How your will can reflect the changing pace of society

Date: Nov 28, 2011

A recent speech by a well-known publisher on the place of arts in society has highlighted how changing public values can be reflected and protected by intelligent estate planning.

Katharine Brisbane delivered a presentation to the audience of the Philip Parsons Memorial Lecture titled In Praise of Nepotism at the Belvoir Street Theatre in Sydney on November 27.

In it, the co-founder of Currency Press - Australia's most successful play-publishing firm - detailed her experiences with the shifts in culture and their effects on the values placed by society in various areas of the arts.

Brisbane began by saying that it was the ability of literature and theatre to check boundaries and push for change that she found to be a continual source of enjoyment - not just as a tool delivering social improvements but also as a measure for society's progression.

She explains that her father - who lived through the depression and two world wars - was a great believer in the advancement of culture, having witnessed the deployment of domestic electricity, motor vehicles and television.

However, the audience heard that Brisbane's mother - having lived through the decrease in global power of the British Empire and deplored the explosion of the rock music scene - was not at all enthusiastic about change.

These two people helped to influence her understanding of what it was that made a particular subject or asset valuable on a personal level - a mix of prior experience and history that is unique to the individual.

As she put it in her address: "Our imagination has inspired all these wonders and been a fundamental influence upon who were at the start, who we wanted to be and how we expressed those aspirations."

For Brisbane, the value she now places in the joy of theatre is drawn from an understanding of how Australian history had influenced and shaped the medium.

She related how the British style of academic arts institutions remains at odds with the "inherited Irish blessings" of "poetry, story telling, subversion and a guilty conscience" that formed the basics for many Australian writers and performers.

However, the changing nature of public interest has in recent years shifted away from theatre - with the industry beginning to rely on government grants and public donations, as well as bequests from generous patrons.

Through these means, Brisbane said that many areas of the arts are beginning starting to develop a more local, colloquial flavour that is in turn generating new interests from younger generations.

One of the most reliable ways of having your cultural values recognised by close friends and family members is delivering a valid will that makes allowances for discretionary spending - such as the funding of art groups and organisations - with property settlements able to take into account both the needs of dependants and the express desires of the author.