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Fifield set to restore raided arts funds to Australia Council

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The Federal Minister for the Arts, Mitch Fifield, is set to restore most, if not all, the funding to the Australia Council that was raided from the national arts funding body by the previous arts minister, Senator George Brandis in May 2015.

Daily Review has learnt that Fifield’s office is now working with other agencies and arts bodies to dismantle most of the effects of Brandis’ funding grab which saw $104 million taken from OzCo to fund his disastrous pet project called “The National Program for Excellence in the Arts” (NPEA) but now known as “Catalyst”.

It is understood that while Catalyst funding still has favour with some arts bodies in Queensland (Brandis’ home state) and Western Australia, the program might remain in name but its funds will be substantially wound back and reallocated to the Australia Council.

This will reverse Brandis’ program that funnelled Australia Council funds into the Arts Ministry itself rather than the small and medium arts organisations for which they were mostly intended. One Catalyst project saw $485,000 allocated to a Queensland art dealer to stage a show of indigenous art at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco.

The ideologically-driven Australia Council raid was labelled as the “Brandis’ slush fund” by the Labor Party and the Greens. It destabilised the subsidised arts sector – and outraged most of it – as scores of small to medium arts organisations around the country were forced to reduce programs or close their doors.

When Malcolm Turnbull deposed Tony Abbott as Prime Minister late last year he dumped the abrasive Brandis from the arts porfolio and appointed the little known Fifield.

The new Arts Minister has used a gently-gently approach and has attempted to mend fences with the arts sector since his appointment. His first conciliation was to return a third of the NPEA funds to the Australia Council and re-badge the NPEA as Catalyst last November.

While the Brandis debacle has caused incalculable damage to many within the small to medium sector, it has ironically united many and compelled them to articulate the value and importance of the arts to this country.

The Minister’s office issued the following statement late yesterday that can be read as confirming the move to dismantle Catalyst.

‘We don’t comment on every speculative report but as per the Minister’s comments at the National Arts Debate in Melbourne on 8 June, 2016: “I don’t claim that we’ve achieved perfection in arts administration. I am open to adjusting and refining the program and arrangements. Happy to keep the dialogue open with the sector”.’


[box]Image: PACT centre for emerging artist’s Rapid Response Team. PACT lost the entirety of its federal funding this year. Photo by Carla Zimbler[/box]

26 responses to “Fifield set to restore raided arts funds to Australia Council

  1. Back to the favouritism and clubbiness of the Australia Council. Why is every step in the arts a backward step? This will do nothing for regional arts and the companies and artists in the smaller states. Funding grab by Sydney and Melbourne boo hiss.

    1. Do you have any evidence for that Jaded? Have you ever serves as a peer and made funding decisions? The way this slush fund was operated was a disgrace.

    2. Rubbish. It is/was the favouritism and ‘clubbiness’ of the NPEA/Catalyst program that made it detested by so many.

      1. Your only argument power , and with Brandis , is that you did not have it.

        The only thing that gets your kind moving is that the pier review arts academy ( a intrinsicly , profoundly reactionary concept) must have all power over who gets funding.

        Once that is achieved you can go back to sleep.

      2. The australia council pier review system is a (disguised ) academy for the right kind of ‘chap’ .

        In contrast the NEPEA had the significant advantage of being openly and honestly an arbitrary authoritarian government intervention .

        BTW do you honestly expect us to believe that anybody who is even slightly dependant on the good opinions of ‘piers’ for funding to say anything ‘ bad about them or the system that appointed them ??

        1. In fact many of us have been openly critical of the Australia Council in all this. Sorry to correct you but a “pier” is a jetty.

      3. The peak body that is responsible for touring exhibitions to regional galleries across Australia received zero funding from Ozco as a result of the Brandis forcing many programs to be axed. Yep I’m sure Catalyst was great for Regional arts given that it pushed all the responsibility back to the states. The roll on effects to the entire arts ecology caused a multi billion dollar industry to shrink so economically it was a disaster as the finding overall provides a significant cultural and fiscal return.

  2. perhaps Meanjin will rise again like a phoenix. The closure of so many small and medium size arts organisations in Australia is appalling for us all.

  3. Extraordinary what some people will say. Jaded, above, claims the Australia Council is guilty of favouritism and clubbiness. Having sat in on some of the judging panels for grants I can say that this comment is complete rubbish. The only thing the Australia Council has been guilty of in recent years is having too little funding, and having what they did have drastically cut by Bookshelves Brandis. So pleased to hear they will get their funding back. Now all we need is to double their allocation so it even begins to look like the funding given to, for example, sport.

  4. I’m all for pier review. That’s where you take the proposal down to the wharf and chuck it into the water to see if it floats. Saves a lot of paperwork and tedious assessment processes.

    1. Hi ho
      Is that the best you can do( BTW a large rigid worm eaten geriatric wooden structure is an a apt metaphor for the ‘peer’ review academy)

  5. I was very relieved to hear about some policy that is not moving in the direction of eradicating and contracting the arts in this country. Liberal or Labour.
    In NSW the drive to collapse 3 art schools into 1 and to remove art from TAFE and prison education has been very discouraging for those of us who have made the arts our life’s work.

  6. Titter as much as you like about ‘spelling errors ‘ but make no mistake peer review is the essence of Academic Academy ( and of clubs for the right kind of chap ).

  7. Hmm…the problem is that we are just giving the money back to the old Status Quo, so its all meaningless in a way. Still we have the same old problem: Australian Art = Government Art. The only “stable” source of funding is Government, this causes self censorship and an appalling “flattening out” of Art. When Art is run by Public Servants we get endless mediocrity because the public service is so stifling.

    Also so much money goes to the wages of the Professionals its all rather meaningless isn’t it.

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