ACT Arts Grants, 2003 to 2015

The Childers Group has put together an analysis of the past 12 years of arts grants in the ACT and the trends within different funding types. This analysis shows that over this time, stretching over three full electoral cycles, there has been a significant decline in ACT arts grants on a per capita basis, and as a proportion of funds available to Government.

This analysis is drawn from over 1,500 grant entries in ACT Government annual reports, copied and sorted by grant type.

Here’s how we’re looking.



Some of our conclusions at this stage:

  • On a per-capita basis, adjusted for inflation, total grant funded arts activity has decreased from $24.79 in 2004-05 to $22.30 in 2015-16, or by 10%
  • If 2015-16 activity were funded at 2004-05 per capita rates, total grants would be increased by $973,384
  • As a proportion of Total Government Revenue, it has decreased from 0.233% to 0.189% over the same time period, a proportional decrease of 18.8%
  • If  2015-16 activity were funded at an equivalent proportion of Total Government Revenue as in 2004-05, total grants would be increased by $2,012,304
  • Key Arts and Program funding has increased by 40% per capita since 2004-05
  • The number of project and out of round grants for the ACT arts community has approximately halved
  • The proportion of the arts fund allocated to project grants has approximately halved
  • Project grants are around 20% smaller in size (inflation adjusted) than a decade ago

The full analysis and notes are available for download in excel format here – we invite any corrections or further contributions, comments below, or contact us on or through Facebook.

We think this information provides a clear picture of how arts grants to individuals and organisations are being prioritised in the ACT. When we consider the amount of services available to the community, and opportunities available to the arts sector, we see that we are trying to do more with less.

On Friday 17 June, Childers Group members Jack Lloyd and Michael White appeared in front of the ACT Legislative Assembly Select Committee on Estimates 2016-17 to deliver this analysis. We have requested an immediate increase of $500,000 in new funding to the project grant round to arrest the significant decline in this area, and we urge the ACT Government and all parties seeking representation in the Assembly in the 2016 Election to commit to a restoration of arts grant funds to previous effective levels. You can watch our appearance here, or see the transcript below.


 LLOYD, MR JACK, Childers Group

WHITE, MR MICHAEL, Childers Group

THE CHAIR: We welcome you here this afternoon to present to the estimates committee for 2016-17. Could you, for the sake of the record, confirm that you have read the pink privilege card on the table and you understand the implications of privilege.

Mr White: We certainly do.

THE CHAIR: Thank you very much. Please be aware that the proceedings today are being recorded; they will be transcribed by Hansard, and that the transcription will be published. And you are being broadcast as well as webstreamed even as we speak. Would you like to make an opening statement?

Mr White: Yes. We would like to start off today by acknowledging that today is the National Day of Arts Action. It is being held across the country as we speak.

The Childers Group stands for the arts, and we believe that art changes lives. The ACT arts policy has a vision for the future of Canberra to remain the most livable city and one of Australia’s most vibrant artistic centres. It recognises that the arts are an integral part for Canberrans and their lives, and for the economic fabric of Canberra, and that the arts help to define our community’s identity and give expression to community values. Creativity is acknowledged as fundamental to innovation and business growth.

I notice that in the forum we had earlier in the year, when we had representatives from the three major parties, everyone made a commitment and recognised the importance of the arts along those sorts of lines. I would now like to hand over to Jack, who has a more formal presentation in relation to what we would like to say today.

Mr Lloyd: Thank you. I would like to provide you, on the record, with an analysis of the history of ACT arts funding that we have put together. We have collated information from around 1,500 grants distributed between 2003 and 2015. These have been drawn from ACT government annual reports. We are here today because we believe that the measures that are used to identify appropriate allocations to arts activity in the ACT are inappropriate and are leading to declining funding in real terms, in conflict with the principles of the ACT arts policy that Michael has read out.

When you take into account population and inflation growth, and therefore viewing the funding on a service delivery, capacity or opportunity basis, we are going backwards. The decline does not appear to have been addressed in any way in the 2016-17 budget.

