Questions for Create NSW’s New Funding Model

Image: NSW Minister for the Arts, Don Harwin

Today NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin has announced substantial changes to the Create NSW Arts and Cultural Funding Program that claim to have been introduced as the result of consultation and feedback. The announcement raises many questions which are currently being discussed offline and on, and as more questions come in, we will continue to update this list. These questions include:

  • Given arts funding agencies all over the world have abandoned artform board models in favour of artists themselves leading our understanding of artform development, why has Create NSW taken this step? What advantages have been identified? How will this silo model support a “broader range of applicants, new ideas and new models of working”?
  • How were the ten “artforms” determined? Where does experimental, cross-artform, digital and multi-media work fit? How if at all do these ten “artforms” relate to the Arts 2025 Strategy work? Has there been any research, benchmarking or industry consultation to arrive at these?
  • Given there aren’t funding programs specific to each board, will applications be assessed multiple times, first by an artform board then by a separate shortlisting process? Will there instead be artform-specific quotas? Or will there be artform-specific funding pools within each funding program? How would such amounts be determined?
  • If the minister selects the chairs of these boards and then selects the members with those chairs, how will integrity be maintained? How can one and the same group advise on funding programs and also assess them? How will conflicts of interest be handled if a known group of people are assessing their competitors or artists who work with or are associated with them? How will professional confidentiality be managed?
  • Given the Major Performing Arts organisations and state-owned galleries do not develop or create the overwhelming majority of new work, and yet are identified by the minister as having “a lot to offer giving advice to me as minister on what their artform needs and how we should be nurturing emerging talent from that art form”, how are their leaders better placed to advise on and assess funding applications on projects by the independent artists and small-to-medium organisations who do create that work and nurture the ecology?
  • Is Create NSW abandoning independent peer-reviewed assessment by artists? How is a fixed group of people selected by the minister better able to maintain that independence and integrity compared to the current system? Will these people be paid, or are they expected to contribute as an extension of their industry roles? How might this further compound conflicts of interest?
  • Is this new model cheaper to implement that the existing model? If so, where are the savings being found, and how has the cost benefit been analysed?
  • How will the “reduced eligibility criteria” announced on 19 June impact on the quality of applications and the quality of decision-making?
  • With artists now expected to compete with capital infrastructure requests in uncapped funding rounds, what will stop a handful of applications from securing the majority of available funds? Why are artists being disadvantaged by having to compete with infrastructure funding requests? Has Create NSW abandoned arts funding programs that are focused on artists and the development and creation of new work as a priority?
  • How much does this new need to cater for capital infrastructure relate to time and cost blow-outs on Walsh Bay and other infrastructure projects? How much does this new need to cater to infrastructure requirements relate to anticipated needs to compensate organisations disadvantaged by these and other delays, or needing to fit out temporary premises as in last year’s interference in an already assessed funding round to give $1,000,000 to one such company? When that company returned those funds, why didn’t they go back into the funding pool to redress the disadvantage suffered by the projects assessed as successful?
  • What system improvements have been implemented following the exposure of last year’s political interference in funding decisions? Have any lessons been learnt? How does this structure benefit the artists who were disadvantaged by that interference? How does it benefit all NSW artists?
  • How are “recommendations for funding” different to funding decisions? How will the minister’s decision or veto be exercised? Will this be documented?
  • Will this format apply across all Create NSW funding programs?
  • What consultation was undertaken to arrive at the new structure? Which organisations and which artists were consulted? (NAVA was not consulted and is not aware of any artist or organisation who was. We’ll add any updates to this when we hear from anyone who was consulted.)
  • Specifically what feedback informed these changes and on what basis was that feedback sought? What specific problems were identified to which this new model was proposed as the solution?
  • Is there any commitment to review this new structure?