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‘NATIONAL PROGRAMME FOR EXCELLENCE IN THE ARTS': A STEP FORWARD FOR OUR SECTOR?

18 May

Minister for the Arts George Brandis has proposed the establishment of the 'National Programme for Excellence in the Arts', which will operate in parallel with the Australia Council for the Arts

Minister for the Arts George Brandis has proposed the establishment of the ‘National Programme for Excellence in the Arts’, which will operate in parallel with the Australia Council for the Arts

On 12 May 2015, the Australian Government revealed its intentions for the 2015-2016 budget. The intentions include the establishment of the ‘National Programme for Excellence in the Arts’, which will operate out of the Ministry for the Arts and be supported by funds previously administered by the Australia Council for the Arts. The proposal has caused concern throughout much of the arts sector, and there have been numerous media reports. The Childers Group’s letter to the Minister for the Arts, Senator George Brandis, is below. The letter has also been sent to other key members of the Australian parliament, as well as key members of the ACT Legislative Assembly. Updates on this issue will be published on this website; you can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Update: we have received a letter from Senator for the ACT Katy Gallagher: Senator Gallagher re. arts in budget 2015 – 19 5 15

_

Senator The Hon. George Brandis QC
Attorney-General and Minister for the Arts
PO Box 6100
Senate
Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Minister,

National Programme for Excellence in the Arts

The Childers Group advocates for artists and arts organisations in the ACT region, and we are an active member of Arts Peak, the federation of national peak arts organisations that promotes research, policy and industry development, communication and advocacy.

We are writing to seek more information about the proposed ‘National Programme for Excellence in the Arts’, and about your statement to the Senate on 14 May 2015 in which you suggested that organisations other than those funded by the Australia Council will now have improved access to funds from the Australian Government.

In order to better understand the implications of the new program, we seek answers to the following questions:

  • Can the Minister provide further details about the proposed ‘National Programme for Excellence in the Arts’, including its aims and objectives and operational structure?
  • Will applications to this program be subject to arms-length peer review?
  • What is the future of funding for independent artists and smaller projects which drive innovation?
  • Can the Minister guarantee Australia Council funding at current levels for the many small to medium arts companies now at a critical stage in the 6-year grant application process? This will ensure consistency, predictability, stability and sustainability for the small to medium arts sector in the way that it does for the Major Performing Arts sector.
  • Will the Minister guarantee that costs associated with the programs will be borne by the Department, so that these do not come off the top of the programs?
  • What job losses are anticipated at the Australia Council as a result of this proposal?
  • Can the Minister expand on his statement that ‘Arts funding has until now been limited almost exclusively to projects favoured by the Australia Council’? The Childers Group understands that this is what is required by the Australia Council’s charter, especially since it has recently undergone substantial restructuring following an industry-wide review.
  • Was there Cabinet discussion/approval and/or backbench consultation about the new program?

In the absence of concrete information about this significant decision, the Childers Group has refrained from making formal public comment. However, without a detailed explanation of the ways in which the ‘National Programme for Excellence in the Arts’ will be administered and the implications it has for the rest of the Australian arts sector, it will be difficult for the Group to contribute positively to the debate.

We do trust that you can provide the information we have requested.

Yours faithfully,

{signed}

Professor David Williams AM
Spokesperson

SUBMISSION TO THE ACT GOVERNMENT’S REVIEW OF THE ACT ARTS POLICY FRAMEWORK

25 Apr

The ACT region is home to a remarkable diversity of arts practice. (Image of Skywale sourced from WikiCommons)

The ACT region is home to a remarkable diversity of arts practice. (Image of Skywale sourced from WikiCommons)

The following comprises the Childers Group’s formal written submission to the ACT Government’s review of its arts policy, which is currently taking place. It was submitted to the ACT Government on 24 April 2015.

Fair wages for artists and arts workers:

Most Australian artists and arts workers receive very low rates of pay, as evidenced by the Australia Council’s Don’t Give Up Your Day Job: An Economic Study of Professional Artists in Australia study, and regrettably the ACT region is not immune from this problem. In essence, artists and arts workers are rarely recognised as professional service providers. In the ACT, key arts organisations compete with two levels of public service, which are able to pay much higher rates of pay. While it is true that key arts organisations are responsible for setting salaries and pay rates, limited funding and other income means that salaries are rarely able to be pegged at competitive levels, meaning staff leave key arts organisations for the public service, or leave the ACT region entirely. In relation to practising professional artists, we recognise that artsACT has for a long time advocated for publicly funded arts projects to incorporate the appropriate level of artist fees, and we strongly suggest artsACT continues to do so.

