Manifesto | an action to a call

What does a pro-equity future look, sound, smell, taste or feel like for individuals, institutions and communities?

Equity is about recognising that we do not all start from the same place and that we must actively strive to acknowledge and address these imbalances. It takes into account, and aims to extinguish, systemic inequalities to ensure communities have access to opportunities, resources and outcomes in safe and supported ways.

The Equity—Builder is our action in response to the calls for change within and beyond Arts House. We began this work by considering the ever-evolving conditions in our communal digest—including systemic racism, cultural labour, climate crisis, scarcity mentality and data trauma.

Arts House pledges to listen, learn and act. We do this by cultivating intersectional safety, repair, belonging, solidarity and self-determination in reaching towards equitable futures across our operations, programs and platforms.

The Equity—Builder is a living framework that hums through the shared imagination of its collaborators and community. Bruce Pascoe poses: ‘how we relate to each other is how we relate to the land.’ 1

The Equity—Builder is grounded in a planetary understanding that everything is interconnected: land, humans, plants, animals, sky and waterways become entangled into art, labour, policy, capital, commerce and caring for Country.

We understand that policy and advocacy change–work is wave-like: it flows, crashes, rides against the tides, shapeshifts, and can sometimes be glacial in pace. We, however, remain buoyed by the hope of an embodied, expansive and liberated future.

At Arts House, our equity work is anchored by five principles that act as our guiding force:

Tell the truth: about ourselves, our sector, our histories and our futures. We pledge to learn and engage in the process of truth-telling and turning our mindsets towards the historical and present realities of settler-colony conflict and injustices.

We recognise the importance of speaking truth to power as taught to us by so many Elders and the spiritual profundity of the First Nations knowledge systems that have cared for Country since the first sunrise.

Embody and honour lived experience at all levels of the process. How might we listen to the multiple rhythms of our society’s lived experiences?

By acknowledging that overlapping realities and complexities exist, we vitalise the layers of insight, transformation and tensions without flattening the contours of who we are and our relationship to others.

Commit to lifelong learning, listening and bringing people together. Central to lifelong learning is the need to unlearn biases and honour multiple belief systems.

We can raise the frequency through deep listening, widening the door and leaving it propped open to invite others in on their own terms.

In our desire for a fairer artistic ecology, there will be times where we might get things wrong. But we do not believe this should stop us from pursuing change. We will endeavour to recognise and reduce harm where we misstep.

Practice hope as a social and political act. How do we swim against the tides of unequal power structures to inhabit radical principles and regenerative solutions?

Feeling hopeful is not enough. We will manifest hope through enacting policies, frameworks and programs that engage in decolonial dreaming, cross-solidarity, and slow and sustainable workflows that lead to more expansive futures.

Move from ethically defensible to ethically responsible. Some ethical labours, such as the practices of allyship, language revitalisation and climate justice can be ongoing and complex work.

We will not choose the path of least resistance. Instead, we will move the dial with intent and purpose towards the growth zones of ethical good, accountability, and communal responsibility.

We each play a civic role to reimagine, restore and repair our ecosystem. Only together can we build collective euphoria.

(1) Bruce Pascoe in Plants: Past, Present and Future in Melbourne Writers Festival, 7/5/23

Image credits:
Paola Balla, Sovereign Goddess Going to Eat You Up, from the series The Mok Mok Cooking Show II, 2016; image courtesy the artist.

About the artwork:
Paola Balla’s The Mok Mok series focuses on Blak women’s art and activism and its role in disrupting patriarchal and colonial dominant narratives and spaces. Balla utilises photography as a sovereign act, for expressing Blak matriarchy and community ways of ‘being, knowing and doing’ as named by Professor Karen Martin, and responds to Aboriginal women’s art making and activism through photographic based works drawn from her matriarchal family stories. Balla says: “My hope is that my work generates insight about how we, as Aboriginal women, are at the intersection of colonial injuries including our gender/s, race, class and social positioning. By subverting various forms of art and resistance we create and recreate strategies to respond and express ‘survivance,’ healing and daily acts of resistance and repair.”