14/09/2015 - 16:29

Arts groups in funding limbo

14/09/2015 - 16:29


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WA’s arts sector is fighting uncertainty over changes to federal funding with a united approach.

Arts groups in funding limbo
SATIRE: One of Black Swan’s productions, the satirical comedy Dinner. Photo: Gary Marsh Photography

WA’s arts sector is fighting uncertainty over changes to federal funding with a united approach.

The funding outlook for small to medium arts organisations in Western Australia remains unclear after the federal government’s surprise move to reallocate $105 million in the May budget.

Unannounced before the budget, Arts Minister George Brandis shifted $105 million from the Australia Council for the Arts to a new fund directly under ministerial control – the National Program for Excellence in the Arts.

Chamber of Arts and Culture WA executive director Henry Boston told Business News funding for major organisations had essentially been quarantined under the minister’s new entity, causing concern for the small to medium organisations.

As it stands, WA’s arts sector is united in its opposition to the changes, now subject to a Senate inquiry, but that collective position could fracture if and when organisations are forced to compete with each other for funds.

Mr Boston said smaller groups were facing changes, including having to compete for a pool of money made 30 per cent smaller because of the shift in funds, and switching from six-year funding programs to four.

The proposed changes appear to open the possibility for major organisations to apply for the reduced funding pool available to small to medium organisations, leading to concerns of an internecine showdown, to the detriment of the entire sector.

Black Swan State Theatre Group is one of WA’s major arts organisations to have thrown its support behind smaller organisations. It’s understood Black Swan believes it’s too early to speculate about the possibility major groups may be tempted to apply for additional funding.

Mr Boston agreed it was difficult to tell what might eventuate.

“I think each organisation will have to address that dilemma … will need to wrestle with that,” he said.

On one point, however, WA’s arts organisations are clear.

Dozens of local groups presented at the Senate inquiry’s recent visit to Perth, highlighting the interconnectivity of the local arts sector, raising concerns funding problems for some could negatively affect the sector as a whole.

Mr Boston said while the WA’s arts sector had previously complained of receiving only 7 per cent of federal arts and culture funding despite representing 11 per cent of the population, the recent changes had made things worse.

“The Australia Council addressed some of the concerns we had, however, when (Arts Minister) Brandis stepped in ... the Australia Council’s ability to respond to the sector in terms of these changes was compromised because it suddenly had 28 to 30 per cent less money available,” he said.


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