An open letter to Senator the Hon Mr Simon Birmingham...

Dear Mr Birmingham

I write to ask you to rethink your government’s latest hit to the Arts Sector - the removal of funding to a wide range of creative Diplomas in the VET sector.

I have been working as a graphic designer for nearly 30 years, the last 18 years running a successful graphic design business.  Whilst I was fortunate enough to obtain my degree in the era of free tertiary education, I have since employed designers who have completed training in Graphic Design through the VET system.  I have also subcontracted work to professional writers, photographers, social media marketers and others who have also benefitted from this system.  

My main issue is, of course, the removal of funding to the creative arts and education, but I also find it completely offensive that you call a career in the Arts a "lifestyle choice".  

To quote Jo Caust, Associate Professor and Principal Fellow (Hon) at the University of Melbourne,

"To describe creative arts training as a “lifestyle” choice in my view demonstrates a lack of knowledge of what is involved and what is produced. There seems to be no understanding or recognition that artists/arts workers are trained professionals who are highly skilled, knowledgeable and adept. They are also highly employable in many industry sectors – not just the arts."

I know that not only myself, my family, employees, subcontractors and suppliers have benefitted by my 'lifestyle choice' but the many businesses, government departments and charities who have utilised West Creative, have gained from investing in design. This is a fact acknowledged by the UK Design Council, where they state "Businesses that add value through design, see a greater impact on business performance than the rest." 

You state on your website:

“We have ensured that all agriculture, engineering or related technologies, information technology and natural and physical science courses remain on the new course list recognising the national importance of agriculture and STEM jobs as we transition to the 21st century economy,” 

Why does your government continue to believe that the Arts and creativity are not regarded as nationally important? I bring to your attention the 2015 Report by the Warwick Commission (UK) on the Future of Cultural Value:

"The key message from this report is that the government and the cultural and creative industries need to take a united and coherent approach that guarantees equal access for everyone to a rich cultural education and the opportunity to live a creative life. There are barriers and inequalities... today that prevent this from being a universal human right. This is bad for business and bad for society.”  Vikki Heywood CBE, Chairman of the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value

Isn’t it time your government adopted this same forward-thinking mindset? To quote Ms Caust once again:

"Australia talks constantly about supporting innovation and wanting to be seen as a 'smart' country. Training people in the creative arts is a sure way of doing this. Confining education only to technology and the sciences does not create a nation that is necessarily clever or innovative."

I urge you, Mr Birmingham to reconsider this travesty.

Jo West
West Creative Graphic Design.