Back in May I voiced my concern about the stripping of over $100 million from the Australia Council for the Arts by the Abbott Government. The money was to be put aside into a special fund to be administered by Minister George Brandis. The Arts community has called out this very deliberate politicisation of arts funding and has called on new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to reinstate the funding to the Australia Council.
Sadly the new federal leadership has not chosen to reverse the decision. They have responded to heavy criticism by making some funding adjustments and giving Brandis’s National Program for Excellence in the Arts a new name. New Arts Minister Mitch Fifield has announced that the new program called “Catalyst” will distribute $70 million worth of funding. The criteria for the funding has also broadened to include libraries, museums and art education programs.
Although this program is smaller than the one previously established for Brandis to preside over, it still represents a loss of $70 million to the Australia Council. I remained deeply concerned about the implications for individual artists and small to medium size arts organisations. As I have said in the past, these smaller organisations are the life blood of our creative sector. Reducing support for smaller scale productions is bad news for the development of new Australian talent and will be detrimental to our future arts scene.
More than ever it is critical that the City work with local artists and creatives to support our creative industries. I am a big supporter of the City’s Cultural Policy as it represents a significant shift in the City’s approach to public spaces and risk management. I want to see a Council that has strong links with the sector and is more open to supporting creative opportunities. As I said last month, it was deeply disappointing to see Council approve of the eviction of the Archway Theatre Company from the viaduct archway in Jubilee Park. This move represents a return to the City’s risk adverse approach which has stifled Sydney’s creativity for so long. While the bureaucracy moves slowly I will continue advocating for more support for our creative sector at all levels of government.