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65 arts organisations lose funding from Australia Council

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Deborah Stone

More than half the applicants failed to receive organisational support from the Australia Council's four-year funding round, and 65 previously-funded organisations no longer have funding.
65 arts organisations lose funding from Australia Council

Image: Legs on the Wall

The Australia Council has chosen to fund 43 new organisations among the 128 arts organisations to have received four year funding, but rejected applications from dozens of established arts organisations. There were 262 applications for the funding round.

More than one third of the 147 organisations who previously received organisational funding now have no operational funding from the Federal Government.

Twelve of the 147 organisations chose not to reapply for this funding round. Eighty-two received funding, and 53 applied and were refused.

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Among the organisations no longer funded are:

  • Arena Theatre (Melbourne)
  • AsiaLink (Melbourne)
  • Ausdance (national)
  • Australian Design Centre (Sydney)
  • Australian Experimental Art Foundation (Adelaide)
  • Black Arm Band (Melbourne)
  • Brink Productions (Adelaide)
  • Canberra Contemporary Art Space (Canberra)
  • Centre for Contemporary Photography (Melbourne)
  • Contemporary Art Centre South Australia (Adelaide)
  • Cultural Partnerships Australia (Newcastle)
  • Express Media (Melbourne)
  • Force Majeure (Sydney) 
  • KAGE Physical Theatre (Melbourne)
  • Legs on the Wall (Sydney)
  • Meanjin (Melbourne)
  • Mosman Art Gallery (Sydney)
  • National Association for the Visual Arts (based in Sydney)
  • Next Wave Festival (Melbourne)
  • PACT centre for emerging artists (Sydney)
  • Phillip Adams Ballet Lab (Melbourne)
  • Red Stitch Actors' Theatre (Melbourne)
  • Slingsby (Adelaide)
  • Snuff Puppets (Melbourne)
  • Synergy (Sydney)
  • Taikoz (Sydney)
  • Theatre Works (Melbourne)
  • Vitalstatistix (Adelaide)
  • Wangaratta Festival of Jazz (regional Victoria)

A full list of organisations that have been funded is at the base of this article. The list of unfunded companies will be updated throughout the day.

The decline in the number of organisations funded is a result of the loss of $60 million over four years from the Australia Council budget. Of that, $12 million a year went to the Catalyst program.

The timing of the announcement will be particularly galling, as it comes in a week when the Federal Government took its Catalyst expenditure to almost twice as much as is budgeted. Catalyst  does not provide operational funding instead funding projects selected by the Ministry of the Arts.

Read: Government spends $12 m in mysterious Catalyst windfall

The losers

The lack of funding for basic operations in favour of project funding means many organisations now face an uncertain future and several are expected to close their doors. Some organisations ArtsHub spoke to last night said they were too devastated to discuss the situation on the record. Others said they were determined to fight on.

ArtsPeak spokesperson and Director of Theatre Network Nicole Beyer Australia said, 'This is an incredibly tough time for everyone in the arts sector. Information about the four year funding has been dribbling in over the last couple of days. We go from relief at the news of a company that has been successful to sadness when we hear of really vital and outstanding organisations that have missed out. Through all of it, we know that the Australia Council has been stretched. We know people will have been doing their very best in an incredibly difficult situation. There is a lot of support within the sector for those who missed out this time round and everyone understands it is no reflection on the quality or importance of their work.'

Kath Melbourne of Legs on the Wall said the company was a victim of 'political decisions behind closed doors' that had taken essential funds from the arts ecosystem. 'Sadly we are among many fine companies around the country, companies as strong in legacy and reputation as our 31 years has been, companies that have also not been funded.

She said ironically the loss has come when the company has had its most successful year in nearly a decade. 'Legs performed multiple sell out seasons, broadcast its work to remote areas, toured and opened up the company to diverse new voices and innovative ideas.'

Arena Theatre Executive Producer Lee Casey and Artistic Director Christian Leavesley said in a statement, 'Arena Theatre Company is devastated to not secure multi-year funding from the Australia Council for the Arts from 2017-2020 after 19 years of triennial funding. The cuts to the small to medium and independent arts sector are significant and will have a deep impact at all levels.

'We congratulate our friends and colleagues who have received funding, and offer commiseration and solidarity to those exceptional companies who have not, particularly those in the youth arts sector who serve such an important and diverse audience. 

'Arena is a robust organisation in its 50th year. The Company is reviewing its operations to adapt to these changes and to ensure that we continue to create inspiring and innovative theatre for young people.'

