In 2005, with a lifelong interest in the arts, a career background in higher education and no professional experience of arts administration, Leigh Tabrett was appointed to lead the Queensland Government’s arts agency. In a trenchant reassessment of these years, in which she undertook a complete overhaul of its arts policies and programs, she explores how the lack of clarity about the core purposes of government funding had reached deep into the thinking at both state and federal level. ‘We don’t have a system of funding for the arts in Australia’, she writes. ‘We don’t have a consistent view of the role of government in funding the arts; and even when we do have well considered approaches, they highlight more questions than they answer.’
This is a fundamental clash of cultures, she concludes. How can we have a national system of public support for the arts in the absence of any clear sense of purpose for such a system? This paper offers some suggestions for a better way.