Recommendation: the principle of fair rates of payment for artists and arts workers is reinforced in the new arts policy, and that artists and arts workers are recognised as professional service providers.

A regional approach to arts development:

The ACT region is home to a remarkable diversity of arts practice, and for many years ACT artists and arts workers have been moving to the neighbouring areas order to remain in the region (to maintain networks and access to tertiary institutions/facilities etc). This has become especially prevalent as the cost of living increases dramatically in the ACT while adjacent regional communities are able to offer more affordable options, especially in relation to home and workshops/sheds. Recognising the opportunities for artists to better manage their costs by moving to regional communities is one way the ACT will be able to keep artists from moving to the larger cities. The Childers Group acknowledges that the ACT Government, through artsACT, has a long history of recognising artists who live ‘over the border’ and are able to demonstrate a contribution to the ACT community, but this position needs to be reconfirmed and reinforced in light of current economic pressures. Further, there is an opportunity for artsACT and artsNSW to collaboratively develop a funding program that specifically supports cross-border arts relationships and programs.

Recommendation: the ACT Government recognises the value of mutually beneficial relationships between the ACT and neighbouring regional communities, and that through the new arts policy these relationships are recognised, supported, and encouraged.

Ongoing support for practising professional artists through the Project funding category:

The ACT’s key arts organisations are integral to the development of the arts sector, but they cannot provide all the services, support and opportunities that professional practising artists require. Practising professional artists across all sectors are often at the forefront of practice and in turn are high-profile advocates for the region. One of the key sources of financial support is the ACT Arts Fund’s Project funding category. However, over the course of the last 10-15 years the amount of funding available in the Project category has reduced while costs to deliver projects have increased.

Recommendation: the ACT Government commits to ongoing support for practising professional artists through the Project funding category, and investigate ways to increase the level of support available.

Ongoing support of arts service organisations:

Arts service organisations provide professional development opportunities for the sector, facilitate connections, support brokering (business and the arts), and provide links to key partnerships for artists. In the last decade or so, the ACT region has lost a number of such organisations – Muse/Artlook and Canberra Arts Marketing. Service organisations might also be advocates for particular art forms, for example Ausdance ACT and the ACT Writers Centre. Consistent with previous correspondence with the ACT Government on this matter, the Childers Group does not wish to make comment on individual funding decisions. However, the Group is concerned that the ACT region’s arts sector is currently without over-arching organisations and support, despite the ACT Governments policy of arts hubs, and this might be exacerbating a sense of isolation.

Recommendation: the ACT Government recognises the value of arts services organisations, and there be consideration of a funding program specifically designed to support service organisations.

A whole-of-sector approach to arts development:

Currently there is limited communication, relationship and mobility between arts organisations, leading to stagnation in the skills pool, wasting time through duplication of administration tasks such as contract development, and artists and arts workers looking outside the ACT to find their next job. As noted elsewhere in this submission, this situation is occurring despite the ACT Government’s policy of arts hubs, which appears to focus on capital works rather than building whole-of-sector relationships. The arts policy review should consider how artsACT can play a facilitating role in encouraging connections between ACT arts organsitions, either by dedicated funding initiatives, formal professional development opportunities, and/or through informal networking opportunities. (The Childers Group has played a role in this regard, and we will continue to do so, but our resources are severely limited.) There is also a need for government-supported initiatives that can increase the connection between ACT organisations and the national cultural institutions.

Recommendation: a renewed emphasis on facilitating partnerships and communications between arts organisations, and for the ACT Government to assist ACT arts organisations build relationships with the national cultural institutions.

