Advocacy : Arts Questions on Notice from ACT Assembly

Arts—policy (Question No 781)


Copyright : ACT Legislative Assembly website :

Mrs Dunne asked the Minister for the Arts and Community Events, upon notice, on 27 October 2017:

(1) In relation to the answer to question on notice No E17-261, given the 2015 16 artsACT Strategic Plan expired more than one year ago, when was/will a new plan be (a) developed and (b) released.

(2) What process was/will be followed to develop the new plan.

(3) Did/will that process include an evaluation of the outcomes achieved under the 2015-16 plan; if not, why not.

(4) When will the 2015 ACT Arts Policy be updated.

(5) What process will be followed to update the policy.

(6) What are specific examples of the support and advice artsACT has provided to other government agencies in relation to their support for the arts in each of the previous two financial years.

(7) What are specific examples of advocacy artsACT has undertaken for inclusion of the arts in other areas of government in each of the previous two financial years.

(8) Why are there no measurable targets for ACT Government directorates and agencies in relation to the arts.

(9) Is the Government giving consideration to a strategy for inclusion of arts programs in other directorates and agencies; if not, why not; if so, what is the (a) scope and (b) timeline.

(10) In relation to the answer to part (6) of E17-261, what were the targets and outcomes for each of the dot points outlined in the answer.

(11) How does artsACT measure success in those areas if there were no targets.

(12) Is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) Agreement more than two years into its three-year currency; if so, (a) why are there as yet no specific programs and targets for ATSI arts and culture to be engaged in achieving health, justice and other social outcomes, (b) when will those programs and targets be developed and (c) what process will be followed in developing those programs and targets.

(13) How much funding was provided, in 2016-17, to (a) organisations and (b) individuals through (i) key arts organisations’ grants, (ii) program grants, (iii) project grants, (iv) arts residencies grants, (v) Community Outreach Program grants, (vi) Community Arts and Cultural Development grants, (vii) out-of-round grants, (viii) Llewellyn Hall grants, (ix) Book of the Year grants and (x) Fringe Festival grants.

(14) Has the artsACT internal budget for 2017-18 been finalised; if not, why not; if so, how much funding is allocated for (a) organisations and (b) individuals through (i) key arts organisations’ grants, (ii) program grants, (iii) project grants, (iv) arts residencies grants, (v) Community Outreach Program grants, (vi) Community Arts and Cultural Development grants, (vii) out-of-round grants, (viii) Llewellyn Hall grants, (ix) Book of the Year grants and (x) Fringe Festival grants.

(15) Are there any multi-year grant funding recipients who have funding increments calculated by any means other than consumer price index (CPI); if so, by what means are those increments calculated.

(16) Does the Government have scope to negotiate with funding recipients for increments by any means other than CPI; if so, (a) on what basis and (b) what criteria are followed in assessing non-CPI-based increments.

Mr Ramsay: The answer to the member’s question is as follows:

(1) a) The need for a specific strategic plan for artsACT has been overtaken by its incorporation into Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate. As part of the new governance arrangements artsACT is currently working on a business plan which aligns to government strategic priorities.

  1. b) N/A

(2) N/A

(3) N/A

(4) There are no immediate plans to update the 2015 ACT Arts Policy, however once a Ministerial Advisory Mechanism has been established there will be an opportunity for the mechanism to guide any future work.

(5) There is no process in place, however once a Ministerial Advisory Mechanism has been established there will be an opportunity for the mechanism to guide any future work.

(6) artsACT provides advice and support across the ACT Government on a regular basis. Some examples include:

artsACT works closely with the Health Directorate and is a member of the Arts and Health Committee, which is chaired by the Health Directorate. In 2015, ACT Health and artsACT jointly commissioned an independent evaluation of the arts program at the Canberra Hospital as a pilot project. The Report on Art at the Canberra Hospital is available on the artsACT website artsACT has also been providing advice to the Arts and Health Curator in regard to artwork at the new University of Canberra Public Hospital and on the engagement of an artist for a public artwork commission for the Canberra Hospital. artsACT has also provided advice on engagement with Ngunnawal artists.

artsACT has provided advice to the Justice and Community Safety Directorate regarding the inclusion of Ngunnawal Art and integrated public art in the new ACT Law Courts Precinct, the development of the Arts and Crafts Policy for the Alexander Maconochie Centre and advice about current programs and delivery of the annual exhibition.

artsACT has provided support in the establishment of networks between the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs and Visit Canberra. Advice has also been provided to the Community Services Directorate on potential arts projects for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

artsACT regularly provides advice and support to Transport Canberra and City Services on the public artwork it manages. This includes advice on specialist suppliers to assist with artwork conservation.

In addition to the cross Directorate advice and support, within the Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate, artsACT has provided support for the inclusion of local artists in promotional material for Floriade and assistance regarding potential programs at the National Arboretum. Furthermore, direct support to Events ACT was provided by managing public art exhibitions at Floriade 2016 and Floriade 2017. Advice was also provided to Treasury’s Civil Infrastructure and Capital Works team on the inclusion of public art as part of urban infrastructure at Molonglo.

