ArtsPeak letter to PM

15 Apr

We are sharing a copy of a letter sent to our PM by the Australian multi-arts peak body, ArtsPeak. The letter expresses their consolidated view of the status of Federal Government support for arts and culture in Australia, and suggests some ways forward in relation to recent changes in policy direction. A good read.

ArtsPeakLetter to PM March 2016

What are we worth?

22 Mar

Hi folks, Jack here.

Over the past few days there has been much discussion around whether unpaid mentorship models are appropriate in the context of content production for a major ACT event drawcard:

The Dark Side of Enlighten – Canberra Times

Enlighten artists unpaid but ecstatic about mentorship opportunity – The RiotACT

Government defends Enlighten’s unpaid mentoring program – Canberra Times

Alex Sloan chats with Chris Endrey and Adam Stankevicius on 666 afternoons – ABC

 

This has been a complex issue that has led to much discussion and debate, because it’s important. I’d like to try my best to articulate what I hope is a consensus position amongst the Childers Group.

I think the Childers Group’s role in this as impartial advocates – as much as we, a bunch of individuals, can be – is to consider whether there is legitimate room for improvement in how artists are engaged in the ACT. If there is, then let’s take this opportunity to drive some positive change, regardless of how we got here.

Firstly, I want to make it clear that it is the sincere belief of the Childers Group that all those involved in the discussion, heated though it may be at times, are acting in good faith with the best interests of the sector at heart.

It is absolutely vital that arts practitioners speak up for the value of the work that they do. We are important economic drivers for the territory and good art deserves to be paid art. It is a testament to the articulate, passionate and organised arts community that this issue has been brought so prominently into the public domain.

Likewise, artsACT have been consistent in communicating that the number of artists professionally engaged and amounts paid to them are key performance indicators for the health of the ACT arts sector, and a range of non-financial development opportunities such as mentorships are critical in advancing sustainable professional careers.

But while we have the measures, we are lacking a clear set of up-front principles to guide engagement with artists, particularly where there is a differential in the negotiating power between parties.

As a major employer of artists in the ACT, it is reasonable for the community to have expectations that the ACT government (and their contractors) has fair dealings with them.

These issues are not new and the question of whether unpaid internships, even willingly entered, are opportunities or exploitative exists outside the arts sector. While it would be inaccurate to describe the mentorships as voluntary work, the nation-leading team of downright legends at Volunteering ACT has produced an excellent guide for organisations with a simple checklist to determine whether a position or opportunity should be paid.

Questions in their guide include:

  • Is the role critical to the overall successful function of the organisation?
  • Is the role closely aligned to an industrial award?
  • Is it likely that an employment relationship could exist?
  • Is the role more than 16 hours per week?
  • Does the non-effective performance of the role have any negative implications on the work of paid staff?
  • Is this a position for which funding has been obtained, sought, or is available?
  • Has this role ever been filled by a paid worker?
  • Are similar roles filled by paid workers?
  • Is this role normally a paid position in other organisations?
  • Would a person reasonably expect remuneration for this work?

To this we could add:

  • Does the work of the artist produce or materially contribute to financial benefit to others?
  • Are these benefits for commercial or non-profit entities?
  • If the role were not to be filled in an unpaid capacity, would a paid artist be sought to ensure the role was not left unfilled?
  • Would the community expect the role to be paid?

We can say that the arts are different – if unpaid actors in a community production don’t show up the whole show falls over, for instance. But taken as a whole, if there are lots of “Yes” answers, I think a set of considerations like this could help to avoid situations in future where practice falls short of community expectation. I would love to see a resource like this available and used by the ACT Government, its contractors, and others considering engaging artists in the ACT.

In my sole opinion, part of the issue that we have seen this year is that Enlighten is a victim of its own success – it has grown very rapidly, and in the past couple of years been paired with an explosively popular commercial project in the form of the noodle markets. Given the shift in the economics of the event as a whole, it is reasonable to reconsider whether unpaid roles for projection artists, who are a primary attractor for the customers of these markets, remain appropriate. The question should at least be asked, there’s a problem if it’s not.