For many years there have been very real barriers between ACT Government directorates and agencies; all ACT Government directorates and agencies should be required to show how each contributes to creating and developing a vibrant arts sector for the ACT community. (Image courtesy of WikiCommons)

For many years there have been very real barriers between ACT Government directorates and agencies; all ACT Government directorates and agencies should be required to show how each contributes to a vibrant arts sector. (Image courtesy of WikiCommons)

Eliminate ‘silo thinking’ within the ACT Government:

For many years there have been very real barriers between ACT Government directorates and agencies – for example, arts organisations who try to develop programs with the Education Directorate are often met with a wall of bureaucracy, complex processes, silence, or a combination of all three. If the ACT Government believes that engagement and participation in the arts are essential and should be at the centre of ACT community life, all ACT Government directorates and agencies should be required to show how each contributes to creating and developing a vibrant arts sector for the ACT community – this should be done through the annual report process.

Recommendation: ACT Government directorates and agencies work collaboratively to develop and deliver arts programs and projects, and that these are formally – and publicly – reported on an annual basis.

Art form development:

While many of the ACT’s key arts organisations actively develop their respective art form, the Childers Group is concerned that art-form development is not emphasised in the current arts policy. The Group suggest that all applicants to the ACT Arts Fund – organisations, groups, and individuals – are required to demonstrate how their proposed activity or activities demonstrably develops art forms.

Recommendation: a renewed emphasis on art form development in all aspects of the ACT Government’s support of arts activity, and specifically through the new arts policy.

Long-term thinking:

The ACT Government does not currently have a stated and publicly available long-term vision of the arts and key questions are not addressed. For example, is the number of key arts organisations expected to grow, reduce, or stay the same? Will organisations be assessed as part of a vibrant arts ecology, or only in comparison to other organisations whose funding is ‘up’ that year? Are organisational mergers planned? How does the ACT Government plan to support a skills base in Canberra that ensures sufficient staff and board members to maintain effective governance and high performance in such a wide variety of organisations? And is artsACT committed to maintaining – ideally increasing – the proportion of the ACT Government budget allocated to the arts and the investment per capita?

Recommendation: the ACT Government takes a long-term – i.e. 10-year – approach to developing the arts and community inclusion and shares that vision with the sector.

Reducing barriers to live music

Live music events continue to be hampered in the ACT. Currently, the deck is stacked against those looking to put on such events and appears to be weighted in favour of residents who make complaints about ‘noise’ associated with such events. Music in its many variations is never going to thrive with the number of restrictions currently placed on putting on an event in the ACT. The Childers Group acknowledges that some of the regulations and rules currently in place are designed to protect organisers and patrons (for example, public liability insurance), but many are unnecessary and seem to shift during the course of trying to put on an event. The Childers Group is aware of at least two local festivals that have recently been cancelled due to the regulations. Musicians and producers of contemporary arts events and festivals have advocated for a more entrepreneurial approach by the ACT Government, especially in relation to relaxing regulations which can be ambiguous and overly restrictive. The vibrant cafe/bar/music scenes that flourish in other major cities are unlikely to flourish in the National Capital unless more sympathetic and smart thinking is applied to reviewing the regulations.

Recommendation: the ACT Governments commits to the importance of live music in the ACT region, and that live-music promoters be provided as much assistance as possible, for example through ‘how to’ guide to putting on an event for emerging promoters.

Retain meaningful peer assessment:

The ACT Government has a longstanding commitment to peer-assessment of applications to the ACT Arts Fund. However, the Childers Group is concerned the ACT Government appears to be moving to a hybrid model where peer assessment is eroded and the sector feels decisions are being made without informed and considered peer input.

Recommendation: the ACT Government recommits to meaningful peer assessment of grant applications, and that this commitment is made explicit in the new arts policy.

Audience development:

Arts organisations, festivals, projects and artists continue to find it a challenge to develop audiences. Further, in these current times when many in the community are struggling due to a compressed economy, arts consumers are carefully considering how they will spend their arts dollar. For organisations and independent producers, audience development and building engagement in the arts requires marketing support and expertise, which in turn needs funding and support. In some ways digital resources such as social media have become essential tools, but they need to be used in an informed manner.

Recommendation: audience development is recognised as a priority and that programs are put in place to assist artists and arts workers increase and diversify their audiences.

Private sector support:

ACT Government support of the arts sector is greatly appreciated but there is a need to increase private-sector support, including through philanthropy. In recent years there has been some support in this regard through organisations such as the local office of the Australian Business Arts Foundation. However, with Abaf becoming Creative Partnerships Australia and closing its ACT office there is currently no support available to organisations or groups who wish to increase private-sector income – this despite the ACT having a healthy corporate sector.

