The Childers Group 2021-2022 Budget Submission

For nine years the Childers Group has been contributing to the development of the ACT budget through ACT Treasury’s budget consultation process.

The Childers Group welcomes the opportunity to provide input into the 2021-2022 ACT Government Budget development process.

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

  • independence;
  • objectivity;
  • valuing the arts; and
  • pride in Australia’s national capital city and the surrounding region.

The Group has delivered yearly forums, involved MLA representation from the three main political parties, held a variety of meetings with stakeholders such as the Cultural Facilities Corporation and advocated our ideas with the ACT Government, the Federal Government, and the Australia Council for the Arts.

Consequently, what follows is informed, considered, and situated in a national policy context.

Covid19 : The Childers Group particularly would like to acknowledge the swift action that the Government took in relation to additional funding made available for the arts throughout the early stages of the Covid 19 pandemic. The Homefront program and support given to our Key Arts Organisations was crucial and has been greatly appreciated by the sector.


  • A brief summary of our submission.

The Childers Group acknowledges the Government’s ongoing support for the arts and 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 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.

With the adoption of the ACT Government’s Wellbeing Framework Childers Group believes that the arts can play a central role in bringing the framework into focus and can generate real measurable returns for the arts investment.

What more can the ACT Government do to improve community well-being in Canberra?

The Wellbeing Framework

In relation to development by government of the ACT Wellbeing Framework, Childers Group strongly believes that investment in the arts and culture is a positive way forward to improving community wellbeing. Across the 12 Domains of the Framework the arts can play a significant role.

Research done by the Canberra based arts, creativity and culture research think tank A New Approach (ANA) ( ) clearly shows :

“…when a considered effort is made to direct cultural and creative activities towards improving social cohesion , the impacts are significant including :

  • building feelings of community belonging and trust, enhancing empathy and inclusion
  • help in combating the growing issues of loneliness and isolation.
  • increasing civic participation and making cities, suburbs and regions more liveable
  • help individuals and communities recover from disasters and trauma”.

In relation to building a healthier Australia ANA research has shown that :

  • “engagement with arts and cultural activities reduces health risks particularly for mental health
  • arts and cultural tools have also been successfully used to improve outcomes in terms of both prevention and treatment of physical illnesses and diseases.
  • the arts can improve in-patient outcomes, can improve recovery from long term conditions, can reduce dementia risk and can improve elderly quality of life.”

Community Arts and Cultural work along the lines mentioned above is already being successfully done in programs run by Belconnen and Tuggeranong Arts Centres. This work needs to be expanded.

Where are our arts programs in our prison, our hospitals, our walk-in health centres, our senior citizen homes? Where are our arts programs that work with youth at risk? What are the needs of our Indigenous community and what are they saying is important for their wellbeing and how can the arts assist in that?

Childers Group would argue that in relation to the 12 Domains of the Framework the question should be : How can the Arts be used to reach the aspirations for wellbeing in each area??

What are your top three priorities for the COVID-19 economic recovery?

Coming out of the challenges that have impacted on the Canberra arts sector ( job losses, venue closures ) due to the Covid19 pandemic, our Key Arts Organisations face a crucial time ahead for the next few years.

Covid 19 recovery should include clearer communication on arts organisation funding timelines and structure. The sector is still being left in the lurch about what will happen next year (2022) which is very unsettling in already unsettling times.

Every Canberran should have access to the key arts organisations to inspire and engage them. Every Canberran artist should have a key arts organisation that will support them to grow and develop. And every visitor to Canberra should be able to find the key arts organisation that invites them to share in the wonderful cultural life of our city.


The Childers Group notes that the KAO’S funding agreements are being brought into alignment, starting in 2022, and that this will offer the ACT Government an unprecedented opportunity to maintain a network of key arts organisations that provides comprehensive cultural services to the Territory, across geography, artform and level of practice. Because of the fragility of the arts sector this alignment needs to be done with sensitivity and good consultation.


As result of the impact of Covid19 the Childers Group encourages the ACT Government to continue to fund the stability of our ACT’s Key Arts Organisations to fulfil their potential and support their sustainable growth.


The Childers Group analysis of arts grants in the ACT shows that there still is an ongoing significant decline in ACT arts grants on a per capita basis, and as a proportion of funds available to Government. This is also happening on a national basis as reported in the first research paper prepared by the independent arts think tank A New Approach. The paper noted declines in Federal and State Funding to the Arts but noted that the one level where there was an increase was in the Local Council area. Unfortunately, the ACT does not have this level of funding.

It is Childers Group understanding that if 2021-2022 arts activity were funded at an equivalent proportion of Total ACT Government Revenue as in 2004-05, total grants to the arts would be increased by around $2,500,000.

The Covid 19 Boost : Special Funding Increase for the Arts Activities Funding – $5000-$50000 sector

The “small to medium” company and independent individual artist sector of the grants funding process is the engine room for the growth of exciting and new arts activities in the ACT. The Homefront Program was a great success and large numbers of previously unfunded artists came forward seeking funding for arts projects.

These projects reveal where our new artists and our great “new works and companies” are created and it is Childers view that this needs to continue to grow.

Currently around $700,000 is put aside to develop this area. The Childers Group calls for this to be increased to $1,500,00 for the 2021-2022 Budget and budgets into the future. We recommend that this amount be earmarked for the 5K-50K arts rounds.

Involvement and funding should prioritise local artists in major ACT large events, eg. Floriade/Enlighten and other festivals. Opportunity to apply for these should be made earlier and more open for our local artists.


The Childers Group strongly advocates for an increase of an extra $4,000,000 into the Arts Portfolio for the 2020-21 Budget.



Currently, the arts are not adequately integrated within policymaking or service delivery at a whole of government level. For comparison, there are existing strategic objectives to achieve ‘higher than average participation in sport and physical and recreational activities.

No such strategic objective has been stated for the Arts. Cultural Tourism would appear to be an obvious inclusion given the strategic importance and economic benefits of cultural tourism to the region.

Childers Group understands that a Whole of Government Working Group on the Arts has been established but isn’t aware of any reports/strategic directions coming from it. Reports from this Group would be useful for the arts community.


Childers Group recommends that the ACT Government establish links between Government Directorates to maximize Arts Development in the ACT and region and that the Government should commit to incorporating clear Strategic Objectives for the Arts and Cultural sector within the ACT Government’s Budget Objectives.

The Childers Group looks forward to engaging with government over our Budget Submission in the next few months.

Yours Sincerely

Michael White

On behalf of the Childers Group

June 2021