Western Edge Youth Arts productions such as Belonging could be threatened by Australia Council funding cuts.No new money for Australia Council as jobs go at National Library of Australia, National Gallery of Australia and National Film and Sound ArchiveBack to Back Theatre receives $800,000 Catalyst grant on eve of federal budgetAustralia Council ‘one major cut away’ from not functioning
Hundreds of actors, stage professionals and other people employed in the performing arts will be out of work as a result of this year’s budget.
That is the dire prediction of Andrew Kay, the president of Live Performance Australia, who said: “We expect to see 40 percent of our small to medium companies lose funding and face going under.
“That’s 18 to 20 companies that won’t be creating new productions, hundreds of creative and talented Australians out of work and lost revenue.”
However, those numbers only account for small to medium performing arts companies. The LPA, the peak body for Australia’s live performance industry, estimates almost 6000 jobs could be at risk if 40 per cent of small and mid-sized arts companies lose key organisation funding from the beleagured Australia Council for the Arts.
The Australia Council will announce about $22 million in four-year funding grants on May 16 – far less than the $30 million expected under the cancelled six-year funding program.
Kay said the $105 million cut from the Australia Council in the 2015 budget ($32 million was later restored by new Arts Minister Mitch Fifield) would also affect major performing arts companies, venues, festivals and commercial producers.
His concerns are shared by Bethwyn Serow, the executive director of the Australian Major Performing Arts Group, who said previous budget cuts had created instability in the arts sector.
“The Australia Council’s capacity to provide the investment that ensures stability for small to medium arts organisations is diminished,” she said.
Nicole Beyer, the director of Theatre Network Australia, said: “We fear that next week’s grants notifications will reduce the number of funded small to medium companies from 147 to something less than 100.”
The Australia Council will receive $183.4 million in 2016-17, $1.1 million less than the previous year, and spend $169.72 million on grants.
Australia Council spokeswoman Karen Smith said the results of the February grant round, including project grants for individuals, groups and arts organisations, would be announced on May 10.
Arts company Punctum was forced to cancel the last stage of its River Rites project due to changes in Australia Council funding. The company, based in regional Victoria, did not apply for Australia Council funding because of the fierce competition for limited funds.
“The competition for project funding will now be fierce as there will be a compounding of companies vying for project funding – a pool of funding which also has been reduced,” said Punctum’s artistic director Jude Anderson. “This will potentially cut success rates by half.”
She added: “So potentially ticket prices will rise, there will be a paucity of choice and many jobs will be lost.”
Job cuts are also a real prospect for young people in Melbourne’s western suburbs following the removal of Australia Council funding that provided $50,000 to $80,000 to the Footscray-based Western Edge Youth Arts.
“This has meant that our emerging artists program that gave 18 young people aged 17 to 25 2985 hours of employment in 2015 has dried up unless we can find alternative funding,” said Western Edge general manager Sally Farr.
“The reduction of grant rounds to four per year means there is more competition for a smaller pool of funding and this isn’t OK.”
Western Edge has provided opportunities to young artists from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds for more than two decades, but Farr said: “We are unable to do this without federal funding”.
Western Edge applied for $300,000 from the four-year funding round to spend on the salaries of core staff, marketing and overheads like rent and electricity.
But Farr does not have high hopes.
“It’s a really competitive round. I’ve heard maybe 80 of 300 applications will be successful,” she said. “That’s not great odds.”
The 2016 budget stated more than 50 per cent of organisations supported by the controversial Catalyst program, which has an annual budget of $12 million stripped from the Australia Council, are small to medium arts organisations.
Western Edge has not yet applied for money from Catalyst, but Farr said the company will seek funds from the program.
“There’s been a lot of frustration around the lack of funding dates being published until recently,” she said. “The communication and administration of the fund has been unclear.”
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