(7) Some specific examples of advocacy artsACT has undertaken for inclusion of the arts in other areas of government include:

artsACT works closely with VisitCanberra in relation to promoting the arts sector in Canberra and advocating for inclusion of local content alongside content from National Cultural Institutions. artsACT has been liaising with relevant arts organisations to ensure that their activities are promoted via the VisitCanberra website. artsACT has also provided content for the 2018 Canberra Visitor Guide.

artsACT has strongly advocated for a number of visual arts organisations to be accommodated within the Kingston Arts Precinct development and is continuing this advocacy with the Suburban Land Agency as the project develops. Furthermore, artsACT has advocated for the consideration of arts spaces in the Woden Town Centre as part of Agency planning processes.

Consideration of spaces for arts activity in urban planning policy has been promoted by artsACT to the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate including as part of the strategic planning for the City and Gateway Corridor.

Investigations for cross directorate program opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders engaged in the arts. These discussions have included the Justice and Community Safety Directorate through the Alexander Maconochie Centre, ACT Health through the Ngunnawal Bush Healing Farm, Visit Canberra and Events ACT. artsACT has also liaised with and raised awareness of the arts through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Consultation Process, including with the Environment, Planning And Sustainable Development Directorate through ACT Heritage, Natural Resource Management and the Murumbung Ranger Programs.

artsACT has advocated for the inclusion of public art in the light rail project and has provided advice to Transport Canberra in this regard.

(8) It is standard practice for policy areas to have targets for their content responsibility. artsACT is responsible for achieving measureable targets in relation to the arts for the ACT Government.

(9) artsACT is continually working across Government on the inclusion of arts in other directorates and agencies. There has been no consideration of a formal strategy. This will be considered in business planning for artsACT noting that a scope and timeline has not yet been determined.

(10) The 2015-16 artsACT Strategic Plan detailed the measures of success against the principles outlined in the 2015 ACT Arts Policy. Principle three related to the vitality of the Canberra Region Arts Ecology. The measures of success against this principle were as follows:

  •     Number of people employed in the arts and cultural sector: There were 6,937 persons employed in the arts and cultural sector as their main job in the ACT in 2011 (Source: Census, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011. 2016 Census data for cultural occupations has not been released yet.
  •     Number of businesses in the cultural sector: As of June 2014, the ACT had nearly 1,200 active businesses in the creative industries (Source: Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exits, Australian Bureau of Statistics).
  •     Number of volunteers and estimated volunteer hours: Almost one third (76,500) of all people living in the ACT undertake some paid or unpaid work in culture and leisure activities (Source: Work in Selected Culture and Leisure Activities 2007, Australian Bureau of Statistics). In 2016, there were 773 volunteers at artsACT-funded organisations, who worked for approximately 40,000 hours (Source: artsACT SmartyGrants).
  •     Household expenditure on cultural items: Canberrans spend approximately $211 million per year on arts and culture, which is a higher per capita level than other capital cities (Source: Household Expenditure Survey 2009-10, Australian Bureau of Statistics).

Specific targets have not been determined, as the measures (such as increased number of people employed in the arts and culture sector) are not solely the responsibility of artsACT and are influenced by factors outside the control of Government.

(11) Specific targets have not been determined. Nevertheless, success is demonstrated through some of the figures available in the 2015 Economic Overview of the Arts Report including: the number of Canberrans employed in the arts and cultural sector as their primary occupation (almost 7000); nearly 1,200 active businesses in the creative industries operating in Canberra; and over 400,000 attendances at ACT Government funded arts organisations.

(12) (a) artsACT has focused on relationship building, gaining consensus and understanding the unique perspectives and activities of the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through the release of the draft Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Consultation Report. artsACT is currently considering feedback received through this process ahead of engaging with community for the co-design of programs and targets which will consider health, justice and other social outcomes.

(b) These programs will be developed inside the 2017-2018 financial year.

(c) artsACT will establish an ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Network as a working group to consider the priorities identified through the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Consultation Report and engage with artsACT in a co-design process for new programs and targets.

This process supports commitments outlined in the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Agreement 2015-2018, and will assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’s to freely pursue social and cultural development in line with the right to self-determination.

(13) The funding provided in 2016-17 was:

Category Expenditure 2016-17 Key Arts Organisation $4,108,918 Program $473,690 Project (including screen) $563,469 Arts Residencies $56,000 Community Outreach $1,777,998 Community Arts and Cultural Development $273,328 Out of Round $22,453 Llewellyn Hall $37,559 Book of the Year $15,000 Fringe Festival $30,000 Detail on 2017 funding recipients can be found on the artsACT website

(14) Yes. The funding allocated is:

Category Budget 2017-18

Key Arts Organisation $4,179,000

Program $533,000 Project (including screen) $840,000

Arts Residencies $109,000

Community Outreach $1,813,000

Category Budget 2017-18

Community Arts and Cultural Development $363,944

Out of Round $25,000

Llewellyn Hall $42,000

Book of the Year $16,000

Fringe Festival $0 Detail on 2018

Project funding recipients can be found on the artsACT website

(15) Yes, some Key Arts Organisations have received increases above CPI depending on the strength of their business plan against the assessment criteria, and the available budget.