It’s worth saying also that it would be a real shame if artists in the ACT were denied opportunities to benefit from mentorships and national expertise in future contracts because it became all too difficult. We need to bring these skills in. Hopefully, this discussion will lead to the sector becoming more sustainable, not less.

What we would like to see is an active and continuing assessment of the nature of contracting artists to present at ACT events, and for the ACT Government as a major arts employer to find assurance that best practices are being followed.

Keep making good stuff, folks, and keep talking to each other. Galvanize.

Wrap up from pre-Budget arts forum

14 Mar

… in case you missed the Childers Group’s pre-Budget arts forum!

We’ve had some very positive feedback about our pre-Budget arts forum on Wednesday 24 February, with calls for a follow-up pre-election forum later in the year. As one participant put it: ‘It was a terrific night, one of the Childers Group’s best’.

With expert facilitation by ABC 666 presenter Genevieve Jacobs, we invited three key MLAs to give the packed audience their vision for the arts in an ACT Budget context, i.e. show us your Budget policies and let’s discuss them. Dr Chris Bourke (Labor), Shane Rattenbury (Greens) and Brendan Smyth (Liberal) all presented their ideas for a vibrant, culturally diverse and progressive city with genuine interest and passion.

Their ideas were stimulating and in some cases unexpectedly imaginative, although this wasn’t an audience that needed to be convinced of the value of the arts, a point not lost on the facilitator, who skillfully steered the conversation to more clarity.

The terrific panelists were artist Jenni Kemarre Martiniello, journalist Paul Daley, academic Helen Ennis, and musician and comedian Chris Endrey. They raised issues such as greater strategic support for Indigenous arts development, artists’ spaces, a ‘living wage’ for artists, better coordination with national cultural institutions, and, of course, increased funding for artsACT.

None of the MLAs committed to increasing the Arts fund, leaving some in the audience wondering about the true state of the ACT Budget. And questions remain, such as – how can the arts be grown, not only by increased funding but by changing legislation? How can we seek and develop commercial opportunities? How can we use existing resources better, and harness local expertise? How do we increase awareness of arts/cultural benefits across portfolios for the benefit of all (artists & community alike)? Several MLAs also mentioned music as ‘arts education’, although there are five arts subjects in the new Australian Curriculum: The Arts.

We’ll keep asking these and other questions in the coming months.

We hear this was the first political forum in this ACT election year, showing the arts sector can be an organised and powerful force. As an ideas and vision forum, a particularly important outcome was the networking, with more people connected and doors opened to MLAs’ offices (and ears!) – all ongoing aims of the Childers Group.

Finally, here are a few ideas we’ll be pursuing:

A lively city comes from a lively music scene, and a lively music scene comes from a range of accessible venues.

Support for more arts opportunities in ACT schools.

Canberra arts are a part of the region and the region is a part of Canberra arts.

Supporting the arts is not a luxury, it’s essential to a modern city like Canberra.

The main way the ACT Government supports the arts is through the ACT Arts Fund. The last time the Arts Fund received a significant boost was in 2005. It’s time for a top-up, don’t you think?

The arts are key to an innovative and adaptive society and economy – creative jobs are the future.

Canberra’s tourism and developing image as the ‘cool little Capital’ can only exist with strong policies and investment in the arts.

Thanks to all who supported this important forum: MLAs, guest panelists, Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centres, New Best Friend.

Read:
Childers Group forum details vision for ACT’s arts future and funds
Clare Colley, The Canberra Times, 25 February 2016

Stephen Cassidy’s blog: The indefinite article, 25 February 2016

How do you put a value on art, and the people creating it? Toni Hassan, The Canberra Times, 10 March 2016

Letter to PM re the impact of the efficiency dividend on our national institutions

22 Feb

We are closely following the impact on our Canberra-based national institutions by the efficiency dividend. Read the letter that has been sent to our Prime Minister as of today. Add your voice to the conversation.   Letter from CG to PM

ACT Election Forum – fast approaching

8 Feb

Tickets are selling fast for this important discussion with our ACT arts colleagues and political representatives. For more info – take a look at our media release.

