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News June 26, 2023

Simon Crean Dies: Australia’s Music Industry Remembers ‘One of Our Great Political Champions’

Simon Crean Dies: Australia’s Music Industry Remembers ‘One of Our Great Political Champions’

Simon Crean, the former federal minister of the arts, is being remembered as one of the creative industry’s great political allies, and the architect of a modern national cultural policy.

Crean passed Sunday (June 25) during a visit to Germany, at the age of 74. Details surrounding his “sudden death” remain a mystery.

An ALP stalwart and former party leader, Crean held the arts portfolio from September 2010, succeeding Peter Garrett in a cabinet reshuffle, until March 2013, when Tony Abbott’s Liberals swept into power.

During his stint as minister of the arts, Crean led the consultation and delivery of the national cultural policy, Creative Australia, the first  since the release of Creative Nation in 1993 under the Keating Government, of which he was also a minister.

It was Crean’s national cultural policy consultation that first articulated the five pillars that are the foundation for Revive, the Albanese government’s new national cultural policy developed by minister for the arts Tony Burke MP.

Crean invited APRA AMCOS CEO Dean Ormston to join his industry roundtable that helped develop Creative Australia, which brought policy making for the cultural and creative industries into “the 21st century,” notes APRA AMCOS, “and articulated a vision for the sector that was ambitious and historic.”

It was Crean’s “passion for the cultural and creative industries and his understanding of the sector’s unique potential that made his vision for the sector world leading,” says reps for the collecting society.

The late political leader “understood deeply the value of our culture and creative industries – and was prepared to fight for and lead the cause.”

A statement reads: “APRA AMCOS is saddened at the passing of former minister for the arts Simon Crean and extends its condolences to his family, friends and colleagues following the tragic news yesterday”.

The PRO “unites with the broader cultural and creative industries in mourning one of our great political champions.”

Crean’s years-long interactions with the music industry included a keynote at the 2010 APRA Song Summit in Sydney.

The late politician, recounts the Live Music Office’s John Wardle, “was a giant in good policy making and better regulation.”

His national cultural policy Creative Australia “made the first links between the importance of regulatory reform and the sustainability of live music.

Creative Australia included a significant investment in and put in place a national live music coordinator which led to the formation of the Live Music Office, a partnership between the Australian government and arts minister Tony Burke MP and APRA AMCOS in 2013, Wardle notes.

Also, Crean “led the way for contemporary music creating broad consensus through collaborative policy making that was effective and continues to demonstrate long term out comes broadly across our sector and the country,” Wardle explains.

Crean’s work in regional development had “a direct impact on the liveability and cultural value of regions. He understood cities, he understood regions and he understood the role of culture and the live sector in supporting this. He will be greatly missed”.

Revive Australia's cultural policy

Crean’s death closely follows the passing in parliament of the Creative Australia Bill.

Prime minister Anthony Albanese has described Crean, who served as a cabinet minister in the Hawke, Keating, Rudd and Gillard governments, as a “giant of the Labor movement.”

Comments Burke, “the loss of Simon Crean is a loss for all of Australia.”

As arts minister, “Simon took the first steps for Australia in backing the computer games industry in Australia, backing live music and the reform and the enlargement of the Australia Council,” he continues.

“Ten years on from Creative Australia I launched Revive – which builds on the foundations of what Simon created. It meant the world that Simon came to the launch of Revive at the Espy hotel in Melbourne, earlier this year. His work, support and care will be missed.”

Crean’s forward for Creative Australia is a primer for a thriving national creative industry, one that encapsulates his hope and vision for music and beyond.

“Creative Australia is about creating excellence, creating jobs, creating prosperity, creating opportunity and creating unique Australian stories—all vital to an outward looking, competitive and confident nation,” he writes.

“Our culture defines us and we’re unique in the richness of our Australian identity. Not only is Australia home to one of the oldest living cultures on earth, it is a welcoming to the greatest diversity of cultures on earth. There’s another benefit to the nation from investing in the arts and artists to build a rich cultural life: the economic dividend. A creative nation is a productive nation.

“Throughout the 21st century, national creative capacity will continue to be central in driving Australia’s productive capability. We must build on the strength and excellence of our artistic and cultural heritage and recognize that creative talent and design thinking need to be at the heart of our innovation, technological development and national economic growth.”

Crean is survived by his wife, Carole.

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