NSW arts industry calls for ambitious investment following poorest funding round in history

Media Release

NSW’s leading arts organisations today share their grave concerns for the future of the state’s arts sector, following the shock announcement that Round 2 of the Create NSW Arts & Cultural Projects fund had a success rate of 2.7%, among the lowest in Australian history. 

While 222 applications were made to the fund with a combined value of $8,296,017, only six projects were funded to a total of $256,029.

Organisations representing artists, festivals, galleries, venues and sector development across all artforms and from all over the state congratulate the six project teams, and highlight the detrimental impact of under funding a sector that contributes significantly to the culture and the economic viability of NSW.

As the state with the largest population and biggest budget, NSW Government funding decisions have national impact. According to independent PWC analysis, NSW accounts for 70% of Australia’s creative exports and 42% of Australia’s creative industries employment, with more people working in these industries than in mining or agriculture.

While the arts and culture sector contributes $16.3bn to the Gross State Product, the PWC report shows that the NSW Government spend on arts and cultural activity is lower than other comparable state governments. In 2016/17 NSW spent $18 per capita, while Victoria spent $22.90 and Queensland spent $33.80. For every $1 invested in arts and culture, $1.88 is generated for the NSW economy. Yet the NSW Government’s arts and cultural budget represents only 0.9% of the total NSW budget spend (on 2016/17 figures). With such low funding and so few successful projects across the state, artists will begin exercising the choice to base themselves elsewhere.

With only one regional project funded, the viability of artistic practice and touring beyond our cities is also a major concern. Create NSW’s $100m Regional Cultural Fund invests in infrastructure, and we urge the NSW Government to make similarly ambitious investment in the creation and presentation of new work in our regions.

Managing expectations is essential for effective industry development programs. A grant round that can support only 2.7% of applicants places undue pressure on the entire sector, with 222 application teams representing a significant proportion of NSW’s practitioners and organisations. Recognising that each such application takes weeks to complete, this unproductive workload jeopardises capacity and creative potential all over the state.

A grant round that awards only $256,029 invests less in NSW’s creative capacity than it costs Create NSW to administer. The dedicated work of several staff working across many months is required to run a high-quality applications process, present information sessions across the state, handle all 222 applications, run the selection process, pay independent assessors, advise outcomes, administer contracts and then announce. Success rates of 15-30% are typical of arts funding rounds, which makes 2.7% one of the lowest outcomes in Australian history, with many artistic projects of excellence having missed out on being experienced by audiences in NSW.

Round 2 of the Create NSW Arts and Cultural Projects fund opened on 30 October 2017 and closed on 11 December 2017. Announcements were due in April 2018 for projects to start from 1 May 2018. On 29 May 2018, four of the state’s key sector service organisations made a joint statement of concern over the announcement delay which jeopardised successful projects. The outcome was announced last week, four weeks after that statement. Delayed announcements jeopardise successfully funded projects as well as their potential to be presented regionally. At this stage, very few if any NSW works will be able to tour to NSW professional venues in 2019, to the detriment of regional communities across the state.

According to Australia Council research, 98% of NSW residents engage with the arts. NSW is home to leading Australian artists and cultural organisations. Together, we attract a combined visitor attendance of over 16 million people per year, and manage NSW cultural institutions, collections and buildings valued at over $10.6bn. This work is essential to NSW’s economic sustainability and significantly underpins the state’s AAA rating.

The NSW arts sector is committed to nurturing an arts ecology that’s generative, ambitious and fair. The NSW Government is essential to our work in dedicating public funds to programs that support artistic practice and audiences across the state in confident ways. Our organisations work closely with government to advise the formation of policy and programs that best support the sector.

Create NSW is currently engaged in a planning process to develop its next arts strategy, Arts 2025, which began with a Summit event in March. The Create NSW Arts & Cultural Development Program offers competitive multi-year organisational funding and professional development grants as well as project funding, and has an overall budget of $52.7m. Within that program, last year Round One of the Arts & Cultural Projects fund granted $886,341 to 23 projects with a success rate of 17%. Project funding is where NSW’s most impactful creative ideas emerge through new work. Without a significant increase in investment in the Arts & Cultural Projects fund and across the Arts & Cultural Development Program, the success of Arts 2025 is perilously undermined.

NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin shares our passion for the arts and understands how essential the sector is to the vision that powers this state. As the Minister leads the development of NSW’s next arts policy, it will be vital that his parliamentary colleagues support him in committing to the arts ambitiously. With the state election approaching, we call upon all parties to present their vision for a NSW whose artistic courage leads the nation and inspires the world.

4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

Accessible Arts

ACE Open


Art Pharmacy Consulting

The Arts Centre Cootamundra

Arts North West

Arts Northern Rivers

Arts on Tour

Arts Out West


Australian Centre for Contemporary Art

Australian Centre for Photography

Australian Design Centre

Australian Society of Authors

Australian Theatre for Young People

Bondi Acting

Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative

Casula Powerhouse

Cementa inc.

Centre for Contemporary Photography

Contemporary Art Organisations Australia

Contemporary Art Tasmania

Copyright Agency

the CORRIDOR project

Critical Stages

Culture Scouts Walking Tours

Diversity Arts Australia

Eastern Riverina Arts

Eastside Radio 89.7FM

Electronic Music Conference

FBi Radio



Gertrude Contemporary

Global Rhythms Music Festival

Indigenous Art Code

Institute of Modern Art

Legs On The Wall

The Lock-Up

Merrigong Theatre Company

Monkey Baa Theatre Company

Murray Art Museum Albury

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia


National Association for the Visual Arts


NSW & ACT Performing Arts Centres Association

Outback Theatre for Young People


Performance Space

Playwriting Australia

Regional and Public Galleries NSW

Regional Arts NSW

Seymour Centre

Sydney Fringe Festival

Sydney Improvised Music Association

Theatre Network NSW

Tortuga Studios Inc.

Urban Theatre Projects

Wellington Street Projects

Western Riverina Arts

West Space

The Wired Lab