitisation linked with technologies such as AI, automation, machine learning and predictive analytics. ‘Digital economy’ refers to an economy that is based on these technologies.

Society 4.0 is the area where the societal implications of living with, adapting to, and securing wellbeing in, the digital economy come together – it’s where technology meets humanity.

Social good organisations must adapt so the future is not just the domain of large faceless organisations – the only ones that can afford to keep up with change, new technology and employ data specialists. Our mission at the Social Innovation Research Institute is to support non-profits, government and communities to thrive in Society 4.0.

Society 4.0 toolkit and solutions

For the past year, we’ve been scanning the globe to find initiatives where communities and social good organisations are meeting Society 4.0 head-on. We’ve done this by testing audacious and inspiring actions, so that social good survives and isn’t trampled out as automation arrives. 

Society 4.0 draws together a toolkit of top-quality international leaders to support individuals and organisations to gear up for the digital economy happening now and causing significant social disruption. Society 4.0 delivers several major themes with an impressive lineup of Forum speakers driving the change for good:

  • Communities powered with data and public interest tech: World-leader in forming data collaboratives to make collective impact and outcomes measurement happen, Stefaan Verhulst from GovLab at New York University, will present on developing data collectives. Tom Dawkins from StartSomeGood, along with a panel of top social innovation technology entrepreneurs, will explain how to ignite a public interest tech sector to bring new jobs and better technology. Entrepreneur Alvaro Maz from Code for Australia will discuss how the public sector can radically reskill.
  • Work and wellbeing in Society 4.0: Providing practical solutions for organisations and governments, Alice Martin from the New Economics Foundation UK and Geri Sumpter from Beyond Blue will deliver ways to make people well at work and to take responsibility for wellness to system level. Nicolette Barnard from Siemens and human services leader Jo Cavanagh from Family Life will explore methods to reengineer social services in an interactive conversation that invites your input.

Society 4.0 gives you real things to start doing now – for people in a better society.  Don’t miss this.

The Society 4.0 Forum is presented by the Social Innovation Research Institute at Swinburne University of Technology on 30 October 2019. Register now to attend this solutions-orientated event, filled with practical tools and strategies for social good to survive and succeed in the digital economy.

Meet Xin – an APO intern with a passion for culture

Zhao Xin (Xin) is undertaking his Masters of Cultural and Creative Industries in the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University. As the final subject of his course he’s completing a Workplace Industry Learning (WIL) internship at Analysis & Policy Observatory (APO).

Zhao Xin, APO Intern 2019

During his placement, Xin is working on APO’s Cultural Policy & Creative Industries Collection with a focus on:

  • Auditing local government cultural policies for Australian states and capital cities by mapping timelines for each jurisdiction’s strategy cycle and adding any missing strategies, and
  • Cataloguing cultural policies and strategies from Asia and translating Chinese and Korean language policy into English.

‘I am passionate about culture, and how it is used in everyday life. The role of culture and creative economies is my major focus, and through this, I’ve gained a deep understanding of how culture is used as a tool to reactivate the economy,’ says Xin.

‘Here at APO, I’m collecting content for the Cultural Policy & Creative Industries Collection. Through this role, I hope to grasp an insight into cultural policy and its impact on society. In the future I’d love to work in the research and advisory sector of cultural and creative industries, to support the growth of culture and arts,’ he says.

We warmly welcome Xin to our team this semester and value his unique skills as well as his fresh, international student insights into APO as a whole.

APO now features a curated collection on digital health

This is an excerpt from the Digital Health CRC Newsletter – August 2019 edition. You can read the original article here.

Great news! Analysis & Policy Observatory (APO) – an open access evidence platform for public policy and practice – now features a curated, online Digital Health grey literature collection.

The Collection examines aspects of digital health systems that promise to improve and transform healthcare. It explores the evidence of what actually works, and the ongoing policy discussions on how to implement change that delivers positive health benefits at a system level.

The Collection is part of a Linkage, Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) project, Linked semantic platforms for social and physical infrastructure and wellbeing, funded by the Australian Research Council.

Digital Health CRC participants (including our PhD students and post docs) may find the Collection very useful in accessing and reviewing grey literature from government and industry relevant to their projects.

