Senate Inquiry – Be heard now!

FCAC and the artists and communities we work with are deeply concerned about proposed changes to Federal funding of the Arts, including a shift of $104.7 million from the Australia Council for the Arts to a new National Programme for Excellence in the Arts, managed by the staff of the Ministry for the Arts.

Read more here.

Senate submissions into this decision are due tomorrow, Friday 17 July.

It’s not too late to make a submission and be heard

FCAC Senate Inquiry Submission

14 July 2015

Dear Committee Secretary
Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

Sent by Email: legcon.sen@aph.gov.au

cc:  Tim Watts, MP: Member for Gellibrand.
cc:  Mark Dreyfus, MP: Shadow Attorney General and Shadow Minister for the Arts

a. Senate Inquiry Submission: The impact of the 2014 and 2015 Commonwealth Budget decisions on the Arts:

Thank you for the opportunity to submit the Senate Inquiry into the impact of the 2014 and 2015 Commonwealth Budget decisions on the arts.

We understand the terms of the inquiry and have structured our response to address the criteria independently, and have consulted widely with the Board, staff, artists and communities associated with FCAC, in order for these conclusions to be as inclusive and representative of our many stakeholders as possible.

Established in 1974, Footscray Community Arts Centre is Australia’s leading and longest-running, community-engaged, contemporary arts centre. Our programs work with communities locally, regionally and internationally.

FCAC’s core programs are long-term, strategic and multidisciplinary with a range of multi-art form outcomes including visual arts, theatre, dance and movement, animation and digital media, music and sound art and literature. Our programs aim for artistic excellence and high social impact. Focus communities include people with disability, culturally and. linguistically diverse communities and Indigenous Australians.

The budget decisions have resulted in the following changes to funding allocations across the arts:

  • The Australia Council’s new appropriation for 2015 -16 is now $184.5M.
  • With funding for the MPA’s quarantined, the funds available to be distributed to the rest of the arts sector will equal $62M – a reduction of $23M.
  • The Australia Council for the Arts has suspended their six-year key organisation funding initiative as a direct result of these budget decisions

For FCAC, the suspension of the 6-year funding program will have the following consequences:

  • Income reduction of our projected 2016 budget by up to 21% annually.
  • Loss of jobs for some of the 250 artists and arts workers employed by FCAC, representing $1.5M in salaries, wages and fees, and training programs.
  • Inability to deliver some of our core pathways programs, festivals and exhibitions;

Resulting in:

  • Fewer opportunities for artists to develop and present their work
  • Less access to art for our audience of 70,000 people annually

More alarming is that the broader impact of the 2014/2015 budgetary decisions on the arts ecology in Australia will be much further reaching than this immediate financial period and will take much longer than the term of one government to rectify. These include:

  • Damage to supply chain links between individual artists, small to medium organisations and the Major performing arts organisations that create opportunities for participation and creative exchange
  • Less creative output in terms of careers, outstanding and innovative works, national and international tours as a result of reduced collaborations
  • Undermining of our reputation for artistic excellence overseas – that which the government wishes to protect and promote.

b. The suitability and appropriateness of the establishment of a National Programme for Excellence in the Arts, to be administered by the Ministry for the Arts:

 The establishment of the NPEA is projected to affect funding arrangements for small to medium arts organisations in the following ways:

  • Less likelihood of funding success when placed in competition with the major performing arts organisations, rather than supported as complementary, and essential to the wider arts ecology.
  • More pressure on supporters and partnerships. The requirement for co-funding to be secured in order to address the support and partnerships criteria across all funding streams will disadvantage small to medium sized organisations that may lack established partnerships, supporter networks and giving programs.
  • Less sustainable organisations as a result of stretched operational funding. A purely project-based model diminishes the resources available for effective financial management, corporate governance and long-term viability.
  • Entrenched inequalities for organisations without giving and donor programs, who will be less likely to be eligible for the support and services of Creative Partnerships Australia, which tends to be tailored towards organisations established in these areas.

