A mixed bag for the arts in WA and Vic budgets

It’s time to talk budgets, especially for the arts—and both Victoria and Western Australian have recently released their state budgets to mixed reviews.

A mixed bag for the arts in WA and Vic budgets

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AMPAG welcomes the Victorian Government’s commitment to upgrading the Arts Centre Melbourne—a long overdue move and one which will have a very positive impact for the performing arts sector.

‘As Melbourne’s major venue, its viability and operational stability has a direct impact on the resident companies’, Ms Bethwyn Serow, AMPAG’s executive director, said today.

‘The Arts Centre’s $10 million ‘sustainability’ package (as well as other funding for essential capital works in the basement) should go a long way to restoring confidence.’

Four major performing arts companies regularly use the Arts Centre—the Australian Ballet, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Theatre Company and Opera Australia—so its viability is of great concern.

The Victorian Budget also included a $1.1 million commitment to establishSummer in Southbank, ‘an events program for audiences of all ages’.

The major performing arts companies look forward to being involved in this exciting initiative, which will create new opportunity to engage with the community and to build the vibrancy of Melbourne’s art precinct for everyone to enjoy.

Minister for the Arts, the Hon Heidi Victoria said, ‘The Summer in Southbank program will bring new events, activities and visitors to the Precinct, responding directly to the Melbourne Arts Precinct Blueprint's recommendation to bring artists and institutions together to enliven the streets.’

AMPAG also welcomed the $5 million earmarked for the Arts and Cultural Facilities Maintenance Fund, which supports essential maintenance works at state-owned arts facilities that house a range of government and non-government arts organisations.

The Western Australian government is also concentrating on infrastructure programs in its arts funding with $21.5 million for capital works, including $7.8million over the next four years to be invested in upgrading equipment and facilities at some of the state’s key performance venues and cultural institutions.

This investment will replace outdated and equipment and technology, ‘bringing our cultural institutions in line with modern practices’.

However, Chamber of Arts and Culture WA, Warwick Hemsley, said the total arts budget has suffered a reduction of $2 million from the budgeted figure for 2013–14 and considerably less that the estimated actuals for this financial year.

‘The pre-­budget announcements of new funds for equipment upgrades and regional touring had done little to disguise the fact that arts funding as a proportion of the total state budget has diminished from just under 1 per cent ten years ago to a current level of 0.45 per cent.

‘The Chamber strongly supports legacy projects such as the State Theatre Centre and the new museum as important parts of ongoing investment in capital works but questions whether the sector will continue to flourish enough to provide the necessary artistic and cultural content for them,’ Mr Hemsley said.

‘We agree that access to high quality arts experiences and cultural infrastructure increases the liveability of regional towns and cities and enhances the quality of life for Western Australians living in these regional communities,’ Ms Serow said.

‘We wait to see how other state governments support the arts in their forward budgets,’ she said.

Queensland releases its on 3 June, New South Wales on 17 June, South Australia on 19 June and Tasmania on 28 August 2014.

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