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Regional Arts Development Central West NSW

The Small Word That Signifies Big Change


Regional Arts NSW’s Dr Tracey Callinan comments on the “small but significant change” at federal arts level.

From Regional Arts NSW 20 July 2022

The new Federal Government has just made a small but significant change. After a complete absence of the word ‘arts’ from the name of the government department in which the sector sits since its removal in 2019, we have now been informed that there has been a name change to The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communication and the Arts – a catchy little title.

Contrary to some of the reporting that was done at the time, Australia always maintained the Office for the Arts; it just didn’t merit a mention in the nomenclature. And that says everything. When I did a stint of working in the UK we were accountable to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. In Australia I think the naming of that department would be put in reverse order. Or would the word ‘culture’ be dropped entirely? Tony Burke, as new Federal Arts Minister, has quietly made a statement about the value of the arts. Arts now rates a mention, albeit as an add-on in a long list of other areas.

So a change seems to be in the air, just as we grapple this winter with increasing levels of Covid and the ongoing constant interruptions to the staging of arts events that have plagued the arts and creative industries for over two years. So often during the Covid years our calls have been for much needed financial support for our sector that felt overlooked and under-valued. Now perhaps we have reached a point where our advocacy is no longer just about making sure our arts practitioners have the financial support they need.

We know that in regional NSW the arts is a game-changer in terms of creating positive, liveable communities. We know that people are producing work that has value – to them personally, to their community or to national and international markets. It is time that all levels of government acknowledge that every functional culture throughout history has felt the need for creative endeavours and that Australia often lags in innovative approaches to supporting their arts sector.

We welcome the re-installing of the word ‘arts’ to our Federal Department. Now we need to change a nation’s mindset to recognize the sector as more than an add-on.


Dr Tracey Callinan
CEO, Regional Arts NSW