Australia Council explains

Australia Council CEO Tony Grybowski said the four -year funding model was designed to enable new organisations to access multi-year funding.  'This has been achieved with a third of the successful applicants not currently receiving multi-year funding and a diverse group of leading companies being successful again,' he said.

But he told ArtsHub he understood the disappointment in the sector. 'We always acknowledge there is unfunded excellence and in this particular round it was highly competitive and there were many excellent organisations that did not get funding.'

He said the four-year funding was only part of the arts ecology and that some of the unfunded companies have been and would be successful in project funding rounds at the Australia Council as well as from other sources which include councils, state governments and Catalyst.

Grybowski said decisions were not made on the basis of whether organisations had been previously funded but he was pleased that a third of the organisations were new.

'In our consultation that was a persistent theme - that we were were too locked down, too difficult to penetrate for the new.

'We are history-making. This is the first time we have been able to look at the sector as a whole. In realizing a culturally ambitious nation, it was critical that we looked at the whole sector. So much has changed. There are so many exciting new models.'

Read: Who are the new guard?

The Australia Council originally planned to make this funding round a six year allocation, a change designed to give arts organisations more sustainable funding as part of the revamped strategic plan under the previous Government.

But after the Council lost $104 million over four years in the May 2015 Budget, it was forced to cut its program to four-year funding. At that time, it predicted that only 20 to 40% of the organisations would be funded, which would have meant at best 58 organisations.

In December 2015 Minister Fifield returned $8 million a year to the Australia Council. Still $12 million a year, down the Council told industry representatives that it would now be able to fund 50 to 90 organisations.

With those predictions, 128 organisations, sounds like relief. But for the 65 organisations who no longer receive federal operational funding, the alternatives are few. Despite government attempts to increase sponsorship income, private funding of the arts is, at best, flat.

Labor Shadow Minister for the Arts Mark Dreyfus has said a Labor Government will return the lost funds to the Australia Council but Grybowski declined to say whether if Labor is returned on 3 July, the Australia Council will make additional multi-year operational funding available, saying the Council works with the government of the day. 

The problems are particularly acute for South Australian companies such as Slingsby and Vitalstatistix which are also facing massive cuts in state arts funding.

Read: State in crisis as arts funding cut looms

In response, the South Australian government has announced a series of measure to help arts companies, through Arts South Australia, including suspending the need for an investment or funding partner in 2017, for local arts organisations (in current multi-year funding terms) affected by the Australia Council’s four-year funding outcomes, to enable them the necessary time to review their business models and strategic plans and consider alternate pathways for the future.

'It’s unfortunate that the actions unleashed by former Federal Arts Minister Senator Brandis have amounted to the unilateral rupturing of the collaborative funding approach,' said Minister for the Arts Jack Snelling.

'Cutting Australia Council funding has undermined the established cooperation upon which State and Federal funding in Australia had existed. We, through Arts South Australia, will work with the arts sector, including major arts organisations, cultural leaders and the small to medium sector to explore strategies that may foster creative collaborations and sector partnerships that support organisations and enable the development and presentation of South Australian work,' he said.

A briefing for South Australian arts organisations is expected to be held in Adelaide today.

The winners

The Australia Council has allocated $112 million over four years to the successful organisations and for the winning organisations the news is good.

Grybowski said many of the newly funded organisations are doing exciting work with different models. He cited dynamic work in Western Sydney and the Northern Territory, the Yirra Yaakin Aboriginal Corporation, the Jam Factory and pvi collective as examples.

The average four year funding level is $219,000, compared with $157,000 under the previous program, with the range from $75,000 to $300,000.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations are big winners with 17 organisations funded. Also well-supported were regional and remote organisations, which received 25% of the funding.

Ten companies working with young people received funding, which will come as some relief after 10 of the 13 youth companies failed to receive funding in the December round.

