Meet the Minister
Martin Foley is Victoria’s Minister for Creative Industries, appointed in December 2014. He brings to the portfolio a strong connection to Victoria’s creative scene and a passion for what arts, culture and creativity can contribute to the future of the state. He is the State Member of Albert Park, an electorate with a rich cultural heritage and one that is home to a wide range of creative organisations, venues, businesses and practitioners – across arts, screen, digital games and design.
He is also the Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing; Mental Health; and Equality.
Below, Minister Foley tells us what it means to be Victoria’s first Creative Industries Minister, why creativity matters, and reveals his hidden creative talent.
- What is your earliest arts memory?
I remember finger-painting at the Mornington South Kindergarten. Red and green handprints. I remember I took pleasure in doing it.
- What is your favourite work of art, and why?
When I was 17 I left school and I bought the book Don Quixote, this great big 17th-century piece of work. It was to keep me company on a job droving sheep on the stock routes the other side of Hay in the summer of 1980. There I was on a hot, dry plain, miles from anywhere, stuck with a grumpy old drover who was 10 miles ahead. I had a lot of reading time. I read that book cover to cover four times.
So my favourite piece of art is a Picasso lithograph, Don Quixote. Because I know how the Don feels, tilting at windmills and all that sort of thing. The power of the noble goal and a man who pursued justice and never lost hope despite the odds, even though that sometimes meant a denial of reality. And he had to endure the wicked doings of the Sancho Panzas of the world and their false affections. It resonates. I know how the Don feels.
My other favourite piece of art is The Cricketers, by Drysdale. It’s so Australian. Its colours are all about the raw light that sets Australian art apart. And it speaks to me about the way that taking a bat and ball and having a swing at any time works in our culture. The fact that Drysdale would pick that up, with two blokes picking up a bat and a ball behind a pub, appeals to my frustrated longing to captain an Ashes test.
- Why does creativity matter?
It matters because it’s the space in which cultural and civic development happens. It drives our lives, our institutions, our schools - our society.
Wherever there is culture, in the wider sense of what we value, creativity is the engine of it. Not just in the arts but in all sorts of different mediums: science, sport, innovation. It's about new ways thinking and seeing the world.
And in modern Australia, all those many things that speak of creativity must also be at the heart of our future economic story and our social inclusion story. That whole notion of creativity being part of the solution for a whole range of challenges to civic issues, whether it’s education, or therapeutic health and well-being, or aged care or disability – you name it.
All of those things have a creative element to them which is common to creative industries and the cultural economy. So creativity matters.
- You’re Victoria’s first Minister for Creative Industries. What does this mean, and why is it important?
It means a new opportunity to recast what the cultural sectors in Victoria, both government and community, do, so as to broaden out their relevance and their opportunities. It means a wider cultural, economic and social framework that will allow us to set the course for a new approach to different cultural mediums and their possibilities.
- What makes you most excited about this new portfolio?
I think it’s the chance to broaden out the relevance of creative activities and ensure access and participation for all Victorians as part of that cultural economy. It is also a chance – after a period in which there has been no policy framework for how government operates in this space – to set up a new institutional framework.
- What makes Victoria’s arts scene special?
For over 150 years, the cultural life of Victoria has been at the centre of different schools and different expressions of art. We’ve had everything from the Heidelberg School, Heide, the Pram Factory and other theatre of the 70s and 80s, to today's circus boom. Our small, medium and independent cultural offerings - all intensely participatory and democratic - have been our strengths.
Wave after wave of innovation has emanated from Victoria out to the rest of Australia and to the world.
That’s also been supported by our great institutions, like the State Library and the National Gallery of Victoria, over 150 years old and driving Victorian notions of identity.
Victoria was always different to the other colonies. Our cultural story has always been at the heart of where we were for a range of reasons. Our views have always been progressive, by the measure of the day, and cultural and art practice has always reflected that difference.
- Do you have any hidden creative talents?
I play a mean kazoo. Beyond that, my hidden creativity is well hidden.
Visit martinfoley.com.au to find out more.