by Cassandra Pulver.  (Image courtesy of Project for public spaces)

Culture is created by us and defines us. It is the embodiment of the distinctive values, traditions and beliefs that make being Australian in the 21st Century unique – democratic, diverse, adaptive and grounded in one of the worlds oldest living civilisations. 

Given the size and scale of Australia, place, landscape and country play an important role in shaping cultural heritage and identity. Each part of the nation has a distinctive identity that reflects geography, history and population. The sum is a shared national identity. 

Culture is more than the arts, but the arts play a unique and central role in its development and expression. Creative expression defines our nation. Whether it is through live, interactive or recorded media or whether it is through drama, documentaries, comedy, music, dance, design, visual art, writing or traditional cultural practices, society benefits when it is empowered to share stories. 

Culture is not created by government, it is created by community. 

What defines a “permanent culture” in terms of cultural heritage and identity and if culture is created by community, what/who determines its’ permanency? 

Life as we know it is in constant flux and continual change, therefore our permanent culture is evolving generation after generation. And whilst a permanent culture exists the cultural heritage and identity of it is not permanent in so much as it is constantly evolving. 

David Holmgren, co-originator of the permaculture concept states that: 

“although stability is an important aspect of Permaculture, evolutionary change is essential. Permaculture is about the durability of natural living systems and human culture, but this durability paradoxically depends in large measure on flexibility and change. Many stories and traditions have the theme that within the greatest stability lie the seeds of change.” 

In Permaculture Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability one of the principals we could apply to arts, cultural heritage and identity is Design Principal 12 – Creatively use and respond to change – “vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be”. 

Therefore WE determine the permanency of art, cultural heritage and identity by embracing differences, sharing experiences and continually telling our stories through creative expression. 

So, what is the importance of “art” in a continually evolving “permanent culture? The arts have the power to establish trust, build confidence and promote local initiative and innovation by building relationships between arts and cultural practitioners and the community. Creative communities are thriving communities. Not only do the arts grow local economies, the arts are a proactive way to explore complex community issues. 

Placemaking seeks to transform spaces into places where people want to live, work and play, thus creating a permanent culture. 

“It’s Placemaking, not Placemade. It’s a process. You are never finished. 

What to read next?