TRANSCRIPT - ABC Radio World Today
with Peta Donald
20 November 2015
E & OE
Catalyst – Australian Arts and Culture Fund
The new Federal Arts Minister Mitch Fifield is trying to repair the
Government's troubled relationship with the arts sector. One olive branch has
been his decision to restore some of the funding taken from the Australia
Council, which is the Government's independent arts funding body. While arts
organisations have welcomed the move, they point out that the Australia Council
is still operating on a fraction of the money it once had and as a result small
to medium arts groups are going to suffer.
From Canberra Peta Donald reports.
This year's budget slashed support for the arts funding body, the Australia
Council. More than $100 million over four years went instead to a new fund, to
be run by the Arts Ministry. There was outrage from the artists and the
Opposition, which accused the Government of setting up a slush fund. Now the
new Minister Mitch Fifield is taking a different approach.
I've been at great pains to spend a lot of time with the Australian arts
community and to listen and the intention always was with the National Program
for Excellence that it would be reshaped in the light of feedback from the
Australian artistic community and that's what's happened.
And as a result of that, we have repurposed $8 million to the Australia Council
in recognition of their important role in supporting small and medium
organisations and particularly individual artists. But we've also refashioned a
new program called Catalyst which will seek to complement the Australia Council
and Creative Partnerships Australia and to fill some of the gaps.
About a third of the funding removed is now to be returned to the Australia
Council. Twelve million dollars a year will stay with the fund run by the Arts
Ministry, which will now be called Catalyst and have an emphasis on
It's great. You know we're really pleased that this is happening.
Nicole Beyer is co-convenor of the group, Arts Peak.
She says it's good the new minister is listening but she says the Australia
Council has still lost two-thirds of its funding, that would have otherwise
have supported small to medium arts organisations around the country.
As organisations fail, you know, audiences will be seeing less work.
A lot of these organisations work in regional areas for example or they run
programs with different communities. Those programs won't go ahead. They run
programs such as artists in schools, particularly disadvantaged schools so
there are all of those programs have already been cancelled so schools will no
longer have those artists coming in as residents.
A lot of those sorts of programs that you know, that we forget about when we
think about performers on stage or something, there's a lot of that sort of
arts participation that isn't going to happen.
Labor's arts spokesman Mark Dreyfus says the Government back down is a good thing
but he's still concerned about the new Catalyst fund.
It's still a ministerially controlled fund. It's still, as we called it, a
ministerial slush fund and that's a problem so we'll wait and see what the
guidelines say, we'll wait and see what the detail is. But already it's
possible to say the Government has not cured the immense disruption that has
been caused across the arts sector and it still suffers from the problem of
ministerial, complete ministerial control and the lack of independence.
It's a point dismissed by the Minister Mitch Fifield.
I don't think anyone would look at me and think that that's the approach that I
would take to this fund. I think there are some…
So you can guarantee it won't be a slush fund?
Look, it is not, it is not a program that has a political purpose in mind. It
has a community purpose in mind and that is to encourage communities and
organisations that might not otherwise have access to funding support, to trial
new things, to be novel, to be creative, to think laterally, to be part of
helping to foster and create an innovative society.
And that is Federal Arts Minister Mitch Fifield ending Peta Donald's
Justine Sywak | 0448
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