Australian Major Performing Arts Group AGM

AMPAG Members at the AGM held on 31 May considered the impact of recent Australia Council grant announcements, the Live Performance Australia (LPA) analysis of funding changes on small to medium arts companies, and other reports arising from discussions in the sector.

Australian Major Performing Arts Group AGM

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Members recognised the level of uncertainty in the sector and agreed that strategic arts policy direction needed to be addressed through close government consultation between its arts agencies and across all parts of the sector, given the significant impact of the arts on many aspects of Australia’s social and economy prosperity.

·The Australia Council’s 2015 report Arts Nation identified the cultural sector contributes $50 billion towards the national GDP, with $4.2 billion coming directly from the arts.

·Furthermore, 85% of Australians believe the arts make for a richer and more meaningful life showcasing the considerable social impact the sector has;

·The number of tourists visiting Australia is up year on year with 38% experiencing at least one arts activity, cementing the arts as an essential part of Australia’s international tourism gateway.

·Investment in the arts is well leveraged. In 2014, every $1 of government investment in the MPAs leveraged on average of just over $2, reflecting a 20% growth since 2010;

·In 2014, 3.83 million Australians attended a performance, school activity or workshop by a Major Performing Arts (MPA) company and over 10 million people watched or listened to a broadcast or screening of an MPA company performance;

·The MPAs employed more than 10,000 people in 2014 representing 25% of all performing arts employment in Australia;

Chair of AMPAG and Chair of the State Theatre Company of South Australia, John Irving, said,With the Federal election on July 2, we call upon all political parties to articulate their arts policies for the next parliament, both in terms of economic activity but also just as importantly, in terms of social impacts and outcomes.

AMPAG members are deeply concerned by recent Australia Council funding announcements confirming that many respected arts organisations are losing Federal government operational funding.

Executive Director of AMPAG, Bethwyn Serow, noted, “Members’ priorities include lifting Australia Council grants and project funding to address the needs of small to medium performing arts organisations, a stronger focus on the arts as an essential part of education, a renewed focus on access to the arts for regional and remote communities, and seed funding for development of new works and arts initiatives to underpin innovation and creativity.

The small to medium sector is an important seed bed of new works, innovation and artist development. MPA companies will engage and provide support to smaller performing arts organisations where their shared interests best align. We recommend that the new parliament as a first order priority reconsiders the Australia Council’s current initiatives and project funding levels with the intention of returning it to 2013-14 levels. Over several decades, Australia has developed a complex cultural ecology around collaboration and the free flow of creativity and innovation throughout the arts sector. This ecology should be nurtured if it is to thrive.

With only four weeks until the election, Members called on all major federal parties to articulate their arts policy for the 45th parliament in terms of economic and social prosperity.

The Greens arts policy released on May 30 has a number of very welcome positons including restoring funding to the Australia Council to 2013-14 levels and increasing investment in regional touring and engagement. However, the Greens are silent on cultural diplomacy and the role of the arts in education and the capacity for government to leverage additional investment from the private sector through matched funding. We understand that Labor will be releasing their arts policy in Melbourne on the weekend.

Members agreed the past year has been challenging and the impact and instability arising from the 2015-16 budget measures are still in play.

John Irving concluded, “Foremost, we need government to restore its commitment to investment in the arts and build its leadership voice in recognition and encouragement of the arts. It is critical to maximise the impact of direct investment, as well as build philanthropic partnerships and multiple portfolio interconnections”.

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