Recommendation: the ACT Government commits to providing professional support to key arts organisations (in the first instance) in order to building private-sector income and support.

Arts review: update

10 Jan

Professor Jacqueline Lo, Professor and Director of the ANU Centre for European Studies, and Acting Director Research School of Social Sciences, ANU

Professor Jacqueline Lo, Professor and Director of the ANU Centre for European Studies, and Acting Director Research School of Social Sciences, ANU

Further to our ongoing advocacy about the ACT Government’s review of its Arts Policy Framework, which is the key document driving how the arts are supported in the ACT region, the ACT Minister for the Arts, Joy Burch MLA, has invited the Childers Group to participate in a Reference Group. The Minister has nominated Childers Group spokesperson David Williams as the Group’s representative.

The letter, which is dated 18 December 2014 and can be founded at Joy Burch MLA to CG re. arts review reference group 18 12 14, states:

…as an ongoing commitment to community participation and engagement, a review of foundations and principles will take place to ensure that it continues to be a relevant and engaged policy.

Other invitees to the Reference Group are:

  • David Broker, director, Canberra Contemporary Art Space
  • Joseph Falsone, director, Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centres
  • Professor Jacqueline Lo, ANU Centre for European Studies
  • Rosanna Stevens [musician, writer, co-founder of Scissors Paper Pen]
  • Gavin Finlay, Music ACT

According to the letter, the first meeting is scheduled for ‘early 2015′. The attached Terms of Reference sheet suggests the review will be complete by ‘mid 2015′.

The Childers Group will continue to advocate for broad and diverse sector consultation beyond the Reference Group.

We note that the letter is an invitation only and the final composition of the Reference Group may not be finalised.

We also note that there continues to be little information about the arts policy review on artsACT’s website. The only reference to the review is: The Framework will be reviewed in 2014 to ensure that it continues to be a relevant and engaged policy.

The Childers Group looks forward to participating in the review.

How important is it that there are arts ‘service’ organisations?

20 Dec

Joy Burch MLA
Minister for the Arts
ACT Government
via email: burch@act.gov.au

Dear Ms Burch,

The Childers Group has serious concerns about the apparent recent downgrading of arts service organisations, as illustrated in severe cuts to Ausdance ACT, which is part of a highly regarded national network that has supported and promoted dance in the ACT since 1977.

We observe that the role of service organisations in the ACT has been seriously down-played by artsACT in recent years in its endeavour to spread its ever-diminishing funds more thinly and widely. Service organisations such as Ausdance are not artists, dance companies or funding bodies, but they do have a clear role in supporting artists and advocating on their behalf, i.e. a body of work that can be quantified under the following headings prepared by ArtsPeak, the alliance of national arts service organisations:

  1. Government liaison and advocacy
  2. Research
  3. Sector leadership and arts industry standards
  4. Capacity building of the sector
  5. Raise the profile and promote the value of the arts
  6. Support artists’ income generation
  7. Sector representation

As a member of ArtsPeak, the Childers Group strongly supports this statement (attached in full), and suggests that it should be included in the new artsACT strategic plan now being developed, not only to support funding guidelines, but to provide artists with a clear articulation of why service organisations are funded.

Image source: Ausdance ACT

Image source: Ausdance ACT

We are also concerned about the way in which artsACT has interpreted the following principles in its published ACT Arts Policy Framework as they specifically concern the work of Ausdance ACT in education:

  • Championing the importance of arts education and advocating for local arts organisations to be engaged in the implementation of the National Arts Curriculum.
  • The Australian National University Community Outreach Program, funded by the ACT Government to support music programs for teachers and school students, visual arts community access programs, and access to the School of Art and School of Music libraries and Llewellyn Hall.
  • Promoting and supporting arts activity across the school curriculum, developing systemic links between ACT Government schools, local and national arts organisations and tertiary institutions.

The Childers Group considers there is a highly artificial divide in funding decisions that differentiate between what is perceived to be ‘education’ and professional practice. The successful implementation of The Australian Curriculum: The Arts is an absolute imperative for the arts profession, a principle obviously shared by the government but now being interpreted inconsistently.

