$4M in sustainability funding directed towards four arts organisations

The Sustainability Fund is designed to assist significant Australian Arts organisations deemed as facing a risk to their sustainability over the next 12-months due to COVID-19.

The Wheeler Centre, Belvoir Theatre Company, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and the Queensland Ballet have been announced as the latest recipients of the Morrison Government’s $35 million COVID-19 Arts Sustainability Fund.

More than $4 million has been allocated in the latest tranche of funding, which will be shared among the four companies.

Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, said the Sustainability Fund provides organisations with financial assistance to plan a pathway for recovery from the effects of COVID-19.

‘These organisations are key employers of artists and art workers and leading presenters of high-quality work to audiences across Australia, which is why this financial support is crucial,’ he said in a statement.

‘This funding brings the total pool of allocated funds to more than $13 million to date, reflecting our significant investment in supporting the arts and cultural sector in continuing its activities, and rebuilding from this period of severe disruption.’

The funding news has been warmly welcomed by its recipients.

Caro Llewellyn, CEO, The Wheeler Centre, said: ‘This is a game-changing investment by the Australian Government in our organisation’s future. This crucial funding will enable the Wheeler Centre to continue its important work with the world’s brightest writers and thinkers to build a deeper thinking society around books, writing, ideas and the transformative power of storytelling.’ 

Sue Donnelly, Executive Director, Belvoir, said the company was ‘thrilled’ to receive $500,000 from the Sustainability Fund.

‘We only announced a program until partway through the year this year, as did many companies, because financially we could not commit to doing more shows the rest of the year – we just didn’t have enough money. And if we were going to do any more shows, it was going to put us into a very bad financial situation,’ said Donnelly.

‘So this money will assist us to get through the end of the year. It also means we can actually stage some of the works that we were developing during COVID, which we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.’

Despite Belvoir being one of the first theatre companies to reopen, those early productions were not profitable for the company, Donnelly added.

‘We reopened on such a small capacity that we weren’t making any money from those performances. We did it solely to try to prove that you can operate theatres under COVID, which was about trying to show some leadership in the sector. So this money is really gratefully received. Very much so,’ she told ArtsHub.

Queensland Ballet and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra have also been approached for comment.

The Sustainability Fund is designed to assist significant Australian Arts organisations deemed as facing a risk to their sustainability over the next 12 months due to COVID-19.

At-risk organisations must be considered to have a good prospect of maintaining their viability – and have a clear plan to do so – with support from the Fund.­

The latest funding has been allocated following an assessment process administered by the Office for the Arts together with the Australia Council and the Infrastructure and Project Financing Agency.

In January 2021 more than $9 million in funding was announced under Batch One of the Fund, for the National Institute of Dramatic Art, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Melbourne Art Foundation.

The Sustainability Fund is still open and accepting applications. Applications will close at 5pm AEST on 31 May 2021, subject to allocation of funds.

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts