Not Resting

Welcome to this week’s blog.   I have been wrestling (and certainly not resting) about whether to write about the recent cuts by the Australia Council, the Federal Government’s arts funding and advisory body, to a range of arts organisations across the country, but have found that I cannot be silent.  I understand that some seriously important music organisations have not received organisational funding – these include Gondwana Voices (previously known as the Sydney Children’s Choir) and Synergy Percussion / Taikoz –as just two key examples.   I am staggered by this, as these two organisations are examples of the highest quality of music making in this country, with a commitment to allowing the voice of Australian composers to be heard both nationally and internationally.  I am staggered and devastated.  And the equivalent has happened across all of the artforms.

Once again we seem to be in a cycle of government where the Government of the day has complete disregard for the importance of the arts in our society, or certainly not any of the arts 'below' the major arts organisations.  And if people in Government don’t care about the arts, they should care about what the arts bring to our economy, through both creation and performance in Australia as well as taking the Australian voice to the world. Economically it makes no sense to strangle the arts in Australia.  On a human and societal level I believe it is incredibly damaging.  And please don't get me wrong - I believe in supporting the major arts companies to present work at the highest level.  But it is the small to medium sector that I am most concerned about  - where standards are also extremely high, where there is a commitment to Australian voices being heard, where there is a commitment to risk and innovation.

Here are links to some relevant updates: 

Arts Hub:  http://www.artshub.com.au/news-article/news/grants-and-funding/deborah-stone/65-arts-organisations-lose-funding-from-australia-council-251271

Arts Hub:  http://www.artshub.com.au/news-article/news/grants-and-funding/richard-watts/government-spends-12-m-in-mysterious-catalyst-windfall-251244

Music Australia: https://musicaustralia.org.au/2016/05/funding-cuts-bite-deep-for-music-as-election-nears/

Having spent some sixteen years in both State and Federal arts funding, this is a cause very dear to my heart.  When government funding decisions were made last year to take money away from the Australia Council’s budget and distribute it through a new funding program run by the Australian Government's Ministry for the Arts, I made a submission to the Senate Enquiry (July 2015).  In my submission I argued that:

Extract from my submission begins (12 July 2015):

The Federal arts portfolio invests substantially in some twenty national arts bodies and training institutions. In music this includes the Australian National Academy of Music and the Australian Youth Orchestra. These are important and substantial commitments.

However only the funds held by the Australia Council provide a substantial and direct national public investment in the work of artists, companies and their development and growth. This also provides the only national support available to independent artists and the small to medium sector. Removing a significant chunk of funds from this activity and from those without contractual protection risks endangering the vitality and viability of key elements of Australian creative practice.

The independent and small to medium sector plays a pivotal role in the cultural vitality and diversity of Australia. In particular they:

  • are a major source of new Australian work
  • foster innovation and artistic development
  • contribute significantly to regional arts and access
  • provide professional and career development pathways within the broader sector
  • offer sector employment and provide young and regionally based Australians with arts participation opportunities

From a music perspective important work is underway to embrace key opportunities and address major challenges for the art form. These include the Sounds Australia export initiative and the National Live Music Office, as well as underwriting international showcasing and touring. This is underpinned by project and organizational support for individual artists and small companies where new work is developed and audiences created and engaged.  It is also important to recognize that great art doesn’t arise by itself;  it is through the support to many artists that enables the growth and development of work of the finest quality on whatever criteria you base your view of ‘quality’ or ‘excellence’.

I urge that the Government recognizes the vital and interdependent nature of the arts sector, and the fragility of important elements, often those with least profile and influence, and to ensure that policy and funding changes does not jeopardize this work. For these are the elements that nurture our artists and arts makers, produce our great work, deliver artistic excellence, engage our audiences and achieve international success. And every dollar wisely invested can contribute to harnessing our remarkable creative potential.

Extract from my submission ends

Not that my submission made any difference.

As an arts administrator in government funding from way back, I am well aware of the challenges facing funding organisations.   But the result of last year’s budgetary decisions and the depletion of funding to the Australia Council is a crisis that is deeply concerning to any of us who believe in the role the arts can play in reflecting views of our society, in challenging our thinking, and in nourishing our souls.

So, this week is is a little hard for me to think about what music to feature as this week’s featured music.  I have decided on a work from my previous album, ‘Meditation on Love’, called ‘Finding a place of peace’.  May we all find peace, even for a few moments, in whatever way we can.

Until next time,

 

Peta

PS You need to scroll down to the bottom of this webpage to find the player to play this week's featured music.

Comments

2016-05-25 01:05:24 - Peta Williams
Great; thank you so much Carol, Peta
2016-05-24 15:59:11 - Caz Brandman
Appreciate the links - will spread the word. Cuts in these areas are shortsighted & just wrong!
2016-05-24 02:54:10 - Peta Williams
Thanks Peta Murray for your response. In another email response to this blog, a friend asked whether the Labor Party has released an arts policy. I emailed our local Labor Party candidate for the Blue Mountains, Susan Templeman, this evening, who responded promptly and advised that the Shadow Minister for the Arts, Mark Dreyfus QC MP, has not yet released the policy, but it is on the way. Mr Dreyfus was in Springwood recently and Susan advises that he was very impressed with the quality of the feedback he received from the arts forum held here, so let's keep our fingers crossed. Thanks again, Peta (W)
2016-05-23 16:08:37 - Peta Murray
I couldn't agree more, Peta Williams. This is cultural vandalism of the most dangerous kind and we must all speak up about it, and indeed resist it, whenever we can.
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