We understand that, as a result of cuts to Ausdance ACT, there will be a major downturn in its ability to continue to offer its valuable services to dance in the ACT. In the not unlikely event that the organisation might eventually have to close its doors, there will be an assumption that the only professionally-supported dance company in Canberra – QL2 Dance – will be required to take on the role of a service organisation in addition to its already overstretched program. It is highly unlikely that QL2 will be able to do so in the current funding environment, nor is it an appropriate role for a dance company.

The Childers Group has used the Ausdance ACT example to illustrate its point about the current trend to under-value and under-fund arts service organisations. We are not advocating on its behalf and do not want to engage with artsACT in specific reasons for its decisions.

We look forward to your response to our concerns, and to your assurance that arts service organisations will continue to be valued for their intrinsic value and not be downgraded in the review of the strategic plan now underway.

Yours faithfully,

Professor David Williams
Spokesperson

The Childers Group –
an indepedent arts forum for the ACT region

Arts review: update

20 Dec

Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centres: an ACT arts organisation in a state of significant evolution. What will be the policy context for such evolution in 2015?

Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centres: an ACT arts organisation in a state of significant evolution. What will be the policy context for such evolution in 2015?

We’ve now received a response from the ACT Minister for the Arts, Joy Burch MLA, and it can be found here: Reply from Joy Burch MLA re. ACT Arts Review (Dec 2014). The letter provides some information about the scope of the review and the proposed consultation process. The Childers Group is pleased to participate in the review’s reference group, and will advocate for the importance of broader consultation – involving new voices in the development of policy is always positive. Related to the review, Childers Group foundation member Nigel Featherstone has written a piece for the Canberra Times/Fairfax Media about the importance of governments at all levels being proud and public about their support of the arts. You can find Nigel’s article here.

ACT arts review: more info please

6 Dec

Preamble: the ACT Government, through artsACT, is currently reviewing its ‘Arts Policy Framework’. The Childers Group has written to the ACT Minister for the Arts, Joy Burch MLA, asking about the scope of the review, the consultation process, and the timing, as this information is not currently available on artsACT’s website. There has been some discussion in the ACT Legislative Assembly about the review of the arts policy, a transcript of which can be found here (the relevant discussion starts at p107).

 

*

24 November 2014

Joy Burch MLA
Minister for the Arts
ACT Government
via email: burch@act.gov.au

Dear Ms Burch,

ACT ARTS POLICY FRAMEWORK REVIEW

The Childers Group writes to ask questions about the ACT Government’s review of the ACT Arts Policy Framework, which we understand is currently taking place.

The ACT Government's arts policy is being reviewed, but how will the arts sector be involved?

The ACT Government’s arts policy is being reviewed, but how will the arts sector be involved?

The Childers Group congratulates the ACT Government for developing the original Arts Policy Framework. As you no doubt agree, it is critical for the ACT Government to have a document that can guide decision-making and also provide a policy context for funding decisions. This is especially important when, now that our region is on the other side of the Centenary of Canberra celebrations, there are a number of key issues facing the arts sector: appropriate and sustainable levels of funding; provision of and support for a high-class network of facilities and venues; and maximising opportunities for all those in our communities to access arts activities of excellence.

The Group is also pleased that the ACT Government, through artsACT, is currently reviewing the document to ensure it meets needs and expectations.

However, we have questions about the review process:

  • What is the scope of the review? Is it a refresh of the policy or a rethink?
  • How will the ACT region’s arts community be able to provide input into the review process?
  • What is the review’s timeline? When are the community engagement points, and when will a draft be made available for comment? When will the final document be publicly available?

The ACT’s key arts organisations are well-placed to connect with their membership and communities to provide informed comment on draft proposals. Further, there are other organisations allied to the arts and the ACT who would be able to enrich the process. Of course, many of our eminent artists would also wish to contribute.

The Childers Group believes that the arts should not be left to the periphery; the arts should be at the centre of society. Good policy development, with a process that involves the arts sector and the community broadly, is a significant part of making this happen.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully,

Professor David Williams
Spokesperson

ACT Book of the Year advocacy: the reply

16 Jul

ACT BoY 16 7 14 p1

ACT BoY 16 7 14 p2

ACT Book of the Year advocacy: our letter

16 Jul

30 June 2014

Joy Burch MLA
Minister for the Arts
ACT Government
via email: burch@act.gov.au

Dear Ms Burch,

The Childers Group writes to express very real concern about recent changes to the eligibility requirements for the 2014 ACT Book of the Year award, as reported in the press and as confirmed by artsACT.

