Last night I went to a meeting organised by ‪#‎FreeTheArts‬ to discuss how to formulate a response to Senator George Brandis’s frightening changes to the Australia Council at the Trades and Labour Council building in Peel Street, South Brisbane. Along with the director of Metro Arts , I was the only representative of the Visual Arts there as this campaign appears to be largely pushed along by the performing arts. The wonderful Sara and Norm from Feral Arts are significant leaders in Freethearts movement. The meeting was coordinated by the MEAA [Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance [Union]. This is a test case as we have seen before by conservative governments as they use the “soft target” of the arts to begin the slow but planned dismantling of our strong cultural foundations. We need to send intelligent well thought out strong hand written letters about this change to the arts to our local politicians/members and particularly marginal seats eg: Theresa Gambaro [Brisbane]. 
The arts are essential!” 
Peter Breen.Chair/Director Jugglers Art Space Inc.

The following information is taken from “Save the Arts Strategy 27 May 2015” which can be viewed at http://www.freethearts.com.au/

The shift of funds from the Australia Council for the Arts to Ministry for the Arts proposed National Program for the Excellence in Arts is not supported.

We demand this proposal not be supported and all funds (including efficiency cuts) are returned to Australia Council and administered through arms length, peer reviewed processes.

Key messages: The vibrancy and freedom of Australia’s arts sector is under clear and present danger

1. What the Government proposes

1.1 Savings of $13 million through “efficiencies” to arts and cultural programs run by Screen Australia, the Australia Council and the Attorney-General’s department.

1.2 Overall the Government is redirecting $110 million over four years away from the Australia Council to the Ministry for the Arts in the Attorney-General’s Department. This funding will transfer the Visions of Australia and Festivals Australia programmes and the Major Festivals Initiative to the Ministry for the Arts, and provide for the continuation of Creative Partnerships Australia’s matched funding program for a further three years. Most significant of all, it will fund the establishment of a new National Programme for Excellence in the Arts, to be managed by the Ministry.

1.3 The Australia Council’s new appropriation for 2015 -16 is $184.5M. 66% of these funds must be spent on Government-directed programs. The Council’s remaining funds are $62M, which is $23M less than expected. These funds support the Australia Council’s grants model, current Key Organisations, national and international development, capacity building, research and operations. The Australia Council has had to suspend its six year funding program for 140 Key Organisations whose funding expires at the end of 2016.

2. Four key messages

2.1 These arrangements will jeopardise the vibrancy and innovation of our arts sector and many communities will miss out on access to the arts. The Australia Council has lost a quarter of the money it uses to fund independent artists and arts organisations. The minister has quarantined the 28 major performing arts organistions from the funding cuts he announced. This means the austerity will rest squarely on the most vulnerable part of the sector: the smaller companies funded by the Australia Council, and individual artists themselves. The steady decline in support for this part of the arts sector is just as much a threat to the major arts organisations, as they need it to help breed a climate of innovation.

2.2 Australia is facing the serious threat of censorship in the arts
Australia’s long-held and bipartisan philosophy of arms-length cultural funding is under serious threat. The funds lost to the Australia Council are being directed towards a body without the checks and balances of the Council. We have already experienced censorship of arts activities under the Howard government where funding for projects under a program administered by the Department for the Arts was withheld on the advice of the Minister’s representative and major performing arts organisations were singled out for censure by the Arts Minister for presenting work deemed to be critical of government policy.

The Australia Council Act requires the Council to uphold and promote freedom of expression in the arts: the Department has no such requirement. Under the Act the Minister must not give a direction in relation to a funding decision by the Council: the Department has no such safeguard.

As Senator Brandis said when campaigning ahead of the 2013 election: 
‘The arts should never be the captive of the political agenda of the day: the freedom of the artist to develop his or her creativity wherever it may take them must always be protected and defended.’

2.3 The proposed arrangements will mean that Australian citizens are paying more for less in the arts

The recent history of discretionary grants by the Minister indicates that the likelihood of funding being used in any sort of cost-effective way for the most worthwhile purposes is much reduced.

The Minister is duplicating administrative arrangements already provided by the Australia Council. This duplication means less money for art and fewer opportunities for communities.

2.4 Cost shifting to the States
The arts will have to compete with health and education, meaning less arts activity for local communities.


Make a submission to the Senate Inquiry before the deadline of 17 July 2015.
On 1 June ArtsPeak, the confederation of national peak arts organisations called for a Senate Inquiry to investigate the rationale for and potential consequences of the recent Federal Budget announcement that $104.8 million over four years will be deducted from the Australia Council’s funding budget.
Shadow Arts Minister Senator Mark Dreyfus led the move to establish the Senate Inquiry. This call for a Senate Inquiry was successful.
For more information and assistance to make a submission to the enquiry, visit

• Lobby your MP’s – it is essential that we all call Members of Parliament. You can (via postcode) identify your local MP here: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Members. Please
ensure you are calling your local MP for the areas relating to your work and home.

• Write to the Senate – there is a list of Senators here: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Members – ideally, you are writing letters/emails that are personalized and talking about the impacts on your company but also relating it to the region the Senator represents. For ideas on what to write you can use the template found here: http://nava.good.do/budget2015/letter-from-the-visual-arts-sector

The Draft Program for the National Program for Excellence in Arts is now available for review and feedback:

As always, the staff and volunteers of Jugglers are grateful for your support of our organisation and the wider arts community.