Feb 3 2016 MR

ACT Election 2016: when we’re all in one room we can make things happen…for everyone.

29 Jan

This year the ACT community will be voting for who will form government for the next 4 years. How can we make sure that those standing for election value the arts and have meaningful arts policies? The Childers Group does this by getting the three main political parties in one room, asking for visions and policies to be put forward, and calling for questions from the floor. We did exactly that in 2012 and we were thrilled with the interest from the community and the engagement of the political parties. So we’re doing it again – this year with a special panel to lead the questions.

BOOKINGS ESSENTIAL. UPDATE: the forum is SOLD OUT!

We look forward to seeing you!

CHILDERS GROUP - ACT election arts forum - invitation - WP

…and then it was 2016 and your connections grew and your voice became even louder.

16 Jan

Woman with megaphoneHappy New Year. This one’s going to be big.

There’s the ACT election, where the Assembly will be increasing from 17 to 25 members, and a party who’s been governing for many years will be up against one that’s chomping at the bit. Will the main political parties prepare arts policies? If so, how informed will those policies be and what impact would they have on the ACT region? And what about the minor parties and the independents? Some very interesting election commentary from Jack Waterford, former editor of the Canberra Times, can be found here.

Then there’s the federal election, which might not directly affect the arts in our region, but with the recent changes to the funding of the Australia Council and the establishment of the centralised Catalyst funding program it will still be very, very fascinating indeed.

As always, the Childers Group will be working hard to be an articulate, informed and engaged voice for the arts in our region, and one of the key ways we do that is through holding forums.

Frankly, we want – and need – your involvement.

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MentoringOur first forum for the year, Aspects on Mentoring, will be held from 5:30-7:30pm on Thursday 28 January at Canberra Museum and Gallery. Learn more about mentoring and hear from mentorees and their mentors about their experiences, in an open and frank discussion around finding the right person, and working out how to work best together. Then you’ll have a rapid-fire opportunity to meet potential mentoring partners, share your stories, and maybe kick off something special. This will also be an excellent time to meet other emerging and established leaders in the arts in the ACT, and build your networks over a glass of wine.

Admission is free, bookings are essential.

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Then, on Wednesday 24 February at Gorman Arts Centre, we’ll be holding Vision and Support: What’s planned and what’s needed for the arts in the ACT region? Come and participate in this forum/debate and help spark a public conversation about the arts in the lead up to the 2016 ACT election! UPDATE: this forum is now SOLD OUT!

The details are as follows:

TIME: 5:30pm-7:30pm

PRESENTERS: Dr Chris Bourke MLA (ACT Labor), Shane Rattenbury MLA (ACT Greens), Brendan Smyth MLA (ACT Liberals)

PANEL: Paul Daley, Helen Ennis, Chris Endrey, Jenni Kemarre Martiniello

MC: Genevieve Jacobs, 666 ABC Canberra

VENUE: Main Hall, Gorman Arts Centre, Braddon

COST: $10 and $5 concession to help cover costs

RSVP and payment: via EventBrite by 5pm Monday 22 February. (For those who don’t wish to make an online payment, please call 6182 0000.)

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With much thanks to our venue partners, Canberra Museum and Gallery/Cultural Facilities Corporation and Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centres.

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Keep in touch with these events, and other Childers Group activities, via Facebook and Twitter.

ACT BUDGET SUBMISSION: what we think should happen in 2016-2017

17 Oct

Craft ACT 2For three years now the Childers Group has been contributing to the development of the ACT budget through ACT Treasury’s budget consultation process. The following is our most recent submission.

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The Childers Group welcomes the opportunity to provide input into the 2016-17 ACT Government Budget development process.

The Childers Group is an independent arts forum established in 2011. Our advocacy is based on the principles of:

  • independence;
  • objectivity;
  • valuing the arts; and
  • pride in Australia’s national capital city and the surrounding region.

The Group has delivered yearly forums, involved MLA representation from the three main political parties, held a variety of meetings with stakeholders such as the Cultural Facilities Corporation, and advocated our ideas with the ACT Government, the Australia Council for the Arts, and the Australian Government. Consequently, what follows is informed, considered, and situated in a national policy context.