(16) Yes, the organisational application process for Program organisations and Key Arts organisations provides an opportunity for the applicant to present a case for increments in funding levels above CPI, depending on the strength of their business plan against the assessment criteria, and the available budget.

The assessment criteria for Program organisations is:

  •     An organisation with a clearly defined role in the ACT arts sector which meets a community need.
  •     A high-quality program of activity that fosters artistic innovation and creative thinking and facilitates community participation in and access to the arts.
  •     Strong governance and administrative practices to deliver the proposed program.
  •     A justification of the budget, outlining a sound and sustainable financial position that represents value for money and includes a diversity of income.

The assessment criteria for Key Arts Organisations is:

  •     Contribution to the ACT’s critical arts infrastructure through provision of diverse high quality programs, services and facilities that are responsive to community needs and enable strong participation and access opportunities for the ACT community.
  •     Contribution to the artistic vibrancy and vitality of the ACT arts sector, demonstrated by programs and services that develop arts practices, encourage innovation, and foster creative thinking and collaboration.
  •     Demonstrated sustainable and sound financial position supported by a budget that represents value for money and includes a diversity of income sources.
  •     A board that provides strategic and expert governance and reflects a skill mix necessary to support the business of the organisation and should include appropriate representation in the key areas of management, business, finance, governance, law, and the arts. The board is also the employing authority for the engagement of staff to deliver the artistic program.


What’s in it for Arts?

An artist’s guide to the ACT Budget

– by Jack Lloyd

Download this article in Word format

The ACT Budget will be unveiled on Tuesday, 5 June 2018, and each year the Budget has a real impact on the level of arts activity, services and opportunities in the ACT.

Inspired by Ben Eltham’s Handy Guide to Reading Government Budget Documents, I wanted to help artists and arts supporters in the ACT to find and understand these impacts as quickly as possible.

The Budget can be a daunting piece of work, with hundreds of pages to sift through and a lot of technical language. But if we know what we’re looking for it’s a lot easier.

We’ll be breaking down the whole budget to find every little scrap of arts info we can get our hands on. Let’s get stuck in, hey?


What’s In There?

New funding for announcements and initiatives, and changes to existing construction budgets.


What’s Not In There?

Aside from the total level of arts and cultural funding in certain areas, cuts to individual programs or funding areas are often invisible. Anywhere that funds are transferred within a budget, including artsACT’s funds, are not generally shown. The details of artsACT’s expenditure is partially disclosed in advance from time to time within their communications about successful grantees, and fully disclosed only after the end of the financial year, within the Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate (CMTEDD) Annual Report.


The Budget Document

Each year the budget is comprised of three papers, and a set of Budget Statements. We’ll go through each section. The images below are all from the 2017-18 ACT Budget.

However, Budget formats change from year to year and new elements may be added, so read tables of contents to see if any headings appear new and relevant, or look to the ACT Government Budget Reading Guide for help.


The Budget Papers

Budget Paper 1 – Budget Speech

The word from the Chief Minister, with key announcements and overall themes. We obviously hope to see major arts investments announced and celebrated as an important part of the ACT’s character and direction. This section provides context to any discussions about what is funded in a given year.

Read this first.


Budget Paper 2 – Budget in Brief

This paper is divided by type of service to the public, and can be short on detail especially on small initiatives. It never, ever talks about bad news.

Initiatives are grouped under press-friendly headers like “More and Better Jobs” or “Better Support when it Matters”. These titles can give an idea as to what the Government’s priority might be in approving that initiative, but they cut across all kinds of activity so any category may have arts implications.

It’s worth browsing each category to learn what the Government’s priorities are and what language they use to describe them. These categories appear in the next section as well. Key expenses are localised on the Town Centre Map.

Budget Paper 3 – Budget Outlook

The real budget. “Announcements” live in the New Initiatives chapter and if you want to skip to the good bits, head there straight away.

Going chapter by chapter:

1. Economic Performance, Outlook & Strategy

High level analysis of major trends such as demographics, housing, employment. No arts details.

2. Fiscal Strategy

The guiding principles and influences the Government has applied in making its decisions, eventually expressed as a summary of the cost of living for various hypothetical Canberrans. No arts details.

3. New Initiatives

Here’s the main event. Head straight to the Summary of expenses by portfolio (Previously at Table 3.2.2)

This summarises all “Initiatives” – new activity spending introduced to this year’s Budget, projected over the coming four years.

Most arts initiatives will be included in the CMTEDD section, as well as under Cultural Facilities Corporation. Other arts opportunities could be elsewhere if they are delivered by other directorates – for instance, arts and health could be a Health initiative. Titles here are brief. This is all the new money. Negatives are either cuts or savings.

Each line has a corresponding detail breakdown entry in the following pages which explains what the initiative is in a sentence or two. This is what the funding will be used for.

Next take a look at Infrastructure and capital initiatives (Previously at Table 3.3.2)

Here is the summary of new infrastructure and capital initiatives for this year’s budget. As above it shows a four year projection, which can help to understand when a project is expected to be finished.

