The Australian Major Performing Arts Group* (AMPAG) welcomes news that the Minister for the Arts, Senator Mitch Fifield, has decided to return the majority of Catalyst funds to the Australia Council.
Senator Fifield announced on Saturday that the Australia Council will receive a total of $80.2 million over four years transferred from Catalyst, including $61 million in uncommitted funds. This $61 million over four years includes the $32 million announced in November 2015 and already invested through the Australia Council’s grants program.
The Minister’s announcement states that the transfer of funds ‘will allow the Australia Council to continue to focus on supporting small to medium arts organisations. It also provides scope for the Australia Council to address specific recommendations from the Opera Review related to Victorian Opera and Opera Queensland, as well as address funding sustainability for Queensland Ballet and the Brandenburg Orchestra.’
AMPAG recognises the critical importance of the small to medium-sized organisations within Australia’s arts ecology. They are innovative, nimble and adaptive, and are important collaborators and contributors for many of the major performing arts (MPA) companies.
The MPA companies sit alongside the small to medium organisations in a network of creativity. Although the MPA framework generates a core of stability, the vibrancy and innovation of the sector as a whole depends on the health of the entire ecosystem.
AMPAG Chair John Irving said: ‘The 2015 funding cuts to the Australia Council severely impacted the planning and coherence of the federal arts funding framework, and limited the Council’s ability to invest in small to medium arts organisations. This generated significant fragility within these organisations, and instability and uncertainty across the arts sector more broadly.’
‘While the current announcement does not restore Australia Council funding to pre-2015 levels, it’s a significant step. Importantly, it signals the Minister’s willingness to work with the sector and his recognition of the central role and strategic oversight the Australia Council brings to funding of the arts,’ said John Irving.
The Minister also announced that the remit of his department’s economic and statistical research will be broadened to encompass the arts sector.
‘This is a positive development,’ said Bethwyn Serow, AMPAG Executive Director. ’The value of the arts is multilayered and cannot be reduced to economic value alone. The arts impact almost every aspect of our lives, from education to health and trade, and they have a positive contribution to make in fostering innovation. We are encouraged by the Minister’s commitment to connecting the arts to the broader innovation agenda.’
‘Overall, the Minister’s announcement sends a positive signal to the sector,’ said John Irving. ‘But the May Federal Budget is a further opportunity for the Turnbull Government to consolidate this correction. AMPAG recognises that the Budget is being prepared in a time of economic uncertainty, but policies that improve our social resilience must be supported.
‘AMPAG calls for the indexation of all Australia Council grant funding and, importantly, new funding for new initiatives – current levels of support must not be eroded.’