NSW Budget commits $1.3 Billion to arts and culture

In a funding bonanza, NSW Government commits $1.3 billion to the arts, including a $40 million blockbuster exhibitions, a new cultural precinct, and much needed operational funding to settle in new infrastructure projects.

A funding bonanza of more than $1.3 billion will create jobs and place NSW as a cultural heart of Australia, with a raft of high-profile projects in the pipeline, including two new museums and a blockbuster fund to bring attractions to NSW.   

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the game-changing funding commitment to the arts highlighted the role of the arts in job creation and tourism attraction.

‘Arts, screen, and our cultural institutions and infrastructure play a critical role in the State’s economy, from skills development and job creation to attracting cultural tourism,’ Perrottet said.  ‘Maximising our investment in this area will leverage New South Wales’ current capabilities, further position the State as a world-class centre for performances, events, exhibitions and cultural visitation, as well as develop new state cultural assets for future generations.’

‘This year’s State Budget has record funding for our State’s artists, creatives and arts organisations,’ added NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin.

The 2021-2022 Budget announcement (22 June) promised to revive the state following the devastating economic impact of COVID-19.This new funding is on top of an already committed cultural infrastructure spend, which for many of these institutions has on track for some time. The operating funding committed this week, completes that infrastructure delivery.

Highlights include:

  • $222.2 million for the Art Gallery of New South Wales to operate one of Australia’s flagship art museums, including $152.7 million for the completion and opening of the new Sydney Modern facility;
  • $156.2 million for the new Powerhouse Museum in Parramatta, with new exhibition spaces of extraordinary scale to support a constantly changing program, as part of an $840 million total Government contribution;
  • $127.1 million for the State Library of New South Wales to continue collecting and preserving materials, encourage research and learning, and provide support to local libraries across the state;
  • $82.1 million for the Australian Museum to operate expanded public spaces and improved amenities within the recently re-opened historic complex;
  • $73.6 million for the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences to operate the Ultimo Powerhouse Museum, the Sydney Observatory, Museums Discovery Centre, Castle Hill and, on opening, Powerhouse Parramatta;
  • $33.5 million for the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales to continue to manage, maintain and interpret some of the most historically important houses, gardens and museums in New South Wales;
  • $30 million ($60 million over two years) for the Creative Capital program to deliver new cultural infrastructure projects in Greater Sydney and regional New South Wales to boost community participation in the arts, along with cultural tourism;
  • $15 million for a Cahill High Line, inspired by the Manhattan High Line, to temporarily transform the Cahill Expressway into a contemporary landscape which will host a series of events and provide a viewing deck for New Year’s Eve fireworks and Sydney Harbour until the opening of the 2022 Sydney Festival;
  • $10 million ($40.0 million over four years) to attract major blockbuster art and museum exhibitions to New South Wales, showcasing the world’s finest treasures in our world-renowned cultural institutions;
  • $6 million ($24 million over four years) to expand the State’s Arts and Cultural Funding Program to incentivise innovation, vibrancy and creativity within the cultural sector. The uplift will focus on funding small and medium arts companies, along with funding to enable additional regional touring;
  • $5.2 million for the Sydney Opera House to upgrade recording and broadcast studio equipment, supporting the expansion of national and international audience participation and underpinning the Opera House’s digital education program
  • $4.8 million ($168.2 million over four years) for the transformation of the Ultimo Powerhouse Museum, featuring Australia’s first dedicated design and fashion museum and an academy supporting 60 regional students to experience immersive education and exhibition programs.

Read: Powerhouse Ultimo is here to stay as design museum with $480M investment

New blockbuster funding

Prepare to see more blockbuster art and cultural exhibitions arrive on Australian shores, with $40 million set to be invested in NSW’s Cultural Institutions over the next four years.

Director and CEO of the Australian Museum (AM) Kim McKay welcomed the funding, noting the impact it will have on attracting big-ticket international exhibitions.

‘This new funding will provide NSW cultural institutions, like the Australian Museum, with a greater ability to attract major global exhibitions to our State, like Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs, which previously may have been out of our reach,’ McKay said.

Scheduled to open Summer 2023, the agreement by the NSW Government will enable the AM to host the Egyptian touring exhibition
the largest collection of Ramses II items to ever leave Egypt.

We can also soon expect to see the funding help, ‘to bring Alexander McQueen’s designs to NSW and take Catherine Martin’s collections around the world,’ said NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin.

‘The tremendous cost of bringing the biggest and best exhibitions to Australia has been a significant barrier,’ he said. 

‘Not only will this new funding bring international blockbusters to our State, it will also allow us to create our own world-class exhibitions that can be toured around the world.’

Read: $90 million Budget promise to bolster the arts in Queensland

New cultural destination by day and night

$119 million will also be committed to reactivating Macquarie Street East as a cultural and social destination, with the initial focus on creating an iconic public plaza between the CBD and The Domain.

As part of continued efforts to revitalise Sydney’s CBD, free general admission to cultural institutions in and around the Macquarie Street precinct will also be available for the next 12-months. The funding agreement will make available $10 million per year, for the next four years, to the State’s cultural institutions and organisations.

Treasurer Perrottet said the transformation of the southern end of the street would create a vibrant cultural destination by day and night. ‘Macquarie Street is part of the very foundations of modern Sydney and these historical spaces should be celebrated and enjoyed not locked away and hidden from view,’ he said.

CEO of the Committee for Sydney, Gabriel Metcalf, added:With the Metro station at Martin Place, people from all corners of Greater Sydney will be linked into the central city, with easy access to the revived Registrar General’s building, the Mint and Hyde Park Barracks.

This will protect one of the most historically significant parts of our city, while making sure it’s absolutely central to the needs of our city as we grow.’

Giselle Bueti
About the Author
Giselle Bueti is a staff writer for ArtsHub.