What services do you believe are most important for the Territory?

We believe creativity and engagement in the arts are vital components of a healthy city. The ACT Budget is an opportunity to make adequate provision for the arts to flourish. The Childers Group reiterates its previous concerns about creating opportunities and resources for key organisations and artists to deliver the cultural services that are central to a vibrant and healthy city.

Recommendation 1

There is a need to provide increased resourcing for the arts in the ACT. Costs for Key Arts Organisations to manage ACT Arts Facilities under license with government are increasing at a rate above CPI, and this should be reflected in an increase in recurrent funding. Failure to keep up with the cost of building management puts downwards pressure on staffing and program resources, threatening long-term sustainability and compromising the ability of these organisations to fulfil their vision of providing arts activity and services that respond to community need.

Recommendation 2

Likewise, we strongly urge the Government to allocate additional funding to the ACT Arts Fund project round in support of projects by individuals, groups and companies in the ACT. The Project Funding category is – regrettably – supporting fewer projects each year due to the increasing cost of delivering arts projects; this is especially true of the performing arts. The Childers Group strongly advocates for this category to receive additional funding of $500,000 per annum over the next three years.

How can the Government deliver current services more efficiently and productively?

The Childers Group commends the ACT Government for the 2015 Arts Policy and artsACT Strategic Plan, passed this year by Cabinet.

Recommendation 3

Dedicated Indigenous and sector upskilling responsibilities are common within state and federal level arts agencies, and these are not tasks which can or should be managed in spare time. We request that artsACT’s strategies in these areas be adequately resourced to ensure their success, and propose two new officer positions be established:

An Indigenous Engagement Officer position within artsACT to achieve their strategic goals of:

  • connections with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to foster productive partnerships.
  • undertaking a needs analysis of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, arts workers and arts organisations.
  • developing a Reconciliation Action Plan for artsACT.

A Sector Development Officer position within artsACT to achieve their strategic goals of:

  • a needs analysis on sector learning and development.
  • developing a culture of knowledge and individual learning.
  • working with arts organisations on opportunities for critical reflection and arts development.

Recommendation 4

The Childers Group notes that artsACT is to undertake a research and data plan. The Government’s objective should be to ensure that there are no professional arts workers employed by ACT Key Arts Organisations earning less than the average Australian wage. An investment in the salaries of ACT arts workers is an investment in the efficient and productive operation of ACT arts assets. Salaries commensurate with skills and experience ensure the retention of qualified people with necessary expertise, and promote sound management and development of strong policies within the facilities built by the ACT Government.

The research and data plan should include benchmarking salaries of professional arts managers within the ACT against the Community Service sector and with arts personnel in other states and territories.

Craft ACT 1Are there particular services that you consider the Government should stop delivering or perhaps should deliver in a different way?

Currently, the arts are not adequately integrated within policymaking or service delivery at a whole of government level. For comparison, there are existing strategic objectives to achieve ‘higher than average participation in sport and physical and recreational activities’. While the ACT leads our nation in both community participation and attendance at arts and cultural events, it is essential that the benchmark selected by the Government relates specifically to participation and attendance at arts and cultural activities directly supported through programs of artsACT and the Cultural Facilities Corporation.

Recommendation 5

The Government should commit to an inclusive approach to arts integration with the establishment of a relevant and measureable arts benchmark as a strategic objective of the ACT budget.

Craft ACT 3Recommendation 6

In line with ACT Government strategic priorities of enhanced liveability and social inclusion, suburban renewal and health and education investment, the role of the arts in these areas should be recognised with the establishment of officer positions in ACT Government Directorates, including Education and Training, Health, Environment and Planning, and Capital Metro, at the Senior Officer Grade 3 level, to identify and implement strategies where arts activity can multiply existing value and enrich outcomes. In the first instance, this should be a 3-year initiative.

Establishing and consolidating existing links between artists, arts organisations and the stakeholders of each Directorate should be a key component of the work. For example, engagement in the arts throughout a child’s schooling, including early childhood, has immeasurable benefits which are now both quantifiable and proven in countries that have invested in strong arts programs within their schools.

