Page 2858 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 17 August 2005

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fearless, resourceful, clever, witty, adventurous, lively, innovative, self-reliant, self critical, self-respecting, dignified, compassionate and independent, confident of our place in the world and if that’s not good for business I don’t know what is.

It is great to have the opportunity to support this proposal and it has been my pleasure to speak in support of the matter before the Assembly.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (5.20): This motion looks like being another with bipartisan support, which is a very good thing because the Canberra Theatre Centre has been an important home for theatre and entertainment in the territory for 40 years. It started off as a home to Canberra’s largest amateur theatre, as well as hosting orchestral concerts, and moved on to hosting and managing the National Festival of Australian Theatre and being the home for mass events such as the Rock Eisteddfod and the schools dance festival. Now, most pre-eminently, it is the key venue for numerous touring productions from across Australia. In a sense, especially since the Albert Hall has been sold, it is our town hall, our town centre.

The world of theatre in Canberra and across Australia has changed a lot during that period. Whilst there remains a strong amateur theatre scene in Canberra, very few of these productions can afford or would need now to be staged in the Canberra Theatre Centre. By the same token, local professional theatre has not grown into the more substantial and viable business that it looked as though it would in the early 1980s and most of Canberra’s professional theatre these days is well accommodated in the Street Theatre.

I acknowledge the role played by the theatres at Tuggeranong and Erindale and the Repertory Theatre in Acton in staging local and visiting performing groups. Anything that we say about the Canberra Theatre Centre should not belittle the role that those more local theatres perform. In fact, last night I saw an excellent visiting performance at the Tuggeranong Theatre, a theatre that I have always enjoyed going to.

At the moment there is a weakness across Australia with small to mid-range professional theatre groups. It is very difficult for them to get adequate work. There is a significant gap between the semi-paid fringe theatre groups, which are very strong across Australia, including in Canberra, and the well-supported fully professional companies such as Deck Chair, Belvoir Street, Bell Shakespeare and the Melbourne Theatre Company. The same stratification exists in the world of dance, which sees the ACT with very little home-grown professional dance, despite a fantastic history and a buoyant youth involvement in dance. Of course, big bouquets should go to AusDance for the work they do in this regard.

Part of this shift probably reflects changing entertainment interests. Many more people are staying at home and watching stuff on TV. Also, I do not think that the globally competitive environment is particularly good for local theatre. Canberra now has a good diet of high quality, high profile theatre and dance products from across Australia and that competes often with local productions.

I think that it is worth making a few comments on the loss of the National Festival of Australian Theatre. Back in the 1990s, after a few years of high visibility and high cost, the Canberra Theatre Centre made a decision to pull out of the festival, which had

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