Once again, each item has an entry in the following pages with a sentence or two, which goes into more detail about when the capital is being invested, when depreciation commences, and any offsets (say, no longer having to hire the equipment, more efficient running costs, or if funded through the Better Infrastructure Fund for new improvements to existing infrastructure).

4. Expenses

A high level overview of major influences on expenses. The closest thing we have here is “Recreation and culture” which is not detailed enough to learn much from. That said, we probably don’t want to see any arts activity mentioned under “Savings”.

5. Capital Works

This section has a summary of new capital works – building projects – which might include arts facilities, but is not an exhaustive list, unlike the initiatives section. Works in progress also appear here in summary, but for full detail see the Appendix – Capital Works – Works-In-Progress.

6. Revenue

Levies, taxes and service charges. No arts details.

7. Federal Financial Relations

National Partnership Payments are Federal Government programs delivered via the ACT Government. At least recently, no arts details, but details of Federal arts projects could conceivably show up here.

8. Asset and Liability Management

The Government’s assessment of the value of its assets and liabilities at a high level including things like Territory debt, investments, loans and superannuation. No arts items.

9. GGS Harmonised Financial Statements

The ACT’s formal, standardised financial statements. Table 9.10 includes a breakdown of General Government Sector expenses by function, one of which is “Cultural Facilities and Services”, which may be worth comparing to previous year’s estimates for big shifts. “n.e.c” means “not elsewhere classified”.

10. Appendices

Further background information, some of which can be important.

Capital Works – Works In Progress shows ongoing projects, which may have changed in scope. Current end dates are shown, which can be relevant to know when arts infrastructure is coming online.

Details about changed budgets for capital projects – up, down, sooner or later – are now only found in the separate Budget Statements A-H so look there for more details.


Budget Statements A-H

These are a detailed breakdown of the budget, sorted by Directorate.

The most relevant of these is Budget Statement B – CMTEDD.

ArtsACT/Events ACT funding is included under the CMTEDD section, and the Cultural Facilities Corporation has its own section.

This document summarises priorities and may give some background to items included within the Budget Outlook.

It also has the closest thing to an annual ACT “arts budget”.

It shows the targets and KPIs that the Government has set for its arts program outputs. In 2017-18 these were Output 3.5: “Arts Engagement” and include total cost of Arts Engagement. Comparing to previous years is a reasonable gauge of increases or decreases to arts funding. Output 3.4: “Events” may also be useful to compare between years.

Controlled Recurrent Payments” in these sections means the amount that Territory Entities (in this case artsACT) receive for the delivery of services (including passing money on as grants to artists and organisations), and “Total Cost” is the sum of all expenses for those entities.

Basically, the payments are the slice of the budget going to different bits of the government as income so they can operate. The Total Cost is all their expenses. Scroll down a bit for another example – the Cultural Facilities Corporation’s operating budget from the Territory is its “Controlled Recurrent Payment”, while its “Total Cost” is all its expenses including employees, operating costs, and depreciation of assets.

There is also a table of key targets that artsACT will be aiming to achieve in the coming year.

Changes to Appropriation details all variations to the budget made in the previous year, and impacts of new policies. Significant changes should be identifiable in the Budget Outlook. This section also details budgets shifting between Directorates when responsibilities change.

Cultural Facilities Corporation’s section is self-contained and has a breakdown of their key activities, future priorities, employment levels, any new expenditure projects, and an operating statement. For structural reasons, the CFC posts a loss each year roughly equivalent to their depreciation expense, and where Theatre trading performs ahead of the budgeted loss this is added to the Theatre Reserve.

That’s all, folks

That about wraps it up!

I’m hopeful we’ll see some good stuff in the Budget this year, both for artsACT funded activity by artists and arts orgs, maybe some more detail on the festivals and events promised before the last election, and maybe even seeing the ball start rolling for the Cultural Facilities Corporation and their long-awaited new theatre.

Tuesday 5 June is the day to watch. I hope this was helpful, and if you have any questions, or anything you spot that I’ve missed, let us know!


Childers Group submission into the National Inquiry into Canberra’s National Cultural Institutions

8 May 2018

Committee Secretary
Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories
PO Box 6021
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: +61 2 6277 4355
Fax: +61 2 6277 4863


National Inquiry into Canberra’s National Cultural Institutions

Childers Group Submission


The Australian Government’s major cultural institutions have clearly defined roles and responsibilities set out in their guiding legislation. They play significant leadership roles beyond collecting and exhibiting material – roles that are often not clearly understood. They have very specific requirements to enable effective and innovative operation, including a body of highly specialised staff with long-established national and international professional networks that contribute to the successful implementation of programs addressing each of the issues contained in the terms of reference.

These highly specialised institutions are very different from government departments, which have much more room to adjust to major funding cuts, and especially to the application of ‘efficiency dividends’. The issues identified in the Terms of Reference are ones with which they have been grappling for the last two decades. However, in the strategic and funding context in which they have been operating, including the mounting impacts of a cumulative ‘efficiency dividend’, such efforts have only partially reduced an ongoing decline in services.

