Support for the arts in Australia is currently under threat from unprecedented government intervention. The Federal Government has proposed changes to the existing funding model which will shift the funds currently allocated to individual and independent artists and arts workers, early career and experimental arts, community and youth arts, and small-to-medium arts organisations.Organisations including the Australia Council for the Arts, an independent statutory body free from direct ministerial influence, have a long history of funding the arts via a peer-review system, ensuring a diverse and innovative arts sector. Peer-review is internationally recognised as best practice in determining excellence in the arts, as well as in many other sectors, including academic publishing, health care, accounting, law, engineering and aviation.
In addition to the establishment of the NPEA, Visions of Australia, Festivals of Australia programs and the Major Festivals Initiative will be removed from the Australia Council and administered directly by the Ministry of the Arts. These changes to funding are aimed at eroding federal support for the breadth of the arts sector.
The arts is a complex, rich and diverse sector which benefits all Australians, in ways both apparent and unseen:
- 85% of Australians agree that the arts make for a richer and more meaningful life;
- 38% of Australians creatively participate in the arts six or more times per year;
- 109,000 students are undertaking creative arts qualifications at the tertiary level.
This is a critical moment for the arts in Australia. The Charter is as an advocacy tool. It is a public object, available to anyone engaging with arts policy development, be they artists, politicians or community leaders. It will be published online and collect the names of individuals, ensembles, groups and organisations that support the principles. In this way, its key functions are a) to unite the sector through the articulation of common ideals and b) influence and engage arts policy development on local, state and federal levels.
This amounts to $23 million annually, or 28% of the current allocation. These funds will be shifted away from the Australia Council for the Arts to a new funding body titled the National Program for Excellence in the Arts (NPEA), which will be administered by the Ministry of the Arts.