You have some graphs in front of you. Referring to figure No 1, we have artsACT grants to individuals and organisations. We will refer to that as the arts fund. On a per capita inflation-adjusted basis, it has decreased from $24.79 in 2004-05 to a total of $22.30 in 2015-16. We are concerned that, on all indications from the present budget, this trend will continue. This is a decrease over 12 years of about 10 per cent. In today’s terms, this equates to a shortfall of around $1 million in arts grant funding compared to 12 years ago. By another measure, as a percentage of total government revenue the proportion allocated to arts funding has decreased from 0.233 per cent in 2004-05 to 0.189 per cent in 2015-16. This is a proportional decrease of 18 per cent. In today’s terms, this equates to a shortfall of around $2 million in arts grant funding compared to 12 years ago.

There is one area where this is particularly evident, and that is the project grant category of the ACT arts fund. There is around a 50 per cent drop in the total number of project grants distributed each year compared to 12 years ago, and the average size of these grants, when adjusted for inflation, has declined around 20 per cent. This is a concern for us for a number of reasons. The availability of grants is how artists have the resources to innovate and develop work that represents Canberra and Australia. The artsACT strategic plan has an accountability measure for the number of artists, arts organisations and arts workers funded by the Australia Council and Minister for the Arts.

It is our experience that projects develop over a number of years. Where excellent applications are rejected solely due to the lack of available funding, this interrupts the potential for work and can in fact invalidate the development investment already made. Likewise, where a project does not receive initial support from artsACT funding, we would argue that this makes it less competitive when seeking funding on a national level.

Grant writing is a skill, like any other, and by reducing the available opportunities for success, this again undermines the capacity of those in this sector to develop their skill. We believe that the continued lack of resourcing for project grants will be a serious impediment to the success of ACT artists on a national level and to the achievement of this accountability with the artsACT strategic plan.

Within the diminishing overall funding picture, key arts organisation and program funding has increased. This is predominantly due to organisations previously funded competitively within the project round now receiving program funding and, over the past 12 years, to the establishment of the Canberra Glassworks and Belconnen Arts Centre. We do absolutely support the strategy of providing these excellent organisations with a pathway to sustainable long-term operations through the program funding and key arts organisation model. However, in most cases year on year funding increases to individual key arts organisations remain on a CPI only basis which does not take into account the growing participant and audience base for these organisations. For our key arts organisations to flourish, we need a vibrant arts ecosystem overall, and the long-term health of these organisations requires experienced artists and arts managers who have found opportunities that they require through the artsACT project funding.

We are also concerned that the resources are not available to accomplish some of the other goals of the artsACT strategic plan for 2015-16. We recognise and applaud the inclusion of $100,000 towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander initiatives in the budget. In our budget submission we requested similar resourcing for sector development and a research and data plan, both of which were similarly identified in the artsACT strategic plan and we believe should remain priorities.

In line with our budget submission, we request that current and future rounds of project funding be increased by $500,000 to address some of the decline since 2004 in that area and that a commitment be made to restoring the arts fund as a whole to its previous level of funding prioritisation over the coming four years. Thank you.

THE CHAIR: Thank you very much. Thanks for the chart. Is it possible to get each of the charts on a separate page?

Mr Lloyd: Absolutely; we can provide that to you.

THE CHAIR: Some of the numbers are bit tiny.

Mr Lloyd: Yes, absolutely.

THE CHAIR: That would be useful.

Mr Lloyd: The entire analysis and all of the lists of grants and so on will be made available on the Childers Group website in coming days.

THE CHAIR: Thank you. You touched on it briefly, but how important is it that these funds grow relative to the budget?

Mr Lloyd: I think that is an appropriate way to measure it. If you are looking at the proportion of the population who are contributing to the economy as artists—and certainly another one of the measures nominated in the policy is the number of artists who are working in the ACT—the size of the fund growing relative to population seems to be an appropriate measure. In regard to the number of opportunities that decline over time, our concern would be that, with a growing population and a growing number of people with skill and talent in the arts, with the same number of opportunities available, you are going to see positions that are being filled by those people remaining at around the same scope. You will probably see people overqualified for the positions that they are in and a limited number of opportunities for people to enter the sector.

THE CHAIR: Do we know how many artists there are in the ACT, and has that number grown? How is that measured, or—

Mr Lloyd: I do not believe we have information about whether the number has grown. I am aware that the ACT government produced an economic impact statement of the arts last year, and I believe that figure is in there, but I do not have that available.

THE CHAIR: I think the figure in the report is 3.1 per cent of the population.

Mr Lloyd: I do not know if there is a trend with that.

THE CHAIR: Yes, it just seems to be about that.

