State and Territory Impact of the Federal Arts Budget

A letter from ArtsPeak, The Confederation of Peak National Arts Organisations to state and territory arts ministers

The Confederation of Peak National Arts Organisations
10th June 2015

Dear Arts Minister

Re: State and Territory Impact of the Federal Arts Budget

We are writing on behalf of members of ArtsPeak to ask that you take action in relation to decisions about arts funding contained in the federal government’s 2015/16 budget. As you know, $104.8m over four years is to be taken from the Australia Council’s appropriation to be used to establish the new ‘National Programme for Excellence in the Arts’ (NPEA) to be managed by the federal Ministry for the Arts under the control of the federal arts minister of the day.

We are extremely worried that this decision could destabilise the whole Australian arts sector and impact seriously on other levels of government and on private sector support for the arts. We urgently request that you call for delay in Arts Minister Brandis’ decision to radically alter arts funding arrangements, in order to allow for transparent well researched arts policy to be developed including an examination of Mr Brandis’ expressed concerns about the current funding model.

While at this stage no detail has been provided about the programs of the proposed NPEA, the Ministry for the Arts has confirmed the programs will be focused in three areas: endowments; strategic projects; and international touring. It therefore seems evident that the funds will not be used to provide the core funding required to sustain the key small to medium organisations (S2Ms) which are the engine room for production and distribution of contemporary Australian art practice in both urban and regional Australia. As you would know, there is a symbiotic relationship between all levels of arts organisations and any damage to the S2Ms erodes the whole support base which supports innovation and builds the careers of artists and will impact a generation of emerging and mid-career artists and their audiences.

The Australia Council has already announced that the six-year funding program for organisations has been suspended and current contracts of multi-year funded organisations will only be honoured until their conclusion at the end of 2016. It has also announced the discontinuation of the ArtStart, Creative Communities Partnerships Initiative and Artists in Residence programs.

As a result of the suspension of this Australia Council’s six year funding program, private sector leveraged funds are also potentially at risk. This was confirmed by Fiona Menzies, CEO of Creative Partnerships Australia in her interview last week on the ABC’s ‘Books and Arts’ program. As an example, the 11 six year funded Key Producer companies successfully leverage $8 for every $1 invested by the Australia Council.

With the Australia Council’s discretionary budget for grants to artists and small to medium organisations being seriously diminished, responsibility for maintaining their viability will inevitably fall more heavily on the state and territory governments which currently share that responsibility with the Australia Council. This could represent a cost shifting exercise of substantial proportions.

We are aware that both the Ministry for the Arts and the Australia Council are in the process of deciding the way in which these new funding arrangements are to be implemented, and we understand that this will be a topic of discussion with heads of state and territory arts departments at the forthcoming meeting in Canberra on 18th June.

Ahead of this meeting, we urge you to think about what is required to sustain the health of the Australian arts sector. There is no evidence that this decision by the federal government has been based on any research or consultation with the arts sector, other levels of government or the private sector, all of which have a very real stake in arts support. This is in contrast to the work that was done through the Review of the Australia Council in 2012/13 which led to a decision to increase funding to the Council by $75.3m over four years to implement the recommendations made in the Review and support ‘unfunded excellence’. According to the Australia Council, this funding supported over 1000 individual artists, 168 arts organisations, the creation of almost 9000 new works and the presentation of over 7000 new works and there were over 15 million attendances at Australia Council-supported activities.

However, with the change of government in 2014, this new allocation was reduced by $28.2m over four years and in 2014/5, another $6m over four years was excised to support the establishment of a national Book Council. Together with the current cuts and the $7.3m ‘efficiency dividend’, this represents a reduction of $146.3m to the Australia Council’s appropriation.

We believe that state and territory arts funding programs will be adversely affected by this decision and would urge you, together with the arts ministers from the other states and territories, to propose that a formal policy development process be undertaken. In the interim, the proposed changes must be put on hold and the funds restored to the Australia Council.

We would welcome the opportunity to meet and provide you and your fellow arts ministers with the arts industry’s views to inform your deliberations at the forthcoming meeting of Cultural Ministers.

We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

Co-Convenors of ArtsPeak

Nicole Beyer

Theatre Network (Vic)

Tamara Winikoff OAM
Executive Director Director

National Association for the Visual Arts