Opinion Editorial:

During lockdown periods, many of us drew comfort and joy from reading books, purchasing artworks and well-designed products, watching movies, and listening to music. The creative arts kept us connected. They spoke to us of times gone by and of our hopes and fears for the future. At a time when performers and artists were most hard hit, with their livelihoods shut down overnight, creative works and voices kept us entertained, soothed and informed.

In Geelong, the talents of the Piano Bar’s Andy Popjoy were live-streamed to our screens at home. Many cultural venues digitalised their works so we could access them remotely. Some artists were compensated financially, while others performed as a gift to the public and as a salve for themselves. 

As we move into a vaccinated economy, the creative industries sector will need all of us to dive back in to support its recovery. 

I recently attended a performance at Costa Hall as the Geelong Arts Centre dips its toes into hosting live audiences again. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to shed a tear hearing Silvie Paladino sing. Moved by the beauty of her voice, it was also poignant for Silvie to be back in front of a live audience. We all were able share the energy and emotion of being physically together again (while masked).

The creative sector is a significant economic driver and source of innovation.

In the 2020 ‘A New Approach’ report, it shows the creative industries sector employed 8.1 percent of the Australian workforce, contributing 6.4 percent of GDP. For a significant period of the past decade, employment in the creative industries grew at three times the rate of the rest of the Australian workforce.

Our region is changing and growing, bringing with it an influx of knowledge workers, digital natives and creative migrants. They bring their work with them and choose to live in environments they enjoy. This growth is supported by our well-known and loved cultural institutions. 

As a UNESCO City of Design, we need to take that step further and embrace the role of creativity and design, and live the principles of sustainable growth.

During 2020-2021, I was privileged to Chair the steering committee that developed the region’s first creative industries strategy – Making Change. Produced by Tony Grybowski & Associates, the five-year strategy aims to spark leadership, inform government, and work with the creative community to build skills, attract investment, and grow the economic and social benefits of the sector. 

The Making Change strategy was funded primarily by the Victorian Government via Regional Development Australia Committee Barwon South West, with financial contributions from a unique collaboration of project members including the Committee for Geelong, G21 Geelong Regional Alliance, Geelong Arts Centre, Geelong Gallery, Creative Geelong Inc, Platform Arts, Back to Back Theatre and Geelong Regional Library Corporation.

A new taskforce is being formed to support implementation bringing together a range of cultural institutions, advocacy groups, creative sector organisations and community to:

  • Activate the existing wealth of current skills;
  • Bring this sector to life and prominence;
  • Significantly contribute to economic prosperity and community resilience;
  • Develop a unique identity for the region (and that unique identity will be a crucial element in enhancing tourism across the region); and
  • Fully optimise the potential of the region.

All over the world, the creative industries sector has been identified as a key opportunity to achieve economic prosperity, community wellbeing and a creative ecology. The creative industries are repeatedly proving an important piece of a framework to transition from a reliance on heavy industry and other forms of labour intensive production. This is the story of our region now, and into the future. 

Download the Making Change strategy from the Committee for Geelong’s website here, CI_STRATEGY_2021-2026-web.pdf (committeeforgeelong.com.au)

Jennifer Cromarty
Chief Executive Officer
Committee for Geelong