B. Individual artists:

Independent artists are ineligible to apply under the NPEA’s draft guidelines, and will be hit hardest of all. Many internationally recognised artists such as Brooke Andrew, Maree Clarke, Tom Cho, Emile Zile have crossed paths with FCAC as they established their careers. The next generation of independent artists will be impacted in the following ways:

  • Loss of endorsement and leveraging opportunities from small grants. Receiving a small grant as an individual can have a significant impact on an artist’s career as it can be effectively leveraged across other partnerships, and generates future work. In 2014, FCAC worked with 198 individual independent artists to deliver our program, and supported many more ‘in-kind’ for their individual projects.
  • Increased reliance on non-arts-related work. Without individual projects, more artists will seek work in other sectors, or in roles that involve less direct art-making. In 2014, FCAC employed 76 artist tutors, techs and support staff, providing an income stream which is also often part of a development process for new works. Without funding for independent artists, these roles will become more vital to the survival of independent creators – but also less creatively impactful. This profile on Ahmarnya Price demonstrates this trajectory for an independent artist http://footscrayarts.com/profile/ahmarnya-price/.

The NPEA does not acknowledge that independent artists are at the foundation of our creative communities. Removing a national funding stream for independent artists will have serious impact on their ability to kick-start their projects, and their careers.

C. Young and emerging artists:

Of the 198 individual artists that we worked with last year, many were young or emerging practitioners whose practice developed through our pathway programs: Emerging Cultural Leaders, ArtLife and West Writers Group. They now face:

  • Reduced career momentum: as independent artists, these young or emerging practitioners thrive off even small opportunities to develop their practice. Small grants such as the now-defunded ArtStart program were essential for this.
  • Less vibrant peer culture: participants in our pathways programs are likely to collaborate, gaining valuable experience by supporting each other’s projects and endeavours. Less projects occurring at both individual and small to medium organisational level will reduce the opportunities that they have to learn.
  • Brain drain: A lack of investment in young and emerging talent now will be obvious to the Australian public in years to come when there is a smaller pool of established artists to draw from.
  • Less clear pathways: All artists began their engagement with the arts either through a youth arts company, in their local town through arts activities and subsequently, supported through the independent and small to medium sectors. These pathways are missing from the NPEA’s understanding of the arts ecology.

D. The Australia Council for the Arts:

The Australia Council for the Arts has operated as an arms-length agency, providing much more than just funding to the arts sector over 40 years, including:

  • Rigorous assessment methodologies and transparent peer assessed process through a model that has been refined to allow all levels of the arts sector to participate, give and receive feedback, and strengthen our critical discourse
  • Strong partnerships: The Australia Council has been a stable supporter of FCAC throughout our 40 year history, and since 1984, contributed almost $5,000,000 in support of our programs.
  • Effective advocacy for the arts sector (locally, nationally and internationally), which has contributed to FCAC’s reputation as an international leader in the field of community engaged arts practice.
  • Commitment to best practice through undergoing the most significant restructure in its history in the past 18 months as a result of deep consultation with its clients, and in response to their feedback.
  • Cost-effective management. The restructure has been a time of upheaval for the Council and for the arts sector. A huge amount of time and money has been put towards a successful restructure, while savings have continually been made in the Australia Council’s administration.

The important role of the Australia Council for Australia’s arts sector is weakened by the NPEA as the draft guidelines do not incorporate or reflect the elements of best practice that have been pioneered by the Australia Council, and do not reinforce the principles of arms-length funding.

E. Private sector funding of the arts:

In 2014, we delivered our program through 98 arts and non-arts partnerships, which are enmeshed in a funding structure of giving, investment, mentorship and entrepreneurship that drive FCAC; a funding structure that would not be possible without the endorsement of Federal funds, upon which many partnerships are leveraged to deliver projects.

