For the second year running, arts minister George Brandis has significantly cut existing arts funding. The 2015 budget slashes more than $100 million from the Australia Council for the Arts. The Australia Council, like the ABC, is ostensibly independent of government.
The cut will mean that half of the council’s “discretionary funding” will disappear. However, larger organisations, more popular with conservatives, such as Opera Australia and the Australian Ballet, have had funding guaranteed. This leaves small and medium arts organisations at risk.
Not a single arts body focused on Indigenous, young people or other marginalised groups is secure under the new model.
Brandis is moving money taken from the Australia Council to a new scheme called the National Programme for Excellence in Arts (NPEA). The NPEA will be controlled directly by Brandis’s office, with initial guidelines suggesting that Brandis himself will have the final say over funding decisions.
The NPEA will not be required to declare what bodies or organisations it funds. Refusal of corporate sponsorship is also likely to preclude applicants for funding. In 2014, Brandis threatened to cut government funding to organisations that refuse sponsorship from Transfield, a corporation that runs refugee detention centres.
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance is campaigning against the cuts and has held public meetings in Sydney, Hobart and Melbourne, with a meeting in Adelaide to occur in August.
Artists and students in Melbourne have also called an open campaign organising meeting for Saturday, 1 August, 4.30pm at the Victorian College of the Arts Student Association.
James is campaigns coordinator of the VCA Student Association.