NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Everything and nothing

Welcome to the 31st edition of NiTRO in which we reflect on a momentous year that no one could have predicted or wished for. In some ways everything happened: catastrophic bushfires, a global pandemic, airlines grounded, the loss of entire cohorts of international and domestic students, the closure of courses and campuses, the shutdown of entire cities, Black Lives Matter and now the Job Ready legislation passing through parliament. And it isn’t over yet!

By Professor Clive Barstow

Welcome to the 31st edition of NiTRO in which we reflect on a momentous year that no one could have predicted or wished for. In some ways everything happened: catastrophic bushfires, a global pandemic, airlines grounded, the loss of entire cohorts of international and domestic students, the closure of courses and campuses, the shutdown of entire cities, Black Lives Matter and now the Job Ready legislation passing through parliament. And it isn’t over yet!

On the other hand, for many of us locked away in a room with our children and pets, nothing happened, life seemed to stand still. We froze in time hoping to reboot the world as we knew it, waiting to walk the streets again and to hold our loved ones while wondering how the new world will work with or without the pandemic.

It has also been a time of great resilience particularly in the arts where it has been clear that we have been overlooked and devalued both as professional artists and as educators in terms of government support. A sad indictment of one of the least affected and most wealthy countries on earth when we could have shown the world how important arts and education are to our recovery and to our long-term wellbeing.

In the big wash up of a post-COVID Australia, I hope we look back and revisit our ethical and moral judgement in terms of our decision making and our priorities, and identify where and why the partisan politics returned so quickly to colour the rhetoric of we are all in this together. The Job Ready legislation for instance will have a significant long-term impact on the arts and is clearly a form of social engineering that is poorly thought through, is lacking in vision and morally unfair for students.

The DDCA in conjunction with ACUADS have been in this together from the start, busily writing a number of joint government submissions to the Job Ready legislation, the ARC ERA review, and the inquiry into Australia’s Creative and Cultural Industries and Institutions. While we do not always influence a result that we want, it is important now more than ever that we show leadership and unity across the sector in our responses and advice to those who are willing to listen. We continue to advocate for the arts and for higher education in the hope that our new normal will be a better normal.

In this reflective edition, we welcome back expert commentary from Professor Paul Gough who has returned to the UK amid what must seem like an episode of War of the Worlds. Also, sadly, we include John Meade’s beautifully touching remembrance of our colleague Kate Daw who passed away recently. Our thoughts are with Kate’s family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.

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