Peter White, Co-Creative Producer, Marram-nganjinu Biik-gurrin

QUESTION: Why is there a need for a First Nations cultural summit linked with a creation lab of First Nations creative and cultural practice in 2017?

There continues to be a building momentum of acknowledging the important role that the art and culture of Australia’s First Nations play in Australia’s national character and cultural identity. With this comes an audience wanting to hear our stories and understand our culture and who we are.

We have artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, curators, art workers and cultural leaders that continue to rise to the challenge of not only maintaining our continued traditions but to explore and evolve new forms of expressions. These expressions increasingly challenge the spaces and systems that we often find ourselves pigeon-holed into, whether that be by de-colonising, indigenising or asserting our cultural sovereignty.

So, to the question of why do we need a Summit? For me the answer is that with this momentum, we find the cultural and creative future of Australia’s First Nations at a critical junction. 

We continue to see the development of a whole swathe of initiatives at various levels of Government. These range from policy statements, strategic initiatives to foster greater engagement or Indigenous cultural development and the call for new frameworks or national roadmaps. 

We are also seeing the broader cultural sector finding the courage to not only acknowledge that First Nations culture underpins everything we do, but to seek greater guidance on the role they can play and ultimately give up some of their power.

But we must ask ourselves, who is leading these discussions, where does the power base continue to lie and what are the systems in place to facilitate these movements?

That is why we need a space and time to come together to begin to lay a new platform for the way forward. A platform that will be our new cultural manifesto and at its centre, move us from a position that seeks to embrace the notion of the importance of First Nations culture to fully asserting our own cultural authority to determine our collective cultural future.

This “coming together” will acknowledge and build on those conversations and movements that have been happening over decades across these spaces, whether it be at national forums of specific art forms or at the small groupings that these issues always raise to the top. It will also help shape and converge with other important discussions currently happening such as the establishment of a National Indigenous Arts and Cultural Authority.

Ultimately, this cultural manifesto will seek to identify an appropriate form of cultural leadership that can come together to guide how a collective cultural authority is identified and supported for the future. 

Through this, we as Australia’s First Peoples can not only chart our own future that is self-reliant, sustainable and is grounded in our own authority, but work with and guide the mainstream sector and Government’s how best to develop a shared future.

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