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Editorial: Brandis begets a Bloodbath in the arts

The consequences of former Federal Arts Minister Senator George Brandis’ ideologically driven raid on the Australia Council last year have finally been revealed today.

And as predicted it’s a blood bath. Sixty-two arts organisations have been cut from the Australia Council’s four-year funding program today as it was forced by the Turnbull government to accommodate the cuts Brandis made when he took $104 million of its money to fund his own ill-conceived National Program for Excellence in the Arts (now Catalyst).

While the new Arts Minister Mitch Fifield restored about a third of that funding to the Australia Council due to public outcry, he was still using the raided OzCo’s funds to shamelessly throw money at pet government art projects earlier this week just as the government went into pre-election caretaker mode.

Among the many well-established and respected organisations cut from Australia Council funding today are Meanjin magazine, the Next Wave Festival, Red Stitch Theatre, Legs on the Wall, Kage Physical Theatre, Philip Adams Ballet Lab, Arena Theatre, Force Majeure Theatre, Brink Productions and Vitalstatistix.

Perhaps the most alarming is the cutting of funds to the National Association of Visual Arts (NAVA) which has been the leader of only a handful of arts organisations in the past year to have stood up and criticised Brandis’ NPEA folly.

The Australia Council today announced the names of the 128 small to medium arts organisations that did receive a share of $112 million over four years — many of which will get funding OzCo for the first time and are deserving of it.

It’s easy to see today’s funding decision as a contest between  “winners” and “losers”. But all arts companies, all artists and all audiences are the losers today as each is dependent on the other to create a creative nation — and economy.

Many of the amputated organisations will survive by digging deeper into their stock in trade — hard work and ingenuity — but they are being forced to spread themselves thin as a direct result of Brandis’ agenda.

While many of the recipients of the money siphoned from OzCo to pay for the Catalyst program are worthy — some are less so. The $1million the Turnbull government gave to preserve the Adelaide Hills home of the late Sir Hans Heysen should have come from another source and not robbed living artists of opportunities to contribute to the culture now.

Today’s funding announcement reveals the Turnbull government’s “innovation” mantra to be a nonsense.

Featured image: Geoffrey Watson’s Camel at this year’s Next Wave Festival, which has lost funding. Photo by Sarah Walker

2 responses to “Editorial: Brandis begets a Bloodbath in the arts

  1. Well said, Vincent. If only the shameful political thugs in power could understand or appreciate the world Richard Flanagan & other Oz cultural figures offer us.. But, like they say: `there are no votes in the arts’ – so why should they care?
    But we must make them. Don’t give up the struggle: La Lotta Continua.

  2. The Medici of Madeline College, though no longer Arts Minister, is, never the less, reshaping the arts in Australia.
    For all of you who believe that the arts should inspire, edify, educate and agitate, remember this: the Liberal see them only as a way of providing a good night out with like minded toffs, preferably on opening night with complimentary tickets, followed by cocktails.

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