The Childers Group* makes the following observations under each of the Terms of Reference.

1. Creating a strong brand and online presence:

Digital demands and the knowledge economy: These responsibilities have been expanded by the changing demands of the digital world and the public expectations of ever-broader access to their collections, knowledge and expertise. As custodians of significant reservoirs of publicly owned content, they also have an important role to play in the new clean and clever industries of the future that comprise the growing knowledge economy.

 The national cultural institutions have been leaders in recognising the future in this changing economic climate by clever branding and promotion of their online presence. All have demonstrated innovation and world-leading initiatives in digitising and presenting their collections, providing scholarly insights into those collections, and in making their precious heritage accessible to all Australians.

The potential for growth in the knowledge economy was detailed in an early report from 2003 by the then Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. The report, Economic benefits from cultural assets, was one phase of the three-part Creative Industries Cluster Study, and it outlined the significant economic potential the vast collections of cultural institutions offered for development of high quality digital content. It also highlighted the barriers to this potential being unlocked, including the ongoing need for large-scale digitisation of collections. We recommend that the review panel takes account of these recommendations when considering the future of the national cultural institutions and their ability to meet these expectations.

 2. Experimenting with new forms of public engagement and audience participation:

It is essential that the cultural institutions do their job as well as possible with whatever resources they have, and that their job is seen as a broad one, relevant to the widest possible range of Australians. A pertinent example is the work being undertaken by organisations such as the National Library of Australia, in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages organisations, to identify languages material amongst their records. It is likely that they will keep on doing what they do as best they can. At some point though, we will start to see the long-term effects of ongoing funding cuts on important programs such as this.

Soft diplomacy: In the increasingly interconnected international environment, the role of the major cultural institutions in soft diplomacy – recognised so clearly by Asian governments like China, with their grasp of the long term role of cultural bodies – has expanded, not diminished.

 As in so many other areas, such as Australia’s support for intangible cultural heritage both here and in the Pacific and Asian regions, the major cultural institutions pick up the slack and carry the torch for Australia, often in the absence of others in this space occupied by the government.

3. Conducting outreach outside Canberra:

Outreach and presence in the ACT: It is a given that the national cultural institutions’ focus is a national one, but one of our concerns is that this includes a role in engaging with Canberra – the ACT is just one of many states and territories that needs to be equitably engaged with.

Because of the physical location of most of these institutions, there are opportunities for them to leverage off the local arts and cultural environment that can both benefit Canberra but also enhance the effectiveness of the institutions nationally. For example, visitors to large blockbuster exhibitions are much more able to augment their visitor experience when a wide-ranging, dynamic cultural milieu exists locally, so their visit is a richer and more stimulating one. This increases the likelihood of longer and repeat visits to Canberra, which is both the national capital and also an important regional and local centre, stretching well into western and southern NSW.

It is a symbiotic relationship, because in some ways the institutions provide enhanced services to the ACT simply by being here, but the local community in turn provides a base of support and patronage – a critical mass – that enhances the national role of these institutions.

4 & 5. Cultivating private sector support and developing other income streams:

The compounding effect of continuous budget cuts:  In Budgets over many years there have been a suite of cuts which, combined and continued over a sustained period, are having a compounding effect far more damaging than first appears. These include cuts to government agencies, practised also by previous governments, such as ‘efficiency dividends’ and a pause to indexation of program funding, freezing funding so it no longer increases to reflect inflation.

These cuts, having an impact that has been steadily ramping uphave been exacerbated by the outcomes in Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlooks. To put this in perspective, institutions had been struggling with the base rate 1% annual ‘efficiency dividend’ but various ‘temporary’ increases at different times have just exacerbated and magnified the problem.

The reality of what might look like small percentage increases is that they are cumulative, like a reverse form of compound interest. Each percentage cut is a percentage cut on a cut, which is a cut on every cut before it. If individuals tried this exercise with their savings they would quickly see how rapidly they evaporate.

The whole notion of an ‘efficiency dividend’ for these bodies is highly questionable. As noted above, cultural institutions inevitably find their responsibilities, their collections and their programs growing as they expand their outreach and consolidate their roles. They rely on finding their efficiency savings to fund these expanded roles, not to siphon them back to consolidated revenue.

It is clear that the national cultural institutions have not been responsible for the blowout of the budget – they are collateral damage. They’ve been living within their means, even though these means have been cut back again and again under governments of both major parties. It appears from the wording of the Terms of Reference that there is an expectation by the government that none of these cuts will ever be reversed, even when the budget is back in surplus. If this is so, this damage will be permanent and ongoing, leaving the national cultural institutions without the means to meet any of the expectations outlined in the Terms of Reference.

6. Ensuring the appropriateness of governance structures

Lack of strategic policy framework: When there is no clear cultural policy framework or set of strategic principles guiding budget cuts to these institutions, we see continual cutting with no clear rationale. Flexibility is an excellent thing. The problem is that ad hoc policy on the run is no substitute for carefully thought through changes, so that even genuine attempts to find savings or increase efficiencies don’t really ever succeed.

