Arts organisations hit by funding bad news

NAVA’s executive director Esther Anatolitis said about a dozen organisations across literature, performance and visual arts had told her of their failure to make it to the second round.

”To everyone who put in an application: big respect to you,” Ms Anatolitis said.

”All that thinking and all that work is so vital and so needed in Australia right now. Let’s keep drawing on one another’s strength and vision. . . there’s so much good work to be done together.”

For the first time the Australia Council has opened multi-year grants to expressions of interest from eligible organisations seeking to fund their operations and activities from January 2021 to December 2024.

Not all organisations who make it through this initial stage will be successful in receiving actual funding when it is allocated at the next stage in February.

And applicants who are unsuccessful in this round will not be able to apply again until the next funding round opens in four years time.

Modelling from the advocacy group Theatre Network Australia shows that about a quarter of currently funded arts organisations are likely to lose Australia Council funding in this round as a direct result of budget cuts to the national body.

At least $7 million [more] is needed to fund the same number of organisations in February [when applicants are notified of their success], and that funding hasn’t been returned to the Australia Council by the Coalition,” said TNA executive director Nicole Beyer.

The inaugural four-year funding round for the period 2017-2020 saw more than 60 organisations that had previously been funded by the council miss out, with just under half of the 262 organisations which applied for funding having success.

The Australia Council’s 2017-18 annual report cited “high levels of unfunded excellence – projects that would be funded if more budget were available”. The Australian Major Performing Arts Group has reported this shortfall at $30.9 million for the years 2016-2018.

The council’s overall budget remained $20-25 million less than it was in 2015, before the government slashed its budget, Ms Beyer said.

However she is hopeful the “lines of communication are still open” with the federal government and that the situation may improve.

The mood at the state level in Victoria at least, could hardly be more different. On Friday night at the program launch for the Melbourne Fringe festival, Victoria’s Creative Industries minister Martin Foley was roundly praised and cheered for the state government’s support for the arts.

The Andrews government is currently engaging the arts sector in a wide-ranging community consultation, including public and sector-specific forums, a public submissions process and an expert panel of arts leaders appointed, to plan the next stage of its Creative State policy beyond 2020.

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