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 2014–2015 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.