Philanthropic funders are an ideal partner, particularly in socially-engaged arts practice, but not a replacement for the kind of funding that was provided to organisations under the 6 year funding model. There is concern that, with the implementation of the NPEA, philanthropic funders will be:

  • Less inclined to support arts projects when they have lost the endorsement of federal government support, particularly in relation to operational costs
  • More inclined to think twice about investing in an arts sector perceived as unstable
  • More inclined to reprioritise and focus on their other impact areas in an increasingly competitive sector

FCAC’s high level of non-arts partnerships has developed as a result of the kind of creative work that we do, the importance of which is also recognised and supported by the health and education sectors and, increasingly, by Australia’s philanthropic sector, which tends to focus on supporting measurable social change through arts. It is a view of the role of art that differs greatly from the support for the ‘intrinsic’ value of the arts supported by the NPEA.

ii. Protection of freedom of artistic expression and prevention of political
influence:

The NPEA draft guidelines do not articulate transparent processes and systems to prevent government agendas influencing funding decisions.

FCAC works with communities to deliver projects that are an expression of the contemporary Australian context. In the guidelines presented, there is little recognition of arts organisations as a vehicle for democratic expression; instead international projects will be scrutinised through the lens of international and cultural diplomacy. This has the following implications:

  • Undermining the role of the Australia Council for the Arts as an arms-length funding body with well-established processes to ensure arts organisations and artists are not censored for producing work that does not align with the policies of the government of the time.
  • Avoiding scrutiny by allowing the Minister’s office to obtain exemptions to publishing successful applicants in the Department’s grants register.
  • Potentially silencing the expression of marginalised or internationally oppressed communities whose interests are in competition with Australia’s diplomatic stance.


iii. Access to a diversity of quality arts and cultural experiences

Ensuring a diversity of quality arts and cultural experiences is really about the diversity of ‘offer’ to audiences and through programs. The concerns with the Commonwealth Budget decision and proposed structure and administration of the NPEA lie with the indications that access to a diversity of quality arts and cultural experiences will not be adequately supported, and will be deeply impacted.

For FCAC, the diversity of our offer is deeply connected to the needs of the communities we work with.  Our engagement is expansive and is evidenced by:

  • An extensive network of 95 active partners across education, health, arts, tourism, business and community sectors including Victoria University, Melbourne University, Western Health, City of Melbourne, St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, Doutta Galla Aged Services, The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne International Jazz Festival, Melbourne Writers’ Festival, Learn Local and the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Located in Melbourne’s west, we are based in one of Australia’s fastest growing regions. With 32% population growth anticipated within the next decade, our local context is comprised of 130 cultural groups with over 150 languages.
  • Annually, we produce and present 1800 arts and cultural activities and sixty projects including:
  • The presentation of 429 performances to 30,000 people
  • 42 creative developments and presented 42 new works
  • 28 exhibitions presented
  • We currently provide $250,000 worth of in-kind support through the use of the venue for artists and community groups.

The levels of delivery indicated above will be at direct risk as a result of the changed funding context.

The arts sector is an integrated and inter-connected culturally diverse industry. The nuanced impacts of these changes threaten this diverse sector and ultimately the experience of Australian audiences.

v. Implications of any duplication of administration and resourcing:

 In terms of administration and additional resourcing, at bare minimum the NPEA will require:

  • Duplication of grants processes in place at the Australia Council and other government departments
  • Organisational resources to make further applications to the new NPEA process
  • Pressure on organisations to maintain more partnerships to address funding shortfalls

These additional pressures risk creating more professional administrators than artists, and does not represent the best possible use of public funds.

vii. Any related matter.

For organisations, such as FCAC working with people with disability, the Budget decisions on the Arts will add to the already significant financial implications of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) implementation.

Whilst we are absolutely supportive of the intended consumer-led opportunities offered through NDIS, preparing our organisation for it requires significant resources (currently un-funded), now coinciding with the changed federal arts funding landscape. This is a further risk to the many people with disability and their families that organisations like FCAC work with every day.

In closing

 To hear directly from some of our supporters and partners about FCAC’s impact, our core programs and our model of working with communities, you are welcome to view this short video.

Should it be required, I, or an FCAC representative, would be most happy to speak to the Committee or at the Senate Inquiry Hearing.

Yours Sincerely,

Lyn Morgain
Chair
Footscray Community Arts Centre