The Federal Government’s New Plan for the Support of Indigenous Visual Arts

Judith Inkamala from Hermannsburg Potters discussing coil-pot making with Minister Fletcher at the Desert Mob exhibition opening. Courtesy of Australian Government Office for the Arts, 2021.

Last month, the Federal Government announced a new National Indigenous Visual Arts Action Plan (NIVAAP). The Action Plan aims to contribute towards the Closing the Gap targets and outcomes through building economic opportunities, improving internet connectivity for remote art centres, creating new measures to protect the authenticity of artists works and promoting First Nations art overseas. In an interview with NIT, Paul Fletcher (2021), the Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, spoke about the importance of supporting the Indigenous Visual Arts market:

“The aim of the action plan is to advance Indigenous Visual Arts and boost the market for Indigenous Visual Arts, recognising that it’s very, very important culturally as a way of non-Indigenous people to gain a better understanding of Indigenous Art and their culture and history.”

NIVAAP will contribute an additional $5 million per year, which will increase the overall funding of Indigenous Visual Arts to $27 million annually. A key part of the Action Plan is enabling 80 remote Indigenous Art Centres to have connection to NBN, so that they can improve their online presence in order to increase artwork sales (Australian Government Office for the Arts, 2021). Rural and remote art centres form a key part of the Indigenous art industry, and without the proper resources and reliable internet connection they are all at risk of being left behind. This has become particularly important throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as tourists haven’t been able to visit the arts communities. As a result, digital platforms have become a vital way for people outside of these communities to be able to connect with Indigenous art and culture (The Conversation, 2021).

Kartujarra artist Bugai Whyoulter with her artworks at the opening night of ‘Bugai’ at The Goods Shed. Courtesy of the Australian Government Office for the Arts, 2021.

Another key issue that the NIVAAP will be tackling is fake and counterfeit artworks. While many measures such as the Indigenous Art Code have been making a difference, fake artwork and a lack of education about authentic Indigenous artwork continues to be a huge problem. Minister Fletcher says the Government plans to tackle these issues through establishing a category of “Indigenous Cultural Intellectual Property,” and creating a “Certification Trademark” so that buyers of Indigenous art can be properly informed that their purchases are authentic and genuine (Australian Government Office for the Arts, 2021).

An important part of the development of this Action Plan was consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait artists and communities. Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Ken Wyatt (2021), told NIT that the Government worked closely with Indigenous artists to design the plan:

“We’ve undertaken extensive consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, together with commercial galleries, auction houses, wholesalers and the state and territory governments – because successful outcomes require Indigenous Australians to be at the table.”

At Yarn, we hope that this new injection of funding can make a real difference to the First Nations visual arts industry, so that artists can gain the support and recognition they deserve. Indigenous art is incredibly culturally rich; it documents sacred stories that are 65,000 years old. This knowledge and the incredible talent of Indigenous artists is precious and something that should continue to be supported and celebrated.