Read: Australia Council withdraws support from youth theatre

The full list of four-year funded organisations  

Art Gallery of South Australia
Art Monthly Australia
Artback NT Arts Development and Touring Inc
Artlink Australia
Arts Access Australia Limited
Arts Access Society Inc
Artspace Visual Arts Centre Ltd
Asian Australian Artists Association Inc
Association of Northern Kimberley & Arnhem Aboriginal Artists
Australasian Performing Right Association Ltd (APRA) trading as Sounds Ausralia
Australian Art Orchestra Ltd
Australian Book Review Inc
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
Australian Children’s Performing Arts Company t/a Windmill
Australian Dance Theatre
Australian Music Centre Ltd
Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT)
Australian Script Centre
Australian String Quartet Inc
Australian Theatre for Young People
Back to Back Theatre Inc
Barking Gecko Theatre Company Ltd
Barkly Regional Arts Inc
Beyond Empathy Ltd
Biennale of Sydney Limited
BlakDance Australia Ltd
Board of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
Branch Nebula Incorporated
Brisbane Community Arts Centre Ltd
Brisbane Writers Festival Association Inc.
Brown's Mart Arts Limited
Cairns Indigenous Art Fair Limited
Campbelltown Arts Centre (t/u Campbelltown City Council)
Canberra Glassworks Limited
CarriageWorks Limited
Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association
Chunky Move Ltd
Circa
Community Arts Network Western Australia Ltd
Contemporary Art Tasmania
Corrugated Iron Youth Arts Inc
Craft ACT:Craft and Design Centre Inc
Crafts Council of Victoria Ltd
Creative Recovery Network Inc
Crossroad Arts Inc
Cultural Development Network Inc
Dance North (trading under North Queensland Ballet and Dance Company Limited)
Dancehouse Incorporated
Darwin Community Arts Incorporated
Desart Inc
Design Tasmania Limited
Eleanor Dark Foundation Ltd
Ensemble Offspring
Expressions The Queensland Dance Theatre Ltd
Eyeline Publishing Ltd
Feral Arts Corp Ltd
Firstdraft Incorporated
Footscray Community Arts Centre Ltd
Gadigal Information Service
Gertrude Contemporary
Griffin Theatre Company Limited
Griffith Review
HotHouse Theatre Limited
IAD Press t/u Institute for Aboriginal Development (Aboriginal Corporation)
Ilbijerri Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre Co-op
In The Pipeline (Arts) Ltd t/a New Musicals Australia & Hayes Theatre Co
Information and Cultural Exchange Inc (ICE)
Insite Arts International Pty Ltd ITF the Trustee for Insite Arts International Unit Trust
Institute of Modern Art Limited
JamFactory Contemporary Craft & Design Inc
Kickstart Arts Inc
Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre Aboriginal Corporation - KALACC
La Boite Theatre Inc
La Mama Inc (VIC)
Liquid Architecture Sound Inc
Lucy Guerin Association Inc
Magabala Books Aboriginal Corporation
Marrugeku Inc
Moogahlin Performing Arts Inc
Multicultural Arts Victoria Inc
Museum of Contemporary Art Limited
Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women s Council
NT Writers Centre Inc
O L Society Limited
Open City Incorporated
Outer Urban Projects Ltd
Patch Theatre Company Inc
Performing Arts Centre Society Inc
Performing Lines Limited
Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts Ltd
PlayWriting Australia
Polyglot Theatre Ltd
Powerhouse Youth Theatre Inc
PVI Collective Ltd
Queensland Art Gallery
Queensland Music Network Incorporated
Restless Dance Theatre Inc
Salamanca Arts Centre Inc
Shaun Parker & Company Ltd
Shopfront Theatre for Young People Co-operative Ltd
Somebody s Daughter Theatre Company Inc
Sound Alliance
South Australian Country Arts Trust
Speak Percussion
St Martins Youth Arts Centre
Sydney Writers’ Festival Ltd
Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute Inc.
Tasdance Ltd
Terrapin Puppet Theatre Ltd
The Performance Space Ltd
The Red Room Company Ltd
The Song Company Pty Ltd
Theatre Network Victoria Inc
Tracks Inc
Tura New Music Ltd
Umi Arts Ltd
University of Queensland Press
University of Western Sydney (Writing and Society Research Centre)
Urban Theatre Projects Ltd
Victorian Opera Company Ltd
Warburton Youth Arts Centre
West Space Incorporated
Wheeler Centre: Books Writing and Ideas
Yirra Yaakin Aboriginal Corporation

Minister responds

Update: The Minister for the Arts Senator Fifield released the following statement on 14 May.

'The Australia Council has increased its operational funding grants for small to medium arts organisations by $6 million per year, that is $28 million per year, up from $22 million. 

'As the Australia Council points out in its media release regarding today’s announcement, “It was always intended that slightly fewer companies would be funded at a higher level”.

'This strategic direction was developed by the Australia Council prior to last year’s federal budget. 

'The Australia Council’s funding contracts are for fixed terms, and are not in perpetuity. Four year funding rounds provide new organisations the opportunity to apply for funding in a competitive environment, based on the Council’s independent assessment. A third of those receiving funding are new organisations and a quarter of all recipients are in regional and rural areas. '

About the author

Deborah Stone is Editor of ArtsHub.

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