The surprising change to the award to being for ‘ACT residents only’ is inconsistent with the ACT Government’s Arts Policy Framework as well as contrary to other government initiatives and the work of the ACT’s key arts organisations, many of which provide programs and services to those who live across the border. Many of our artists who work in the ACT – writers, performers, sculptors, musicians, film-makers – reside in our flourishing regional areas. Indeed, the map often used in reference to arts funding makes clear the regions that are considered integral to our arts landscape.

Eminent regional writers such as Jackie French are now, for the first time, excluded from being nominated to the ACT Book of the Year

Eminent regional writers such as Jackie French are now, for the first time, excluded from being nominated to the ACT Book of the Year

As you are no doubt well aware, there is also an enormous amount of arts activity that happens in the towns and villages adjacent the ACT, and in many instances ACT-based artists are engaged in that activity. The majority of this activity has close, long-term, and ongoing mutually beneficial relationships. Indeed, the Childers Group has been active in advocating for a whole-of-region approach to arts support, including in terms of economic development and cultural tourism.

The new eligibility requirement for the 2014 ACT Book of the Year, that it be for ACT residents only, directly contradicts three key elements of the ACT Arts Policy Framework (the bolding is ours):

  • (1) ‘Guiding Vision: Canberra and its region comprise an inclusive, unique and creative arts landscape where excellence is highly valued’;
  • (2) ‘Principle One: Facilitate Community Participation in and Access to the Arts: Embracing Canberra’s position as a regional centre and fostering opportunity for increased regional engagement with regional communities’; and
  • (3) ‘Principle Two: Support Artistic Excellence and Artistic Diversity – The ACT literary awards recognising excellence in ACT region writing’.

Further, this new requirement is contrary to the fact that for decades the ACT Government has been consistent in acknowledging regional activity by supporting artists who aren’t ACT residents but are able to ‘demonstrate an ACT-based practice’.

Additionally, this recent decision to exclude regional writers from the ACT Book of the Year has created concern and confusion through the wider arts sector. In the near future will all regional artists be excluded from the ACT Government’s support through its arts funding program? Will the ACT’s key arts organisations be required to focus only on the ACT community at the exclusion of all others?

Finally, it is concerning to the Childers Group that the literary community appears to have not been consulted on this change of policy. We have been informed that the ACT Writers Centre, the ACT’s peak body for writing in the ACT region, was not consulted. A significant number of their members reside in the region.

We respectfully ask that you review the recent announcement about the 2014 ACT Book of the Year, and ensure that there is consistency in eligibility requirements across ACT Government’s various arts programs and initiatives.

The Childers Group will contact you shortly to request a meeting about this important – and potentially far-reaching – matter. We would greatly value your consideration of the matters we have raised in this letter and the opportunity to discuss them.

Yours faithfully,

[signed]

Professor David Williams

Spokesperson
The Childers Group

ACT Budget 2014-2015: our response

30 Jun

ACT-BudgetThe following is the Childers Group’s response to the arts component of ACT Budget 2014-2015. It follows the structure required by ACT Treasury. Our submission resulted in an invitation to present to the 2014 Estimates hearing, which we accepted and put forward our views on 13 June; the Childers Group was one of only two arts organisations to be involved in the budget process. We’ll post a link to Hansard once the transcript is available. Our original budget input, submitted prior to the ACT Government’s announcement of the 2014-2015 budget, can be found here.

