28 July 2022

ACT Budget: $8 million a year for arts organisations comes with more accountability

| Ian Bushnell
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Tara Cheyne

Arts Minister Tara Cheyne: the new funding model has been eagerly anticipated by arts organisations. Photo: Region.

Canberra’s arts organisations will enjoy a 10 per cent boost in government funding, with next week’s ACT Budget providing almost $8 million a year over the next four to five years.

The funding is part of a new funding model and policy framework for the arts that aims to foster a culture of innovation and creativity but also bring more structure, accountability and strategic direction to the sector, as well as more certainty for arts organisations.

Arts Minister Tara Cheyne said the new policy provides the roadmap for the ACT Government to achieve its ambitious goal for Canberra to be recognised as Australia’s arts capital.

The eagerly anticipated new ACT Arts, Culture and Creative Policy and Arts Organisation Investment Program will have three streams – for arts centres, organisations and emerging organisations.

Organisations already receiving funding may also be eligible for extra “opportunity” funding.

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The first stream provides five-year funding between $100,000 and $1 million per year for organisations that manage an ACT Government arts centre to pay for running costs and delivering programs.

The second provides four-year funding of between $100,000 and $600,000 per year for organisations, while the third provides two years’ funding of up to $100,000 per year, with the possibility of a further two years for new entrants to develop their programs.

The Opportunity Investment funding provides up to $30,000 for unforeseen one-off opportunities, focusing on collaborative or innovative activities to develop an artform and/or expand into new markets.

The new arts policy is accompanied by an Action Plan which outlines ongoing initiatives and targeted projects.

Ms Cheyne said that while there was no doubt the arts community in Canberra was doing great things, it had become clear that an overall vision for the sector was lacking, which raised questions about the clarity and transparency of how and why it was funded.

“It gave me pause for thought to step back and go, who are we funding and why? What are we actually trying to do here? And when we have the answer to that, everything can probably quite naturally flow from there,” Ms Cheyne said.

She said the new funding arrangements would benefit arts organisations that had grown and would like some increase in government funding to reflect that, but they would also provide a way for new entrants to receive funding and prove their worth.

But accompanying the new funding model are greater expectations from government about how organisations conduct themselves and spend the money they receive.

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Ms Cheyne said this should not be a surprise given the amount of collaboration with the sector on the policy.

She said the government would work closely with organisations on their funding applications so they are clear about the new requirements.

“These are conversations that we should be having,” Ms Cheyne said.

“While we are very clear that we do want to review the year-on-year performance of organisations, and I think that is good practice and certainly not something that I want to shy away from, when those conversations happen, that also shouldn’t be the first time either.

“A constant dialogue between artsACT and the arts organisations about performance should be happening all the time so that this is an overall success for us.”

Applicants will need to address 10 focus areas and artsACT will assess applications, with the Minister having the final call.

In the context of the overall budget situation, the 10 per cent increase in funding is a win for the sector.

Ms Cheyne said it was an acknowledgment by Cabinet of the sector’s contribution to the ACT economy and the wellbeing of Canberrans.

“I think it was a really positive conversation in the budget,” she said.

“I’m personally delighted that we have been able to secure this, and going into the budget process, I wouldn’t have asked for such a significant increase if I didn’t have confidence in the sector and the direction that we want to go in,” she said

The government also released a policy to promote fair remuneration for artists and arts workers.

More information on the new arts policy and accompanying frameworks can be found at artsACT.

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