The Hon Martin Foley MP - travel report - USA - 24 February-3 March 2017

Minister The Hon. Martin Foley MP
Portfolio/s Minister for Creative Industries
Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing
Minister for Mental Health
Minister for Equality
Countries visited United States of America (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco)
Date of travel 24 February – 3 March 2017
No. of official travel days 8
Number of accompanying ministerial staff 1
Accompanied by spouse in an official capacity No
Funding for the overseas trip was paid by (list department/s or agency) Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
Air fares (including taxes and fees) $23,481.52
Accommodation (including taxes and fees) $7,851.74
Other expenses:
Travel allowance
Ground transport

Travel cost for minister and staff $38,816.90

*The above costs are not final and complete

Purpose of travel

The purpose of my travel to the United States of America was to meet with leading industry representatives, service delivery agencies, sector experts, internationally renowned cultural institutions in areas related to my portfolio responsibilities for creative industries, mental health, equality and housing.

I also led Victoria's 38-strong delegation at the 2017 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco to promote Victoria's highly regarded digital games sector and facilitate potential export and investment opportunities.The findings from this travel will inform policy and strategy direction across my portfolio responsibilities.

Benefits of travel to the State of Victoria

The benefits of the travel will be in how the insights and findings are adapted and applied to a Victorian policy and service delivery context, and the lasting relationships that have been formed.

Creative State 2016-2020 sets out a five year plan for developing and growing the creative industries sector, and international engagement is highlighted as a key platform for sector development. My meetings with highly regarded cultural institutions will lead to new  arrangements for sharing collections and exhibitions and attracting the world's best performances and art works to Victorian audiences. I also advanced trade and investment opportunities in Victoria's digital games and screen sectors, which will lead to improved jobs and exports outcomes for these sectors.

The key findings of my meetings related to mental health, equality and housing will be used to inform new policy and strategy directions in those areas, and the experiences and practices shared on integration of human services to respond to multiple causes of disadvantage were important for comparison. Victoria is also committed to building Australia's first Pride Centre and seeing two of the most established LGBTI centres – New York and San Francisco – provides an important context for establishing Victoria's Pride Centre.

Findings and insights gained from meetings related to my creative industries portfolio are summarised below:

Cultural institutions are vital to the life of cities and strengthening the creative industries ecosystem

At my meetings with the Museum of Modern Art, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, I heard about their community engagement programs which attract creative and inquiring people to visit, engage and participate. There is a focus on creating innovative exhibitions which generate public interest and discussion, and new ways of presenting art and culture to audiences.

There is also a significant emphasis placed on the importance of international partnerships to generate new ideas, share collections and research and offer new audience experiences. Victorian institutions are held in high regard by each of the institutions I visited, which positions Victoria well to attract new collections and blockbuster exhibitions. 

I had the opportunity to discuss access to low cost artist spaces and the trend of creative communities moving further from city centres to take advantage of lower cost housing and workspaces. This trend is common to Victoria, and developing new co-working spaces has been identified in Creative State.

Each of the institutions I met with have developed strategies to build visitation numbers and attract new audiences. Victoria shares with them similar challenges of growing interstate and international audience and visitor numbers in a crowded cultural landscape. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art have both initiated major audience attraction strategies to rebuild after closing for major redevelopment, relocation and refurbishment programs. These programs have proven to be successful, and some elements can translate to a Victorian context.

Cultural tourism generates significant economic benefits and I learnt about the different strategies each institution has adopted to maintain an international profile and attract tourists.

There is a growing understanding of the connection between art, culture, science and design which is being explored at other major institutions like the New Museum in New York and the Exploratorium in San Francisco. These institutions encourage scientific exploration ranging from engaging school children to taking creative ideas through to commercialisation. Adapting and applying the successful approaches here in Victoria will build industry capability and accelerate creative industry business development.

Creating opportunities for Victorian creative talent to engage with international partners develops careers, creates new jobs and generates economic benefit

In Los Angeles I met with leading film and television studios to promote Victoria's vibrant screen sector, world class infrastructure and talented workforce. At these meetings, I was able to advance discussions aimed at attracting new productions to Victoria, which will generate significant economic benefit and job opportunities. The reputation of Victoria's screen sector is strong amongst these leading studios and they all expressed positive experiences working in Victoria on productions including The Leftovers and the multi-award winning Game of Thrones. Ongoing investment in skills, talent and infrastructure, together with the right policy and incentive settings is essential for the sector to continue to grow its international reputation.