Please list, in order of priority, your three main areas of interest or concern regarding the ACT Budget 2014-2015:

  1. The lack of growth of the ACT Arts Fund – the ACT Arts Fund is the ACT Government’s key arts development mechanism. It supports approximately 20 key arts organisations and a wide variety of programs, as well as groups and individual practicing artists. The Childers Group understands that the Fund receives additional annual funding of an amount that roughly equates to CPI (2.5%), which is ‘passed on in full’ to the key arts organisations. While this modest increase is critical, it is not enough to compensate for the increase in the ACT’s population in recent times. For example, in 2004 the ACT population was 324,000 and it is currently anticipated as 383,000 (source: http://www.cmd.act.gov.au/policystrategic/actstats/population). Therefore, in the space of a decade, there are approximately 60,000 additional people residing in the ACT, many of whom are looking to engage with the city’s arts and cultural sector. What is needed – and the need is becoming increasingly urgent – is a significant funding boost to the ACT Arts Fund, potentially $300,000-500,000, to help cater for the additional demand and the demonstrable increase in costs of delivering arts programs. This would ensure the ACT community has access to a diversity of high-quality arts programs, and that the organisations delivering these programs can do so in a sustainable manner.
  1. The viability and sustainability of the ACT’s key arts organisations – as noted in our budget submission, the Childers Group is extremely concerned about the ongoing viability and sustainability of the ACT’s key arts organisations. These organisations, which are the backbone of the ACT’s arts sector and enable a large proportion of Canberrans to engage with arts and cultural activity, have – in the main – limited staffing resources and stretched programming budgets, all the while trying to meet the forever increasing demand. While many of these organisations have had success in diversifying their income from non-government sources, opportunities are limited in a jurisdiction where the public sector dominates. Additionally, with the recent loss of a local branch of the Australian Business Arts Foundation, and the national refocussing of that organisation into Creative Partnerships Australia, there is now no ACT-based business/philanthropic brokering body to support local arts organisations who are seeking private-sector support. Further, the Childers Group is concerned about the recently announced cuts to the Australia Council for the Arts and the impact this could have on the ability of the ACT’s arts organisations to access federal arts funding. The funding boost to the ACT Arts Fund mentioned above would go some way to addressing these concerns.
  1. Arts in education – the Childers Group remains concerned about the lack of specific funding of arts-in-education programs, as identified in our budget submission. To break the longstanding disconnect between the Education and Arts arms of the ACT Government, what is needed is a specific arts-in-education program to ensure school-aged children have access to a wide range of high-quality programs. The Childers Group has previously advocated for an ACT Arts-in-Education Officer to broker relationships across the ACT Government and between government, schools, and program providers, such as the ACT’s key arts organisations.
  1. ACT Screen Investment Fund – the Childers Group is concerned about the future of the ACT Screen Investment Fund and seeks clarification from the ACT Government about anticipated directions and plans.

What are your views on the ACT Budget in relation to your priority areas?

The Childers Group applauds the ACT Government’s ongoing support of the ACT’s arts and cultural sector. The 2014-2015 budget papers identify a figure of $30.1M being the total investment in 2014-2015 – this is a significant amount for Australia’s smallest state/territory jurisdiction.

However, what is the breakdown of this funding?

The Childers Group understands that $12.743m is invested through artsACT (CSD Output Class 3.2: Arts Engagement 2014-15) and $16.032m through the Cultural Facilities Corporation (CFC Output Class 1: Cultural Facilities Management). However, the 2014-2015 budget identifies that only $8,502,000 of this funding as being dedicated to supporting arts activity. While we note that this is an increase from $8,389,000 in 2013-2014, it is the Group’s understanding that only a maximum of $5M is specifically targeted at arts development – that is, supporting the ACT’s key arts organisations, arts programs, and practicing artists. As noted previously in this submission, this amount had been decreasing in real terms due to the costs of delivering programs and projects.

In addition, there are now significant budgetary pressures on key arts organisations in attracting and retaining skilled personnel, and, in many cases, managing the rising overhead costs associated with maintaining and operating key cultural facilities. All key arts organisations must balance the business/commercial aspects of their operations whilst providing creative engagement for the ACT community. The ACT Arts Fund is no longer able to meet these increasing costs and the community’s demands on the ACT’s key arts organisations.

Are there any other particular issues with the ACT Budget that you would like to bring to the Committee’s attention?

Yes. As mentioned elsewhere in this submission, the Childers Group’s key concern is the lack of real growth of the ACT Arts Fund. The current funding level has fallen behind demand, particularly in terms of the ability of the ACT’s key arts organisation to deliver high-quality and sustainable services but also the ever-decreasing funding available through the Project funding category.

Did you provide a budget submission to the ACT Government?

Yes.

Do you think that the ACT Budget has addressed the issues raised in your submission?

Not entirely.