This is part of the problem identified in November 2015 by former Treasury heads, Ken Henry and Martin Parkinson. In their view, decades of Government outsourcing and waves of redundancies have left much of the nation’s public service unable to provide proper and effective advice to politicians and voters, with growing doubts about the ability of government to solve national problems. In a damning assessment of the state of the public service after years of political turmoil in Canberra they warned that the abilities of the bureaucracy have been dangerously degraded. As Ken Henry commented, ‘I seriously doubt there is any serious policy development going on in most government departments’.

In this context, the national cultural institutions have managed well, and have put in place stringent and appropriate governance structures, evidenced by their leadership roles in innovative outreach programs, digitisation of collections and scholarly research. However, while low funding levels and ‘efficiency dividends’ continue to threaten their stability and their ability to live up to the expectations of governments and the public, governments risk undermining our country’s most precious cultural heritage, a cultural heritage that belongs to all of us, not just to governments.

Undervaluing role of government and public service:

We have a climate in which one of our greatest national resources – the public service, and in particular the national cultural institutions – are increasingly undervalued, and in which public servants are not encouraged to think strategically or in policy terms. This is particularly the case when there are influential views within Government strongly opposed to any significant role for government in many areas. This results in a decline in any kind of rational, systematic support for our national cultural institutions, particularly in a time of cost-cutting. The practical implications are that serious mistakes are made by government – and they are unlikely to be able to be undone.

The long-term impact of these cumulative mistakes will be major and unexpected, magnifying over time as each small change reinforces the others. In three years, six years, nine years, Australians will ask where valued and important programs have gone and how critical institutions have managed to diminish to the point where return will not be possible. The risk is that this will lead to irreversible damage to the contemporary culture and cultural heritage of the nation at a crucial crossroads in its history.

We know that the issues identified in the Terms of Reference are important priorities for the national cultural institutions, but it is unfortunate that they are having to function by compensating for reduced resources, when adequate resourcing would so dramatically achieve magnified reach and impact. Moreover, for these important areas of activity to be continued, let alone expanded, they will need significant resourcing in their own right.
Stephen Cassidy, on behalf of the Childers Group


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

  • independence;
  • objectivity;
  • valuing the arts;
  • pride in Australia’s national capital city and the surrounding region.
  • Emphasising the importance of research and evaluation in demonstrating the broad value of the arts.


We work closely with other arts and culture organisations around Australia to make the case for the value of arts and culture.









ACT Arts Minister Gordon Ramsay’s speech at the ARTS VALUE FORUM

Thank you to the 100+ participants at last month’s Arts Value Forum which Childers Group presented in partnership with the Cultural Facilities Corporation. There were some fantastic presentations, conversations and connections made.. We will be posting material from the Forum as it comes to hand.

ACT Arts Minister Gordon Ramsay’s speech at the ARTS VALUE FORUM

The arts in an inclusive society

I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, the Ngunnawal people, and their elders past, present and emerging. I acknowledge their care for this land and their strong ongoing contribution to this community. I acknowledge the presence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here today and commit myself to ongoing acts of reconciliation with our nation’s First Peoples.

Let me start with a simple idea. I am committed to making Canberra a stronger place, where “everyone belongs, everyone is valued, everyone can participate”. And this is every bit as important in my role as Minister for Arts and Community Events as it is for my work as Attorney-General, or as Minister for Veterans and Seniors.

A significant focus for me as Arts Minister is inclusion. I am strongly interested in asking the questions about

  • who is making art in the ACT, and who is not, and why?
  • who is engaging in the Arts in the ACT, and who is not, and why?
  • what are the barriers, real and perceived, to participation?
  • and what do the Arts contribute to the life of our city and the lives of its inhabitants?

Arts and culture are an integral part of the lives of both individuals and the social and economic fabric of Canberra and our region. The arts help to define our community’s identity and give expression to community values. They help make our city a vibrant place to live and an attractive destination for tourism and business.

For me, participation is key: if creative expression is one of the core ways that human beings connect with others, share their stories, and explore our souls, we should be ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the Arts and not only as consumers but as creators as well. Because art not only produces things of beauty and challenges us to see the world differently – it also plays an important role in health, fitness and wellbeing.

We need to aim to foster the cultural capability of all its citizens, acknowledging that “art” comprises not only the work of artists and creative industries, but also the “everyday creativity” we are all capable of.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our community, this impetus to create art is even more interconnected with the expression of identity and culture: it expresses history, geography, law, kinship, and spirituality, and is essential to health, wholeness, and the intergenerational transference of cultural knowledge and practices.

We know that Canberrans are strongly engaged with arts and culture: we go to galleries, museums, and music, dance and theatre performances substantially more often than in other areas of Australia

If the ability to access the arts   and the capability to make art   are inherently important to human wellbeing and community, we must ensure we are fostering cultural democracy – providing the places, spaces, empowerment, and resources – the capability – for everyone to engage with the creative process in whatever way brings added fulfillment their lives.

This is why we need genuine inclusion in the arts.