Mr White: I think it is really important to get the concept that the project grant block of money is really like the hub of development of the arts and arts projects. That is where they all start—new work, work for new artists, the beginning of a theatre project where money is given maybe to a writer. That is where that lot of money comes from, and then that slowly builds after the time.

As a result of that fund not growing, the competition in that area is extreme. When the Cultural Council was around I sat in on grant rounds over a period of seven or eight years, and we would do the evaluation of grants in the project round and rank them according to what they were and you would go down. Then at some point you would be seeing where the line is because of the amount of money in that project grant round. It was often really heart rending and heart destroying to realise really good projects that we would have liked to have funded were not able to be.

If that particular section of the program grant does not increase, then more and more of those projects will fall to one side. That has an impact on people making application to the Australia Council. I did some research into it over what appears to be the 10 years. The number of ACT artists making application to the Australia Council and being successful seems to have been dropping off. I know the theatre area is an area where people have almost given up on making applications.

That project grant is really important, and that is why that quite small increase that we would be seeking in that $500,000 on an ongoing basis would make so many more projects available to be developed to their full potential.

THE CHAIR: Is there a link between not getting a grant from the ACT and not getting a grant from the Australia Council?

Mr White: I think often there is, because sometimes you are getting funding from both. So you might fund some aspects of your project in relation to some money you are expecting from the Australia Council and some money you are expecting to get from ACT government, and you balance that out. If one happens and one does not, you immediately have to go back and re-look at your project again and say, “Right, we didn’t get the $25,000 for the designer we were hoping to get from the Australia Council, so where does that leave us in relation to this project? What compromises might we need to make?”

Mr Lloyd: The Australia Council would assess projects based on their financial viability. As they ask for information based on the existing support for a project, if they see that it has been supported by the ACT arts fund then absolutely that will go some way towards making it more competitive.

On top of that it is, I would say, a practice—certainly in my own experience—that artsACT grants are seen as being very much the instigator at the very early stages of a project, whereas a project might be left to become a bit more mature before looking at applying for funding through the Australia Council and through something even like catalyst.

MS BURCH: I think you answered the question: I was looking at what could be described as a downward trend and then the programs and key arts organisations going up. I wondered if one was compensating for the other, but you are saying it is quite a separate—

Mr Lloyd: The overall funding component for arts grants for individuals and organisations as a whole when viewed as either a proportion of total government revenues or on a per capita basis is contracting. Applying those same bases, the key arts and program funding is increasing. Part of that is explained by organisations, such as M16 and ArtSound, applying on a competitive year-by-year basis. Now they have some more security in their funding base, which we believe is appropriate.

MS BURCH: It is.

Mr Lloyd: But it is really about having a larger slice of a smaller pie.

MS BURCH: And I do not think many in the community would argue about that. I would be interested to see where you get the funding from. This is just an artsACT stream of funding. I think it has been raised by Childers Group and elsewhere about other arts-based activities that might come from other directorates. I think TAMS has a graffiti artist at the moment to manage. So how do we get smarter about joining the dots for the artist community that this may not be the only source of support, but accepting it should be the major plank of supporting our artistic community?

Mr Lloyd: Film is certainly another area which generally seems to sit outside of this and more amongst industry. We would be delighted to see a broadening of the scope. But looking at it at this level for grants which are administered by artsACT, this is how the government has been accounting for this type of expenditure for 12-plus years, so we think it is an appropriate way of looking at a component of that.

MS BURCH: Just looking at the measure as a trend over time.

Mr Lloyd: Yes, we have made no analysis of the arts sector as a whole. We have not looked at the Cultural Facilities Corporation, for instance, or some of the other directorates’ engagement with the arts. We would be delighted to see those kinds of analyses be part of artsACT’s research plan going forward.

MS BURCH: Is this an opportunity for groups such as yours to—I will use the words—join the dots around the various components that may be available? Can you think of an easy way of making that a little bit smarter for the arts community?

Mr White: In our submission we suggested it would be useful for those other departments—TAMS and health and education—to actually have an officer at a fairly significant level who could be the one who would be responsible for breaking down the walls between various departments and all that sort of stuff. If there were someone that had that kind of role they could be saying, “We understand the arts is a really strong and important path for the building of this city. What is our directorate doing in relation to that? In relation to TAMS, what sort of work are we doing in relation to arts projects? We should be talking to artsACT.”