BUDGET 2014–2015: A BIG STEP BACKWARDS FOR THE ARTS

20 May

Should we be concerned about the proposed cuts to arts funding in Australia? The Childers Group says yes, absolutely.

Should we be concerned about the proposed cuts to arts funding in Australia? The Childers Group says yes, absolutely.

The Childers Group expresses serious concern about the 2014-2015 federal budget and its impact on the development, sustainability and vitality of the arts in the ACT region. The Group calls on the ACT Government to assure artists and arts organisations that there will be no funding cuts to artsACT’s funding programs as a consequence of the federal budget.

‘We’ve looked at the Budget in detail,’ said Childers Group spokesperson Professor David Williams. ‘It is a big step backwards for the arts. The sector, while usually resilient, will take many years to recover from the proposed cuts – they are too deep and too sudden.’

As the ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said in the ACT Legislative Assembly on 15 May 2014, the impact of this budget will be felt throughout the ACT region.

The loss of more than $28M from the Australia Council’s budget alone will mean reduced support for small to medium arts companies and arts organisations, and fewer grants available to individual artists. Combined with other budget cuts and measures, the Childers Group is especially concerned about opportunities for young artists and their ability to survive, let alone contribute to the life and vitality of the community and develop their careers.

‘Firstly, we call on opposition parties to oppose the Australian Government’s cuts to the arts,’ said Professor Williams. ‘Secondly, we call on ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and ACT Minister for the Arts Joy Burch to ensure that through the forthcoming ACT budget there is sufficient funding to support the ongoing development of the arts sector.’

The Childers Group’s core concerns for the 20142015 Federal Budget are:

  • With its small funding base for the arts, the ACT is particularly vulnerable to across-the-board cuts. While our arts sector is in a promising phase of development, the Childers Group fears that the ACT Government, faced with considerable cuts in health, education and infrastructure spending, will use the arts budget to help claw back some of its losses.
  • We call on the ACT Government to reassure artists and arts organisations that there will be no funding cuts to artsACT and its funding programs.
  • Practicing artists and arts organisations are significant contributors to the quality of life, community participation and to the economy through their funded and unfunded projects and small business activities.
  • The more you look at the ills of contemporary society – alienation, fragmentation, isolation and depression – the more compelling the need for community participation in the arts scene. What better way of fostering a sense of community, promoting mental health and well-being and reducing the pressures of a competitive, materialistic society than by encouraging participation in the arts.” Hugh Mackay in Arts Funding: Are we missing a golden opportunity?
  • The Childers Group is very concerned about the future of the cohesive national cultural policy launched last year, one that was developed through a consultative, evidence-based approach, and one strongly supported by the arts sector. It appears that the major investment in its development by artists and organisations from across the country is to be ignored.
  • Australia Council grants will less accessible for most individual artists at a time when other cost of living expenses are rising. Their incomes will be further eroded by the increased cost of health care, petrol, education and transport. Any substantial increase in university fees for visual and performing artists will inevitably lead to fewer trained artists in Australia’s creative sector at a time when city planners and economists are calling for more creativity across the economy. Young graduate artists face challenging career paths throughout their lives, and the 6-month wait for Newstart will become an added and unacceptable stress in their search for work. It is anticipated that many will be forced to leave the sector.
  • Infrastructure support will be less available to artists and the community through small arts organisations as they struggle to stay afloat in this new and increasingly difficult funding environment.
  • While the Federal Minister for the Arts, Senator George Brandis, maintains that funding to Australia’s flagship companies has not been impacted by the budget, the Childers Group is concerned about the reduced funds available for individual artists, small arts organisations and arts infrastructure in the arts sector of the ACT region.
  • By protecting the flagship companies and asking the small to medium arts sector to make cultural budget savings, the ecology of the arts industry will be severely affected. Creativity, cutting-edge research and risk-taking are the engine-rooms of Australia’s unique, new and exciting arts industry.
  • The Childers Group reminds the Australian Government that a thorough review of the merging of back-office functions in the national cultural institutions was undertaken during John Howard’s Prime Ministership. It was found that this would be unworkable and that savings would be minimal.
  • Without viable and sustainable infrastructure in the ACT and surrounding regions, artists and the small to medium arts sector will be forced into safe and predictable arts development, and a golden opportunity will be lost.