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Headshot of Professor Robyn Holmes

Prof. Holmes’ Work Influences Discourse on Defining Culture in Australia

In January 2023, the federal executive government of Australia introduced a new national cultural policy, Revive: a five-year plan to revive the arts in Australia.  The policy goals include highlighting the central position of creative activities and the arts and their connection to Australian cultural heritages; recognizing and acknowledging indigenous heritages and voices, and cultural creations; inclusive access and opportunities for all Australians; raising the visibility of the arts, culture, and the humanities in education; preserving cultural heritages through the arts and culture among other goals and funding initiatives; and recognizing the importance of creative workers to the Australian economy.

The initiative and policy received initial support as it acknowledges the important position of the arts and creative activity to Australian life. Some scholars and researchers expressed dismay that the policy creators perceived culture and the arts as interchangeable experiences leading to misconceptions and the omission of importance cultural phenomena.

Cover of book, "Cultural Psychology" with various international-themed images including eyes, a person drinking from a horn, and two women carrying large parcels

In her response to the Australian government, Gwenda Beed Davey, Ph.D., preeminent Australian folklorist, co-founder of the Australian Children’s Folklore Collection, and honorary associate of Museums Victoria implored the national government and those charged with implementing the national cultural policy to research and learn more accurate definitions of and distinctions between the terms culture, arts, heritage, folklore, and folklife so that the national cultural policy produces effective and beneficial outcomes for Australian society. To do so, in her work, “Getting it Wrong About Culture” Davey references “Cultural Psychology: Exploring Culture and Mind in Diverse Communities,” written by Monmouth University Professor Robyn Holmes, Ph.D., and encourages those charged with this responsibility to consult the text, published by Oxford University Press, to learn what culture is.

Holmes is a professor in the department of psychology, as well as an affiliated faculty member in the department of history and anthropology. She received her Ph.D. from Rutgers University and is a specialist in children’s play and activities. Her research and teaching interests are interdisciplinary and include the connection between culture and learning, early education and care, play and culture, play, language, and creativity, and children’s folklore.