NSW Government commits $24 million to arts, in largest permanent boost in 15 years

Minister Don Harwin has announced an additional $24 million in arts and culture program funding, guaranteeing a permanent 10% funding increase for small to medium orgs and artists

NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin has bought some welcome relief to the arts and culture sector today, at a time when many Sydney artists and organisations face another fortnight of lockdowns.

The Minister’s announcement of an additional $24 million for the sector over four years, signals a permanent 10% increase in funding for the small to medium sector and independent artists – the largest increase in more than 15 years.

Minister Harwin told ArtsHub that he has heard the sector’s concerns and acknowledges the pressure it is under in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘The funds allocated to the competitive rounds for small and medium arts company and independent cultural practitioners will rise by 10% and will be sustained – it is not just a one off,’ the Minister told ArtsHub.

‘There is an enormous demand every year for programme and project funding, and often there is unfunded excellence. That is regrettable. We have listened and observed how strong the sector is and how much demand is unmet,’ he said.

Harwin continued: ‘It is about more certainty and security for the arts sector. People want to know that this level of funding will continue, and I will give that guarantee.’

The money comes as an ‘uplift’ in the forward estimates process, which happens annually, but is usually not at a level to impact the sector. This year Harwin fought for the additional cash.

 ‘An investment in the arts is an investment in our state’s future,’ he said.


The new funding will flow through immediately to Round 1 of Create NSW’s 2021/2022 Arts and Cultural Funding Program (ACFP), which includes Annual Organisation, Project and Creative Koori categories.

‘Everyone who is not funded under the National Performing Arts partnership, or is an existing multi-year funded client, is eligible for this funding. They are the creatives who rely on these two rounds for their funding each year,’ said Harwin.

Describing the funding as a much needed boost, the Minister told ArtsHub it demonstrates his government’s commitment to supporting a vibrant and sustainable arts and cultural sector.

‘We know the small to medium sector have been calling for more funding to close the unfunded excellence gap. This uplift demonstrates the NSW Government is leading the way in investing in the vital role this sector plays in our economy and our community,’ Harwin said.

‘This is the biggest permanent increase in funding to the small to medium sector and independent artists in more than 15 years.’

Minister Don Harwin

The Minister noted that while recently, the pandemic has been foremost in our minds, the NSW sector has faced rolling blows over a relatively short period given the drought, floods and bushfires.

Read: $75M in lockdown relief for NSW performing arts orgs

‘We have witnessed many organisations impacted, especially at that small to medium level; and we have witnessed also how our communities have turned to the arts and creative pursuits to get them through these times,’ said Harwin.

‘We recognise that arts and culture have tremendous transformative power. This funding program supports experiences that are essential for our wellbeing, supports employment opportunities in our creative industries and boost cultural tourism to our regional communities.’


With regard to red tape and access, the Minister told ArtsHub that the NSW Government has listened to the sector’s feedback and delivered a more accessible and streamlined funding program.

‘Since 2019, I have established the Create NSW Artform Advisory Boards, who have the responsibility of assessing applications under these competitive funding rounds. They are making a big difference through their recommendations and quality of feedback in terms of new initiatives, which I have taken on – a number of which are soon to be announced,’ the Minister explained.

Create NSW are giving applicants more time to apply for these grants, and a range of resources to enhance accessibility and assist with applications have been introduced.

‘We have created a more streamlined application process to ensure all arts and culture workers and organisations have a level playing field to submit applications,’ Harwin said.

This additional $24 million in funding not only provides greater certainty to applicants over the next four years, but through that stability and investment, ‘builds on the creation of more jobs in the State’s creative landscape at a time when it is needed the most,’ the Minister concluded.

Applications for Round 1 of the 2021/22 Arts and Cultural Funding Program close on Wednesday 18 August 2021. Visit Create NSW to learn more.

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina