Following an official welcome by Mullinjarlie, a member of the Brisbane Council of Elders and a performance by the Jagera Jarjum Dancers, the key note speakers, DARE MC and Navigator Judy Spokes set the scene.
Judy is a communications and policy development manager with broad experience in and a firm commitment to the community sector. She is currently on contract with the City of Melbourne's Cultural Development and Marketing Branch. Judy worked for five years with the Community Cultural Development Unit of the Australia Council, having previously worked as an editor, campaign manager and media officer, most notably with Friends of the Earth and the Australia Council of Social Services.
I've been asked to reflect on the theme of our conference for a few minutes. It's important to remember with the word "DARE" in mind, how daring the practice has been in our field, always has had to be, to survive and to grow into the strong force that it is currently in Australia's cultural life.
In the early days artists dared to make better art, more relevant art by breaking out of the constraints of theatres and rehearsal rooms and concert halls, galleries, studios or whatever. They sought new sites for art making, in the streets, in shopping malls, in prisons and in workplaces. Artists across Australia looked for new ways to make meaningful connections with the people whose culture and experience was so noticeably absent in most of our arts and cultural policy and in our public life at that time.
At the same time, people who found themselves pushed so effectively to the margins of our visible community and cultural life were getting a bit fed up and were daring to challenge the dominance and the exclusiveness of what came to be accepted prima facie as real art, excellent art, our national identity. This is, of course, all too familiar to us. We all know the issues, the debates and the struggles of the seventies and eighties that served to embolden the daring artists and agitators to whom we owe many of our current achievements. It's a privilege that many of them are actually in the room today.
But they're not old or dead issues either. While many public institutions have since responded to the dare and the principles that underpin our goals of locally determined, culturally diverse, inclusive and innovative arts practice have been more broadly accepted. The need for daring and vigilance has not disappeared, we're not there yet.
A genuine embracing of the values of community cultural development and constant testing and refining of our approaches to it can and does create better places, richer communities, and excellent and innovative arts practice. This conference offers us an important opportunity to dare ourselves and to critique our own practice and transcend the seemingly polar opposites of traditional and contemporary high arts and popular culture, professional and amateur, consultation and cooperation, local and national. I go on endlessly.
Stories at the frontier of our field, documented so beautifully in the book, Not a Puppet, which we've all got in our conference kits, demonstrates so well how much we've achieved through our constant daring and risk-taking over the past 25 years. They also suggest that there are still many dilemmas and conundrums that wešve yet to fully explore or resolve as we face the next phase of our development.
The political and economic climate is quite clearly a lot harsher, certainly compared with that at the time of our last national conference in Adelaide in 1986. Then we were citizens living in communities. Today, increasingly, we're little more than customers crashing around, and against one another, in market segments, they would have us believe.
The theme for this conference was inspired at least in part by a famous speech during the French Revolution. Georges Jacques Danton, a leading figure in the Paris community, ended his extraordinary call to the defence of the principles of Egalite, Fraternite and Liberte with the words "To conquer we have need to dare, to dare again, ever to dare and the safety of France is insured."
In that brave and fearless spirit, for the next three days we can perhaps leap the gauntlet that we tossed each other as children when we were forced to choose, behind the shelter shed in my case, between truth or dare and dare to choose both truth and dare.