On 12 June 2015 the Childers Group presented to the Select Committee on Estimates 2015-2016 in relation to its Inquiry into the ACT Appropriation Bill 2015-2016 and the Appropriation (Office of the Legislative Assembly) Bill 2015-2016. This is where the ACT Legislative Assembly establishes a cross-party committee to hear community response to the budget. This is the third consecutive year that the Childers Group has presented its response to the ACT budget, as it is the third consecutive year that the Group has provided a pre-budget submission on what we consider are the key challenges and opportunities.
The following summarises the key points made by the Childers Group at the most recent Estimates Committee session:
- The Childers Group appreciates the longstanding bipartisan political support for the arts in the ACT
- We appreciate the recent capital works investment in the Ainslie and Gorman arts centres, and the proposed capital works investment in the Canberra Theatre Centre
- However, the Childers Group is concerned about 5 key areas:
- The lack of growth to the ACT Arts Fund, which is the primary mechanism ACT governments use to directly support the arts;
- The lack of growth to the ACT Arts Fund means that Key Arts Organisations are becoming increasingly constrained in meeting the needs of the ACT community and, further, the Key Arts Organisations are – in the main – unable to offer competitive salaries. In relation to the latter point, the Childers Group acknowledges that arts organisations are independent bodies and are therefore responsible for setting pay rates, but we believe the ACT Government has a role in supporting and nurturing an arts ecology where competitive salaries are possible.
- The ACT Arts Fund’s Project Funding round, which directly supports practicing artists, who in turn provide a wide range of arts activity in which the broader community can engage and enjoy, has diminished significantly – it is the Childers Group’s understanding that this funding category has dropped from approximately $1.1M in 2005 to approximately $700,000 in 2015. During this period the ACT population has grown by approximately 15% and costs of delivering arts project have increased significantly.
- The Childers Group appreciates artsACT’s recent review of the ACT Arts Policy Framework, but we express concern at the minimal level of sector consultation, specifically it appears that a draft of the ‘refreshed’ policy will not be made available for broader sector comment before being finalised.
- At last year’s Select Committee on Estimates there was discussion about the need for a Economic Impact Statement on the value of the arts and the Childers Group was very pleased to see the ACT Government commit to undertaking this work during the review of the ACT Arts Policy Framework. However, the Group expresses concern that the Economic Impact Statement appears to have been completed but has not been made publicly available.
- In conclusion, the Childers Group expresses a view that while the ACT Government’s ongoing and not insignificant support for the arts is appreciated, the Government’s budget for 2015/2016 is lacking the drive, leadership, and strategic support the sector requires.
- Strategic and long-term investment in our arts organisations and artists is essential for a smart and healthy modern city.
The Childers Group will provide a link to the Hansard record for the Select Committee on Estimates 2015-2016 when it has been made available.