We know that inclusion in the Arts occurs when three things are present:

  1. access – where the physical, social and psychological barriers to participation are removed;
  2. representation – where the diversity of our community is reflected in our art and artists; and
  3. inclusive culture – where buildings, programs, events, funding, and resourcing are focused on people first as creative beings with a right to participate in the arts.

In Canberra we have so many arts organisations at the forefront of global best practice in inclusion.

Earlier this year, my office hosted an ANU Intern, Chloe Thompson, who conducted a research project on community inclusion in the Arts in the ACT. I’d like to share a few of the excellent examples she identified of local arts organisations that are breaking down of barriers to participation:

  • QL2’s, “Licence to Dance”, is aimed at helping boys overcome the gendered assumption that boys don’t dance by providing male role models and creating a safe space to explore movement.
  • Belconnen Arts Centre’s hip hop music program, “Talk Blak”, invites young people, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and migrant youth, to tell their stories through music, and developing song writing and performance skills. At the same time the program is building confidence, resilience, and leadership, while creating positive social engagement.
  • CSO’s, “Meet the Music” breaks down the barrier between audience and orchestra, providing relaxed, interactive performances where the traditional, often intimidating, notions of “attending a concert” are set aside. The CSO also offers an innovative program for people with impaired hearing to experience music in unconventional ways.
  • You are Here puts accessibility at the forefront and not just in terms of physical access. Detailed information is provided about whether events are primarily audio or visual in nature; audio descriptions and video captioning are provided; carers and companions are specifically accommodated; and performances adopt a relaxed philosophy that means the audience can come and go and move about as needed.
  • And the Belconnen and Tuggeranong Arts Centres host world-class programs in dance for people with Multiple Sclerosis, Dementia and Parkinsons, where a healthy mind-body connection is fostered through mobility, creativity, balance, rhythm, and flexibility in a friendly, social environment that is also inclusive of partners and carers.

More broadly, the ACT’s community arts organisations provide programs for children, social interaction through their coffee shops and member services, and launch pads for young and emerging artists.  They exhibit a broad range of visual and performance art, and they foster the everyday creativity of our broader community.

Simply imagine …

  • people chatting on the footpath watching a piece of street art take shape during Art Not Apart;
  • people trying the “Make your Own” experience at the Glassworks;
  • people sharing a cup of coffee and browsing the library in Photo Access’s communal spaces;
  • families creating and launching kites together at the BAC Spring Winds festival;
  • or a hundred ordinary Canberrans coming together for a Kate Bush dance flash mob in Glebe Park two weekends ago.

These are the places and the spaces where art provokes conversation and everyday creativity happens, where people are invited and enabled to express themselves through art and experience greater social connectedness, improved health and wellbeing, and find a sense of individual and collective identity.

With accessible and inclusive arts facilities and programs, we can create a Canberra where everyone belongs, everyone is valued, everyone can participate – through art.

The ACT is clearly a leader in community inclusion in the arts but we can and should strive to always do better. This is something I will remain strongly focused on as your Arts Minister and I will always welcome and celebrate new initiatives that continue to foster cultural democracy and a truly inclusive arts scene.


Arts Value Forum Video Presentations

Thank you to the 100+ participants at last month’s Arts Value Forum which Childers Group presented in partnership with the Cultural Facilities Corporation. There were some fantastic presentations, conversations and connections made.. We will be posting material from the Forum as it comes to hand.

Check out video of some of the presentations from the #ArtsValueForum commencement panel online via Arts Front here:


Kathy Leigh’s Welcome


Kate Fielding’s Keynote presentation


Natasha Cica’s presentation


Jenni Kemarre Martiniello’s presentation is here


Announcing: Arts Value Forum – July 26th 2017

What exactly do the arts do for us: for our society, for our economy, for our health and wellbeing, for innovation, for education, for self-expression – and for the creation of beautiful and useful things? How do we understand, express and measure the value of the arts?

Leading experts and practitioners in health, economics, culture and the arts will gather in Canberra next month to share insights on the diverse impact and value of the arts in our community.

The Arts Value Forum – 12.30 till 6pm on Wednesday July 26th 2017 at the Canberra Theatre Centre – is being jointly convened by arts advocacy body The Childers Group and the Cultural Facilities Corporation.

The forum’s keynote speaker is Kalgoorlie-Boulder based Kate Fielding, the Chair of Regional Arts Australia and a Board Member of the Australia Council for the Arts.

A line up of twenty speakers in plenary and parallel sessions include Minister for the Arts and Community Events, Gordon Ramsay, award-winning local Indigenous artist, Jenni Kemarre Martiniello, creative sector specialist, CEO and Director of Heide Museum of Modern Art, Natasha Cica, and Kareena Arthy, the new head of the ACT Government’s Enterprise Canberra.

12.30pm – 6pm Wednesday July 26th 2017, Canberra Theatre Centre

Tickets are $110 (full price) and $88 (concession). Please note, the ticket price has been calculated to recover costs of travel, fees, catering, production costs and other event expenses. 

There are bursaries available – see the Eventbrite site for more info.

Tickets here:

Arts Value Forum_Flyer

Arts Value Forum program

Arts value forum speakers bios

ACT Budget and Election and the Arts Community takes Action!!