Our participants may also wish to contribute to the Collection with reports generated from their own projects and research, to make the findings more widely available and increase their impact.

Additionally, the Collection will be a useful resource for government and industry, for strategic planning and policy in the digital health space.

As part of its service, APO provides free policy Briefings to researchers and others. Anyone is welcome to contribute a resource to APO – its editors can then allocate the resource to a specific collection.

Subscribe to future editions of the Digital Health CRC Newsletter for free (go to the bottom of the homepage to enter your details).

Guest blog: Creative industries in Industry 4.0 – by Dr Jessica Pacella

In recent years, ‘creative industries’ has become a politically charged issue across the globe. Dr Jess Pacella, Lecturer at the School of Creative Industries at the University of South Australia, and External Editor for the Analysis & Policy Observatory (APO) Work, Learning and Wellbeing in the Digital Economy Collection, explores what this means in the age of Industry 4.0 and for the future of work.

Creative industries add both economic and cultural value to society by generating knowledge, information and artefacts through creative practice and production. When using resources in the APO Cultural Policy & Creative Industries Collection (Cultural Policy Collection) it is worth to keeping in mind that there is a key debate among researchers (and policymakers) about what constitutes the ‘creative industries’ sector and hence, how it should be measured.

A 2016 provocation authored by Nesta contributors Hasan Bakhshi and Professor Stuart Cunningham, Cultural Policy in the Time of the Creative Industries, outlines how, in the geographic context of the UK, more robust metrics for distinguishing between ‘creative industries’ and the ‘creative economy’ could lead to vast improvements in policy development for a sector that is now estimated to contribute over £100B per year to the UK economy (DCMS 2018).

Work, Learning and Wellbeing in the Digital Economy

There is also much crossover with creative industries and the APO Work, Learning and Wellbeing in the Digital Economy Collection (Wellbeing in the Digital Economy Collection). Understanding how creativity, critical thinking and other soft skills can be applied in jobs of the future, in addition to understanding the limits of automation (many crafts people and makers have skills that are impossible to automate), showcase the complexity and diversity of research within the Cultural Policy Collection.

At the heart of the Wellbeing in the Digital Economy Collection is the intersection between the key elements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – also known as Industry 4.0 (these are automation, AI, robotics and Internet of Things) and the future of work.

Recent research has sought to understand the nuance within the digital economy and differences between what constitutes the ‘gig economy’, the ‘sharing economy’ the ‘platform economy’ and the ‘task economy’, and the various ways in which these on-demand practices undermine or supplement people’s wages. As such, debates around what defines work, and the differences between, for example, ‘freelancer’, ‘gig worker’, ‘casual worker’, and ‘contract worker’ are vitally important for preventing the erosion of industrial labour rights and protections.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, much of the literature and research in the Wellbeing in the Digital Economy Collection either implicitly or explicitly incorporates data on the future of wages, quality of work life, and future skills and employment forecasting in what many predict as an uncertain job market driven and influenced by technological change.

Editor’s note: APO is based at Swinburne University of Technology. By embracing Industry 4.0 using digital technologies to create social and economic impact through science, technology and innovation, Swinburne University is developing practical approaches to incorporating Industry 4.0 thinking across teaching and research. Read more about Swinburne University’s Industry 4.0 initiatives.

APO welcomes new Director

We are delighted to announce that Dr Brigid van Wanrooy has been appointed as the new Director of Analysis & Policy Observatory (APO) at Swinburne University of Technology (Swinburne). Brigid is well equipped for leading APO into its next phase, with a background in both government roles and academic research.

APO Director, Dr Brigid van Wanrooy

Based at Swinburne, Brigid will collaborate in particular with Swinburne’s Social Innovation Research Institute (SIRI), to build on the success of APO by developing a policy and industry-relevant sustainable business strategy, with new offerings to support evidence-informed policy.

‘APO is a trusted source for researchers and policymakers. I’m excited to have the opportunity to build on this great resource and ensure that it continues to be a “must have” for evidence-informed policy in a rapidly changing environment,’ said Brigid. 

Earlier this year, APO was named a ‘Change Maker’ by Swinburne for its success in demonstrating real-world impact in society and with industry. APO is an important driver of impact for Swinburne, through collecting research outputs on public policy and practice, and providing these resources to government, not-for-profits, industry and academics.

