Dear Arts Friends
The last weeks have been massive for the arts in Australia, with widespread announcements of closures, job losses, program changes, cancellations, funding redeployments, ministerial roundtables, and notification of the major Australia Council of the Arts’ multiyear organisational funding program, which has seen many much-loved arts companies missing out or being defunded as of next year. A perfect storm, in a time of global health and socio-economic hardship.
On Friday we received notification that we are one of 95 companies in Australia, successful in a massive year-long bid to gain federal arts funding support from 2021 -2024. We’d put forward a bold vision, new strategic plans, forward budgets and articulated the importance of supporting contemporary artists and the arts sector in the north through our future programs.
The Australia Council wrote:
Congratulations on your successful Four Year Funding (FYF) application to the Australia Council for the Arts.
Your Stage 2 application was approved by the Visual Arts Panel and endorsed by the Board of the Australia Council.
You were successful in a very competitive environment and we look forward to supporting the great work your organisation will deliver in the coming years.
When we embarked on the assessment of multiyear funding for 2021-24 the seismic impacts of COVID19 had not been imagined, let alone hit our communities, society and sector. In light of these impacts we have had to rethink how we best assist the sector to navigate through the challenges posed by the current crisis. While we realise there are no perfect solutions, we have taken a number of steps to mitigate the damage and contribute to the short to medium-term feasibility of the sector. In this context, we will offer reduced funding in 2021 to organisations approved for funding in the 2021-24 FYF program. This will allow us to provide support through to 31 Dec 2021 to many of the current FYFOs that were unsuccessful with their applications for 2021-24 FYF.
While, the above announcement is extremely positive news for the arts in Far North Queensland and a massive relief for this organisation, following years of financial hardship and limitations, the elation is dampened by a sobering reality of the number of defunded organisations, the implications of that for future programs and the increased challenges faced by all now.
(412 organisations initially applied, with 162 invited to submit full applications. A stark reminder of a pattern of underfunding in the arts, witnessed in 2015 when 65 organisations lost federal organisational funding. In fact, this industry has consistently been calling on the Government to top up its arts funding over the last years. Recent analysis shows that the Australian Government is committing 18.9 per cent less expenditure per capita to arts and culture than it did a decade ago and that expenditure as a percentage of GDP remains below the OECD average.”)
We empathise with the huge undertaking of the pool of national arts experts, and thank the peer assessors and Australia Council staff who no-doubt rigorously assessed all applications, then delayed the announcement in light of COVID-19, to work to redeploy funds where possible and create a new Resilience Fund in these challenging times.
Over the past weeks, NorthSite has joined with peak bodies and other organisations, creatives and artsworkers to put forward recommendations to the initial Australian Government COVID package announcements, ensuring our casual workforce and freelancers are not missed.
Given the financial and implicit value of arts, the sector has called for a necessary stimulus package specifically for the arts – to ensure a creative future in Australia. Creative Industries leaders have met with the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, The Hon Paul Fletcher MP, and put forward a united proposal for a targeted support package, (2% of the industry’s $111billion contribution to the economy). This industry specific-package would save thousands of jobs & companies, ensuring that the sector is able to support the nation as it emerges from COVID-19. So far this has not been considered by the Government.
You can read the open letter sent to Ministers and MPs signed by 130+ artists, collectives and companies including NorthSite here. Below is a letter sent to relevant MPs for this region, prior to the final day of Australian Parliament on 8 April until August 2020.
We’ll keep working to support artists up here, rejig our programs and stand united with the rest of the arts & cultural sector and wider Australia at this most difficult time.
Keep an eye out for new programs and conversations with artists over coming weeks.
Take good care.
Ashleigh Campbell and team
For a full roundup of actions taken by National Association for the Visual Arts and Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance see the following links. Artists, musicians, writers, performers etc, all creatives who’ve list work are encouraged to complete their surveys.
 The Big Picture, public expenditure on artistic, cultural and creative activity in Australia | A New Approach | Australian Academy of the Humanities
Image: Glenn Sloggett, Lose, 2019. Photo by J Forsyth. Copyright remains with the artist, used by NAVA to accompany the industry open letter to Parliamentarians.