In the days before Christmas last year, the ACT Government announced the lowest level of funding for arts projects in living memory. From around $1.1M in 2005, artACT’s Project Funding category has been reduced to just $300,000 per year. After action taken by the ACT Arts Community the new Minister for the Arts, Gordon Ramsay, announced an additional $230,000 would be allocated to the Project Funding Round and that hopefully 13 more projects would receive funding.

A positive action by the new Minister.

And what has the Childers Group been doing? Well prior to the Project Funding announcement we’ve been busy with the ACT Budget process over the year and the ACT Assembly election.


ACT Government Budget Process : 2016 and 2017

Since 2012 the Childers Group has been involved in the ACT budget process. As part of that we submitted a detailed submission to ACT Treasury as part of the 2016/17 Budget process. A request for an additional $500,000 was made, specifically for Project funding.

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.

In September 2016, the Childers Group released an analysis ( done by Jack Lloyd) 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 and this data was presented by Childers Group representatives to ACT Budget Estimates on June 17th.

A link to that analysis can be found at :

A link to the Estimates appearance can be found at :

In December 2016, the Childers Group submitted another detailed submission as part of the 2017/2018 Budget process.

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 one of the most liveable cities in the world. 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 and surrounding regions, we must be courageous and imaginative in ensuring these opportunities grow with us.

A key recommendation of our submission was :


The Childers Group strongly advocates that the increase of an extra $750,000 per year for the ACT Arts Fund that was committed to by ACT Labor during the recent election process be allocated in the 2017-2018 Budget.

The 2016 ACT Election :

The Childers Group was active during the ACT Election process. In February, we held a very successful forum at Gorman House attended by the arts spokespeople for Labor, Liberal and the Greens. Just prior to the election the Childers Group released 3 videos on our Facebook page with the arts and cultural policies of the major parties.

The Childers Group (and the sector) were delighted to learn that the ALP pledged an additional $750,000 for arts funding. It appeared our advocacy and consultations with artsACT and government had been successful.

A Disappointing end to 2016 :

The announcement (five days before Christmas) of a 66% reduction in 2017 Project Funding for arts projects rocked the arts community. An extensive advocacy program resulted.

Several excellent blogs and articles quickly appeared:

Helen Musa :

Katie Burgess at the Canberra Times :

Michael Sollis (convenor) , along with 40 artists met at the Street Theatre on 22nd December and arranged a delegation to meet with the Minister.

Coming out of that meeting a letter signed by 60 independent artists was sent to Minister Ramsay. In it they said :

“Project Funding ensures that there is diverse and vibrant arts activity, and provides opportunities for career and artistic development. Project Funding is also an essential and cost-effective way to inject much- needed resources into a diverse cross-section of the arts in the ACT and to ensure its sustainability. Given only a handful of projects are able to be supported by the Government in 2017, next year is now looking to be an “un-vibrant” year for Canberra arts.”

The Childers Group also wrote to Minister Ramsay and the Chief Minister. In it we said

“The Childers group believes it is essential that individual artists and groups continue to receive an appropriate level of ACT Government funding if we are to see innovative, professional and engaging arts flourish in, and add considerable value to, Australia’s national capital. This reduction in funding is unfathomable and unwise. It runs counter to all the positive goals the government is striving for in outr region. Please consider an urgent review of this decision.

A Positive outcome to the Funding cut

The Childers Group met with the Minister in late January and overall it was a constructive meeting. Many issues were covered. He made a strong commitment to honour the Labor election promises, so we can expect to see the $750k in this year’s budget.

On the 1st February the Minister announced a further $230,000 had been allocated to the Project Funding Round. There is no doubt that the action taken by the ACT Arts Community ( lead by Michael Sollis ) has led to this outcome. Well done to all those concerned.

Also congratulations to Minister Ramsay for making this positive step forward in his new portfolio. The Childers Group looks forward to building a good relationship with him over the life of this Assembly.

As part of our general arts advocacy program for this year the Childers Group is planning to meet with all the new Assembly MLA’s over the first half of this year. We have had positive meetings already with Vicki Dunne ( Liberal ) and Caroline Le Couteur ( Greens).

The work by the Childers Group will continue as no doubt, will the strong advocacy of independent artists and arts workers across the ACT and our region

It’s important to add your voice.



ACT Election arts & culture policy videos online now!

The Childers Group coordinator, Jack Lloyd, posed 5 questions to 3 of the potential candidates for the Arts portfolio in the ACT. See their responses on our public Facebook page. It’s great to see arts and culture being thought about, discussed, passionately defended, and ideas flying about in social media and in the news. Go to to join the discussion, and you can read a summary below.screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-7-42-12-pm

Take a closer look – ACT Arts Grants, 2003 to 2015

The Childers Group thought it was time to re-share this info to sharpen our focus as we lead up to the ACT Election. (Bravo and a big thank you to Jack Lloyd for this work.)

The Childers Group 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.

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 graphs are available here, the full analysis and notes are available for download in excel format here – we invite any corrections or further contributions, comments, 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.