Australia/ 3. Competence, decision-making and administration  

3.3 Inter-ministerial or intergovernmental co-operation

The principal forum through which formal ministerial dialogue has been pursued in the cultural and arts spheres has been the Meeting of Cultural Ministers (formerly the Cultural Ministers Council), which was established in 1984 by agreement between Australia’s Prime Minister and the premiers of each state, together with the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory.  The council has brought together, on an annual basis (or more frequently if required) the ministers responsible for arts and cultural affairs from the Commonwealth and state governments, the New Zealand Minister, and observers from Papua New Guinea, Norfolk Island, and from the Australian Local Government Association.  The council has had a standing committee, comprised of the chief executives responsible for the relevant arts and culture department in each state and at the Commonwealth level, and has typically maintains a series of working groups charged with investigating and progressing the council’s priorities.

The intent behind the establishment of the council was to establish a body that could coordinate and collaborate on policies and initiatives in arts and culture that are of national significance for Australia.  Major decisions taken by the council have included guidelines for joint funding initiatives; matters to do with copyright and royalties; the coordinated management and digitisation of collections; and other issues where a national response is the most appropriate way forward.  Working groups have also played a major role in liaison with the Australian Bureau of Statistics so as to develop a significant ongoing collection of data pertaining to the arts and culture in Australia.

In April 2013 the National Arts and Culture Accord was signed at the Meeting of Cultural Ministers. The Accord is an agreement between the Australian Government, and state, territory and local governments to work together to support arts and culture, and sets out principles for ongoing cooperation. The Accord provides the framework for all levels of government collaborating on more complex cross-jurisdictional issues.  For the first time there is a clear attempt to delineate the various roles of the Commonwealth, state/territory, and local governments in pursuing Australia’s arts and cultural agenda.  In the words of the Accord:

This Accord signals a commitment by governments to support policy objectives which provide a stable base to underpin the arts, cultural heritage and creative industries sectors in Australia and to enable organisations and practitioners to produce new, interesting and exciting works that deliver benefits to the Australian public, and to promote international exchange and collaboration. This national agreement seeks to provide a framework to:

  • take a national approach to develop and grow Australia’s arts, cultural heritage and creative industries sectors for artists and audiences through direct action and non-arts partnerships within and across jurisdictions as relevant;
  • address needs, issues, gaps and barriers; reduce duplication and complexity; and align policies, investment and programs in areas that deliver real improvements to the viability and vitality of the sector and the access of Australians to arts and culture;
  • increase the impact of existing government investment and non-government support by ensuring that funding is used to the greatest advantage for the sector to deliver greatest benefit to the Australian community; and
  • identify opportunities for enhanced partnerships with non-government stakeholders.
  • It commits the signatories to developing a triennial work plan which will provide a clear framework that both highlights existing areas of collaboration and sets out new, targeted areas of action. An annual report on progress against the work plan will be provided to ministers. 

The Accord goes on to set out the agreed roles and responsibilities of the different constituencies.  For more information on the Accord see

From time to time, gatherings of Commonwealth and state/territory Ministers from other portfolios, as such Education, Regional Development, or Indigenous Affairs, might also focus on specific arts and cultural issues that have arisen in their portfolios, or that have been referred to them by the Meeting of Cultural Ministers.

Chapter published: 26-12-2013