National Heritage and Arts Lottery

Australian Polity

Volume 5, Issue 3

By

Eric Hutchinson MP, Federal Member for Lyons

A public conversation has started in Tasmania that could provide a solution nationally to the constant struggle to fund heritage and the arts.

Australia needs a national heritage and arts lottery and the response from the broader community involved in heritage restoration, conservation and maintenance as well as the arts indicates that such a solution would be well received.

The electorate of Lyons is home to many of Tasmania’s most valuable heritage sites in a state which has built more heritage sites than any other in the country.

In Lyons alone there are five built World Heritage sites related to our convict history at the Woolmers and Brickendon estates, at Longford, Darlington on Maria Island, the Coal Mines on the Tasman Peninsula and, of course, Port Arthur, the most recognisable to most Australians.

Many of these lesser known sites are on private land or are the responsibility of local councils or community groups which do not have access to the funds needed to care for these precious sites.

Yet Australia’s heritage, both built and natural, has huge, still un-tapped tourism potential while needing to be maintained in its own right.

Like special arts projects which fall outside the usual guidelines for government funding, it is difficult to know where to go to raise the money needed.

In the past few months, a conversation both at state and national level has been going on to see what people think about a national lottery for built heritage and the arts.

And the response so far has been positive.

Funds from a source like this would not replace government grants – it would be additional for special projects that would currently fall through the cracks.

This is not a new idea.

The United Kingdom has run successful lotteries for the arts, heritage and sport for more than 20 years.

Since 1994, the UK has raised an average of £370 million or about $700 million annually. The money has been used for a huge range of projects including the restoration of 17,000 properties, 900 parks and 70 railway engines.

It has awarded more than one hundred and twenty five million pounds to 165 projects involving more than 105 individual ships and boats since 1994.

The projects also happen because of a huge input from volunteers. These are the kind of projects that stir the imagination and a passion to preserve the special places in a community. They encourage local people to get involved whether it’s in the UK or Australia.

The results provide another reason for visitors to the region and often significantly boost visitation to regional areas.

Western Australia has had its own lottery for nearly a decade which mostly supports the film sector.

Australia’s  arts  icon,  the  Sydney  Opera  House,  was funded by a lottery.

National lottery funds could help arts and heritage projects that fall outside government guidelines.

There are many projects in Tasmania, which could benefit, such as the historic Willow Court at New Norfolk, in the Derwent Valley, considered one of the best examples of an asylum in Australia.

Willow Court is more than 170 years old. It pre-dates Port Arthur and presents an immense challenge to its local community to restore and maintain.

The Derwent Valley Council has done amazing work in starting this massive job but it is beyond the capabilities of one local government organisation.

Recently, it was announced that Willow Court had been accepted for assessment for inclusion on the National Heritage List which, if successful, will put it in a better position to apply for federal funding.

But this important national site will need financial assistance over many years to reach its potential as a fascinating visitor destination.

There are many worthy examples in the arts field which struggle to fit the criteria for government funding which could benefit from an arts and heritage lottery.

The Derwent Valley Concert Band is a wonderful community band which self-funds irregularly to tour overseas.

One of its most successful concert tours was to Copenhagen to play at community events for the wedding of the former Tasmanian Crown Princess Mary and Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark.

There is huge potential nationally in heritage and tourism rail. It’s the sort of thing that captures people’s imagination, as Tasmania has seen with the West Coast Wilderness Railway and opportunity exists again in the Derwent Valley for a wonderful rail tourism experience from New Norfolk to National Park.

Without the engines being done up to the necessary standard to run on public infrastructure these things will not happen. But these things come at a cost which again, is often beyond the reach of the communities they would enhance.

The idea of a national heritage and arts lottery has in-principle support from Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

Arts Minister George Brandis has confirmed in his capacity as Attorney General that there is no constitutional impediment to such a lottery in Australia.

I will continue to seek the views and ideas of communities and organisations from around Australia, including from within my state and my electorate on the support for such an idea.

I call on local community groups around the country to have similar conversations in their own areas.

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