Is there any infrastructure that the Government should consider initiating in the next four years?

Recommendation 7

The Childers Group congratulates the ACT Government on recent refurbishment works at Gorman & Ainslie Arts Centres and Tuggeranong Arts Centre. As advocated by the Childers Group before the Select Committee on Estimates for past two years, with subsequent favourable recommendations by the Committee, we request that the Government fund the final design and build of Belconnen Arts Centre Stage 2. This project has been in development for almost twenty years since initial community consultations and is well past due for completion.

Recommendation 8

Ausdance ACT recently conducted a review of dance facilities in Canberra. The organisation found that over 10,000 people participate in dance in the ACT, with many more enjoying performances as audiences. The Ausdance review found that there is an urgent need for good facilities in the ACT, particularly in Central Canberra, Gungahlin, Belconnen, South Tuggeranong and Weston Creek. Building on the ‘hub’ model, Canberra needs a high-quality dance hub with state-of-the-art facilities. The facilities should be available for shared use between a number of organisations, offering space for independent dance creators and choreographers as well as performers, school workshops etc. The Childers Group commends the review and endorses the recommendations.

Summary

The Childers Group strongly recommends increased investment in the arts as outlined in our submission. Canberra is rightly recognised as one of the world’s great cities, and this phenomenal achievement is due in part to the rich diversity of creative opportunity available to us to experience and participate in. With the growth of our city, we must be courageous and imaginative in ensuring these opportunities grow with us.

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Image credits: taken by Andrew Sikorski at Craft ACT‘s ‘Bogs and Fens’ show, April 2015.

We’ve expanded our expertise and increasing our contribution

2 Oct

Arts finance expert Peter Bayliss joins the Childers Group.

Arts finance expert Peter Bayliss joins the Childers Group.

The Childers Group is absolutely thrilled to have Peter Bayliss join us. Peter brings valuable knowledge and experience in arts development and management, particularly in terms of arts accountancy and budget analysis.

Peter is a Chartered Accountant and Managing Director of Into Tomorrow (Arts Business Services) and First Base Music (Music Artist Services). Peter has been involved in the Australian arts industry for over 20 years in a number of roles including artist management, booking and promotion while also developing his skills in accounting and business through his work across private enterprise, community and arts organisations and government. He has also held board positions with organisations including Music Managers Forum Australia (MMF), Radio 2XX, Australian Association of Social Workers and MusicACT.  Currently Peter is Treasurer for Ausdance National and ACT Screen Investment Association.

The Childers Group is committed to an arts sector that is funded for success and we will continue to advocate for the growth of the ACT Arts Fund so it can meet the needs of artists, arts organisations, and the broader community. Peter’s skills will be especially important to help us meet that objective.

WE SHOULD TALK!

19 Sep

We Should Talk logoCalling all emerging arts leaders in the ACT region – this is your chance to be heard!

We Should Talk is the first in a series of informal networking and discussion opportunities for the ACT region’s arts sector, presented by the Childers Group.

Local emerging arts leaders Jack Lloyd (Belconnen Arts Centre), Rosanna Stevens (Scissors Paper Pen), Yolande Norris (BIG hART) and Michael Bailey (ACT Museums and Galleries) will facilitate discussions that allow you to raise the big issues in arts leadership in the ACT and start to identify new directions for the sector. We want to hear your thoughts on what is important to you – from skills development and career advancement, to balancing work and life and art – and to find answers to the burning questions.

When and where is this happening?

4pm-6pm on Wednesday 30 September at CMAG.

This will also be an excellent time to meet other emerging leaders and build your networks over a glass of wine. Established arts leaders are of course welcome too – come along and meet the kids who will run the joint in a few years.

Admission is free ($10 donations encouraged and gratefully appreciated, at the door), the bar is open (18+ only, sorry) and bookings are essential via Eventbrite.

We can’t wait to meet you!

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We Should Talk is presented by The Childers Group and supported by the Cultural Facilities Corporation.