Last week I missed mentioning the arts on my must haves for public policy! How did I forget to include them? Perhaps because the arts are like what water is to a fish, for me. I breathe in the arts – poetry, music, literature, dance, storytelling, paintings, design, textiles, prints, sculptures – they are all around, inside and outside of me. Sound seems central to me in all this, whether I am making the noise or listening to others make their noises, at music festivals, on Spotify, in my lounge room, a community hall, with a few, in a choir, in the kitchen, in the garden, at the market. Whether those noises are joyful, wailing or warning, they are what binds and heals so much of my wellbeing. I could start of litany of how sound finds its way into my regular practices: saying poems aloud, singing with friends in a choir, listening to a busker at the Farmers Market, attending an annual international festival. I am noticing what sound I pay for, which one’s live rent free in my head, the ones where there is some kind of alchemy mutually exchanged with listeners. I recently gifted myself with a Lenten season of sessions with gifted sound and movement healer Trish Watts. With her skills, experience and care I found some new ways to heal from trauma through coaxing sound and movement in and around my body. I have really missed choir during COVID, and we are not quite back yet, I miss singing at church but that is not a safe space for me and the years of singing and making music with my husband in the kitchen or doing the odd duet and even playing for a few years regularly at a local pub are long, long gone. I have picked up the guitar again and do find myself singing in the garden, around the house or in the car, but it is not the same as the communal experience. When I hear the community of birds in the trees or the overhead cacophony of a flock, I know this kind of sound needs others of my own species to get the fullest effects of wellbeing. But music and signing are not the only ways sound comes through the arts, there is the rustle of the trees and the graceful bowing and billowing in a carefully crafted garden allowing the wind and the reeds to make sound, and the critters climbing through leaf litter crunching. Signs of artistic lives and co-creation everywhere! There is writing, and for me a love of poetry being read or even better performed. I discovered the power of UK poet Joelle Taylor’s work at Writers Week this year. Her collection C+nto is an extraordinary memoir of a life of struggle, survival, restoration, resurrection, love, violence, vulnerability with lashings of generous insight into her world of sexual identity and creativity. Her work is part of a long thread in my life of reading and listening to works from outside of my own world stemming back to teenage readings of James Baldwin and then much later Octavia Butler and Audre Lorde. It is as if hearing someone else’s story, and explicit uncompromising expressions of truth to power, are the cornerstone of the personal being political that has supported me to find my own voice. There is no vaccine for racism or sexism or any other kind of othering, so the arts are the perhaps the most powerful way to inoculate, protect and regular boosters are required to keep our whole community healthy and safe. That is my reason for why funding for new works is essential, creatives need to be supported so they can make their way in the world, to our ears and our hearts and our minds. It is public policy work equally as necessary as any publicly funded immunisation program … and perhaps even more so. So, I am looking out for how the arts are talked about as we head to the polls, how they are valued, how they are heard. I want an Australia where there is more publicly funded art and more publicly funded artists. I want diversity in what is heard, seen, recorded, recited, and sung. I want to be exposed to what is invisible to me by those who can see and hear things I cannot.