I led Victoria's 38-strong delegation at the 2017 Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. This year marked the 21st year the Victorian Government has supported a digital games delegation at GDC - the largest games show in the world. The delegation used this opportunity to meet international investors, publishers and developers. Victoria's digital games sector is growing exponentially and moving into new areas including virtual and augmented reality. Providing high level support and promotion for the sector is essential for advancing export, investment and job opportunities.

I met with some Victorian musicians and producers to talk about the career development opportunities available for composers, song writers, musicians and producers in the USA. I learnt from them that government programs like the newly announced Create Connect, and informal networking and mentor programs are essential for these talented artists to develop sustainable careers in America.

International investors are interested in partnering with Victoria's creative industries

In addition to meetings with major film studios, I met three potential investors to promote Victoria's strong economy, stable business environment and the incentives and support services available. These potential investments will be welcome additions to the creative industries ecosystem, strengthen Victoria's international reputation and create new job opportunities. I will continue to support these opportunities to benefit creative industries business and support the growth of talent and jobs in Victoria.

Equality, Housing and Mental Health discussions and outcomes:

In New York I met with Dr Lloyd Sederer, an international leader in developing and delivering public policy solutions in the mental health field. His insights into this complex issue were interesting and resonate for Victoria's policy context.

I also met with leading housing solution providers Broadway Housing Communities and Community Solutions. These organisations are delivering innovative programs to address and alleviate homelessness and associated issues.

In San Francisco I was invited to a round table discussion with all the members of the San Francisco Domestic Violence Consortium to discuss service delivery and policy settings to address the many issues around family violence from behaviour change programs, intervention and crisis management.

The main lesson from these organisations is that a multi-layered approach is required to effectively manage complexities around homelessness and rough sleeping, particularly where it intercepts with mental health and family violence and requires more than one housing solution. Essential elements leading to successful solutions in these areas include: 

  • Real time data capture
  • Better coordination of key agencies/training and charters
  • Emergency housing with wrap-around support, maintained through the period of transition and extending for a period of time after long term housing is secured
  • Incentivise private rental for rapid housing
  • Suite of options for permanent housing including community housing, land acquisition, offsets of public and private ownership.

I met with and toured the Pride Centres in both New York and San Francisco to find out about their governance structure, mission, community engagement and service delivery programs.

For a successful, sustainable Pride Centre – Australia's first,  a strong and clear mission is vital. This will guide the purpose and relevance of the centre. Other factors key to the success and sustainability of the centre are a strong governance structure, an embedded peer-oriented culture and a capacity to adapt to community needs.

Another aspect of the success of both the centre's in New York and San Francisco are their community engagement programs, which connect the centre to their wider communities, and create an open and accessible environment. They also have strong online presences, which will be important for establishing Victoria's Pride Centre.

Next steps / Follow up

The next steps after my successful visit will be to ensure that findings and lessons are applied to, and inform, implementation of  creative industries, the ten year mental health strategy and an integrated care system for vulnerable and at-risk Victorians.

Victoria's reputation as a leading international cultural and creative centre is strong. I intend to enhance that reputation to develop tourism, jobs, partnerships and investment opportunities through the following key actions: 

  • Apply relevant findings through Creative State to ensure Victoria has the right mix of skills, expertise, infrastructure and international partnerships to further our thriving creative sector to grow and access new opportunities.
  • Continue to support creative industries trade missions, which are critical to promote the best of our screen and digital games sector on the world stage. Our talent is highly regarded and opportunities to generate export, investment and job opportunities is a priority which Creative Victoria will focus on.
  • Attracting new major events and attractions will enhance Victoria's reputation as a cultural centre. Creative Victoria will continue to work with and support our institutions to attract new exhibitions, productions and events.
  • Investment in creative industries is important to develop new job opportunities and I will work closely with Creative Victoria to realise the potential investments.

Findings and insights from my meetings with leading care and service providers will be used to inform the implementation of strategies and policies related to my Equality, Mental Health and Housing portfolios. I will adapt my findings to frame our service delivery approaches and ensure that the needs and well-being of vulnerable people are met.

Page last updated: 6 June 2017