I think that would be a really good and strong move. Childers has been around and spoken to various members—I think Brendan was spoken to as well—to say that that would be a really important way of collating it. Then that brings that strong advocacy for the arts through the bureaucracy and into the ministry where people can then say, “Well, arts is not just over there in arts; it has a role in health, it has a role in education, it has a role in policing, drug reform, all of that sort of stuff.” If we could get some of that started—

Mr Lloyd: There is certainly within the policy indications that arts and health will be the first interaction of that sort, and we very much look forward to seeing how that progresses.

Mr White: I think some of that happens, but it is not coordinated and you think, “Oh, there was that really good graffiti project announced. That’s fantastic, but who was coordinating that? Where does that link into the overall arts strategy and all that sort of stuff?”

MS BURCH: Do you think we have got the mix right between one-off, spontaneous funding for emerging artists, new artists, new thought bubbles and then supporting the higher end our disciplines? Do you think we have got the mix right? Because you cannot just concentrate on the high end; you have got to have all.

Mr Lloyd: I think it is a really devilish question. I think that the key arts orgs and the program orgs have demonstrated over the past 10 years a really significant growth in the quality of their engagement with the ACT community, certainly in the governance that those organisations are able to attract. There is amazing talent sitting on boards of ACT arts organisations and they do their jobs incredibly well.

What that means is that pressure in one area is causing it to bubble out in other areas, so we are seeing, unfortunately, the decline across the project grants, which may well be the component of the arts funding landscape which is least capable of having a collective voice on what its own needs are. I do not believe there has been a policy driven reason for the decline in project funding; I simply believe we have got the measures wrong, and we need to look at how we can get back to a balance that recognises the importance of all of the funding sources within the ACT.

MR DOSZPOT: My question is probably to both of you. I was actually going to raise the issue that you just mentioned about the way that art can cut across a whole range of areas in the community, specifically education. I think there is quite an opportunity, and there are things being done already. I think one of you stated that it is not coordinated, but I think there is scope to really make a bigger impact. I am not making a recommendation to you, but I am just trying to say my perception of the way arts has an opportunity to expand is through education and also through seniors. You have got very rapidly ageing—

MS BURCH: You asked me before when I was making comment if there was a question, sorry, Steve.

MR DOSZPOT: Excuse the interaction there. My question is: given the additional thoughts you have in different directions and the budget requests you have made, what sort of response or feeling have you got from the government in terms of your budget requests and the reality of what can be given or what has been promised by the government?

Mr Lloyd: The impression we get from this budget is that at least there is no bad news. I guess that is the response that we have had.

THE CHAIR: The best news is there is no bad news?

Mr Lloyd: Yes. So it is something that we would certainly appreciate any more information on about the long-term intentions of developing some of what we see to be some very good recommendations within strategic planning. When it comes to linking with other government departments, priorities for us have been in areas like tourism where we see there is a huge opportunity to profile as a collective the ACT arts scene as a real drawcard for people to visit the ACT or to stay longer in the ACT.

On top of that, though, as you say, the arts is really something which has the capacity to enrich the quality of people’s engagement with their community and with their government across every level, from education, mental health, seniors, organisations being able to engage with particular community groups, and the list really goes on. It is hard to imagine a sector of government which would not be enriched by having an arts component added to it, and I think it would be a pretty cost effective way of doing so.

Mr White: In our submission our request for a fairly modest $500,000 to be added particularly into that program category was something that is a disappointment that that has been able to be done, because that again holds back that real creative sort of hub where a lot of that work happens. We have seen that slow decline over the years. I think maybe the last person who had a fairly significant increase was Bill Wood. There was one particular year with that sort of money. We understand all the pressures that are on the budget, but I think in the scheme of the ACT budget, $500,000 into that particular section was probably only a fairly small amount.

MR DOSZPOT: Sure, in comparison.

THE CHAIR: Ms Burch, a final question?

MS BURCH: No, just keep on doing the good work.

THE CHAIR: Gentlemen, thank you for your attendance today. If you could perhaps give us a larger version of that, that would be much appreciated.

Mr Lloyd: Yes, absolutely.

THE CHAIR: A transcript will be available in a couple of days and will be forwarded to you. If you have any alterations or additions you would like to make, the committee would receive them gratefully. We thank you for your endeavours and what you do.

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