This doctoral research investigates Australian cultural policy in relation to the community arts. The study demonstrates how ‘art’ and ‘culture’ are terms that are applied as interchangeable, disguising aesthetic values, social ideals and economic objectives. An understanding of what is meant by ‘community’ is also revealed to be contested and polemic.

Cultural policy managers and creative practitioners are interviewed and consensus emerges that culture does not require to be mandated. Local government is viewed as most proximate and therefore representative of community arts and cultural aspirations. As a result, local government is increasingly expected to voluntarily commit resources to community cultural development that also demonstrates expanded understanding of 'culture' as an integration of social and economic objectives. However, state and federal funding authorities nevertheless shape arts and cultural programs with incentive funding tied to local and regional investment in the cultural and creative industries.

Voluntary cultural policy planning, widely viewed as complementary to local government mandatory social policy management, has led to prevalence of the creative industries model, tending towards global homogenizing production. Storytelling emerges as a culture-making practice where cultural activists in particular, facilitate collective creativity with stories that tell identities in relation to the specificity of place.

A scholar-practitioner model is identified where the narrative arts are applied as a method of production and analysis of creative works. The intellect is triggered to reflect on knowledge and meaning transmitted in the sensory with stories told in painting, music, dance and performance, and where feeling is a catalyst for thinking.