The approach to sharing culture within the Asian zone must be specific and focused rather than broad and all-encompassing, according to the Artistic Director of the Perth International Arts Festival, Jonathan Holloway.
Mr Holloway told delegates at today's In the Zone conference at The University of Western Australia that Australia's relationship with Asia was vital to cultural growth, however the challenges were complex.
"Trade and commerce are integrated throughout all of society and generally well understood," Mr Holloway said. "But in economic terms, the arts are vertical. We have to be very specific about our focus because there are specific forms of art and defined audiences. For example, there are eight types of classical dance in southern India alone.
Mr Holloway said the complexity was compounded by the definitions and measures of success in the arts. "In trade, success is generally defined by profit. In an arts festival, there is no single bottom line - there are multiple measures of success - and it needs to be remembered that festivals are not necessarily about growth."
Mr Holloway said he was committed to increasing the scale of Asian works in the Perth Festival in coming years and it was important to make careful choices about potential productions.
"Festivals are about storytelling and engaging people, and providing a safe space for conversation. Our job is to work with the society we find in front of us, not the society we want to find, so we have to choose carefully."
The Rt Hon Lisa Scaffidi, Lord Mayor of Perth, spoke broadly about cultural influences in Perth and the need to develop "Brand Australia", a national brand that represented the core values of Australia and illustrated characteristics such as service and respect.
Mrs Scaffidi said Perth was undergoing a renaissance as economic growth prompted an examination of the style and character of the city.
"Perth is not even 200 years old as a city, relatively young," she said. "I compare Perth to a young, alluring west coast woman. She is no longer a gawky teenager unsure of herself, she is now exerting her prowess on the global stage."
She said the increasing Asian influence in Perth's urban fabric was a key strength of the city.
The Consul General of India in Perth, Mr M Subbarayudu, said tourism and cultural exchanges were highly important to Australian-Indian relationships. A new Indian Cultural Centre being established in Sydney would create a hub for enhanced cultural cooperation.
Mr Subbarayudu said the leading role being played by universities in promoting collaboration with India was instrumental for cross-cultural progress.
Further, Indian students were the second-largest group of non-Australian students at tertiary institutions in Western Australia and this trend was likely to continue.
In the Zone is an intensive meeting of national and international leaders from the business, government and academic sectors.
With the theme ‘The Geography of Global Prosperity', the conference provides an opportunity for discussion and debate about the increasingly complex global neighbourhood and key policy questions facing Australia and the region.
The conference follows the success of the 2009 In the Zone Conference and the 2011 Business Forum.
For more information about the In the Zone conference: www.zone.uwa.edu.au