‘For policymakers, APO is a unique resource giving easy access to key collections of research and evaluation,’ said Director of the Social Innovation Research Institute, Professor Jane Farmer. 

‘For researchers, it’s a brilliant tool to make direct connection with policymakers by publishing their research reports. Our new Director will take APO into another exciting phase, harnessing diverse contemporary evidence,’ said Professor Farmer.

Most recently, Brigid worked with the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, delivering projects and strategies to embed the use of evidence and improve policy and practice. Brigid’s previous research has centred on employment relations, with previous roles at the University of Melbourne, Acas (UK) and the University of Sydney.

Improving learning outcomes for Indigenous students

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in ANZSOG News and is reproduced with permission.

Indigenous ways of learning include deep listening and community-oriented activities, with family being a prominent element of First Peoples’ education. In contrast, Eurocentric teaching methods can result in a lack of engagement for Indigenous STEM students. Carissa Lee Godwin, Editor, APO’s First Peoples & Public Policy Collection, explores how the Australian curriculum can become more culturally inclusive.

Elizabeth McKinley, Professor of Indigenous Education at the University of Melbourne, outlines the need for Indigenous knowledge systems in teaching practices in her paper on ‘STEM and Indigenous Students’, included in APO’s First Peoples & Public Policy Collection. Although this paper is from 2016, the concepts and recommendations remain valuable to today’s educators seeking to improve their teaching practices.

Key research findings

McKinley presents the state of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in Australia, and where it falls short of interacting with the cultural complexities and needs of Indigenous students at primary and secondary levels. There are three main takeaways from her assessment of the system:

  1. Although there is an equal level of interest between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students when it comes to STEM subjects such as science, there is a level of disengagement for some Indigenous students in these subjects.
  2. Although there has been roughly three decades of research examining Indigenous knowledge systems in the context of education, these styles of learning and teaching might not be effective for teaching STEM subjects to Indigenous students.
  3. There is a mismatch between what is valued in the classroom, and what is valued at home or in the student’s community. As a consequence, Indigenous students do not find STEM subjects very accessible due to their cultural learning styles. Examples of these cultural learning styles include collaborative and community-oriented learning systems.

Key policy recommendations

McKinley provides three key recommendations for education and curriculum providers to teach STEM subjects to Indigenous students in a more culturally inclusive way:

  1. STEM educators need to provide an individual and responsive approach to teaching that encompasses the interplay of family, social and cultural contexts, and how these may influence individual students.
  2. Education providers should take into account each individual student’s cultural knowledge systems, as well as the importance of cultural identity to Indigenous communities, to understand how these may influence individual learning experiences.
  3. Educators need to understand that the often-separated cultural elements of home and classroom sometimes need to be intertwined:

‘Bridging between home and school culture thus provides an underlying cultural approach for teachers to support learners who come from different cultural backgrounds,’ McKinley said.

McKinley suggested that this can be achieved by finding ways to integrate cultural context within learning materials, by respecting and seeing individuals as important, and by encouraging teachers to establish a more caring and understanding rapport with students.

Far-reaching benefits

McKinley makes it clear that Indigenous students may benefit from culturally relevant teaching methods. To my mind, these methods may also benefit non-Indigenous learners. By presenting STEM subjects through a different lens, non-Indigenous students can learn how it fits into another person’s cultural worldview. Additionally, neurodiverse students may be exposed to alternative teaching methods that they may find helpful.

We all learn differently, and Indigenous students should not be deprived of achieving their highest potential because cultural ways of learning have not been considered. As McKinley points out, there are a number of ways to achieve this. It is time that our education system starts implementing these changes in a significant way.

About the First Peoples & Public Policy Collection

As part of its mission to improve Indigenous policy in Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand, ANZSOG is working to increase knowledge of Indigenous culture and history. Part of this is through supporting the APO First Peoples & Public Policy Collection, launched at ANZSOG’s Reimagining Public Administration conference in February 2019.

The First Peoples & Public Policy Collection is curated from a broad selection of key Indigenous policy topics, and provides a valuable resource on Indigenous affairs, with a focus on diverse Indigenous voices.