Open Let­ter to the Prime Min­is­ter

Artist Profile - - CONTENTS -

Since the re­cent cuts to the bud­get by the Ab­bott govern­ment there has been unan­i­mous con­cern for the im­pact the cut­back in arts will hold for Aus­tralian cul­ture. The across the board cuts to the Aus­tralia Coun­cil and Screen Aus­tralia threat­ens a grave im­pact for small to medium arts or­gan­i­sa­tions as well as in­di­vid­ual prac­ti­tion­ers. The de­crease in fund­ing will re­sult in fewer govern­ment grants for emerg­ing artists and the harsh truth that fewer films and tele­vi­sion pro­grammes are likely to be pro­duced. A dy­namic part of Aus­tralian iden­tity, the loss of fund­ing will be a long-term im­ped­i­ment on the growth and cul­tural vi­brancy of the arts in Aus­tralia.

Pub­lished re­cently in the Guardian, united prac­ti­tion­ers in the arts com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing Chris­tos Tsi­olkas, JM Coet­zee, Don Watson, Shaun Tan and Robert Drewe penned their con­cern and frus­tra­tion to the Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott.

Dear Prime min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott, Trea­surer Joe Hockey and Min­is­ter for Arts Ge­orge Bran­dis,

We view with dis­may the many pro­posed changes to health, ed­u­ca­tion and wel­fare sup­port an­nounced in the 2014 bud­get, and fear that the con­se­quences these changes are likely to have will be dire for our most vul­ner­a­ble cit­i­zens: the young, the elderly, the dis­ad­van­taged and In­dige­nous Aus­tralians.

We also strongly ob­ject to the re­duc­tion in arts fund­ing, specif­i­cally the Aus­tralia Coun­cil’s loss of $28.2m (not to men­tion the at­tack on Aus­tralian screen cul­ture with cuts of $38m to Screen Aus­tralia’s bud­get and a mas­sive $120m cut from the ABC and SBS over the com­ing four years). This de­crease in fed­eral sup­port will be dev­as­tat­ing to those who make art of any kind in this coun­try, and many im­por­tant works, works that would in­form na­tional de­bate and ex­pand the hori­zons of Aus­tralia and its cit­i­zens, will sim­ply never be made. Ul­ti­mately, these cuts will im­pov­er­ish Aus­tralian cul­ture and so­ci­ety.

Cut­ting the sup­port the Aus­tralia Coun­cil of­fers will mean the loss of li­braries, galleries, museums, con­certs, re­gional tours, writ­ing cen­tres, and com­mu­nity and re­gional arts cen­tres. In 2009, 11m peo­ple vis­ited an art gallery. To give that num­ber con­text, it’s more peo­ple than went to the AFL and NRL com­bined. Those num­bers tell us what many al­ready know: that art is as cru­cial a part of our na­tional iden­tity as sport. Aus­tralians are pas­sion­ate about cre­at­ing, at­tend­ing, con­sum­ing and in­vest­ing in art.

The sec­tor is “cen­tral to the so­cial life of Aus­tralians”, as last year’s Creative Aus­tralia pol­icy noted, and “an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant part of the eco­nomic main­stream”. Fol­low­ing two com­pre­hen­sive govern­ment re­views and a long process of con­sul­ta­tion, the Creative Aus­tralia pol­icy had promised to in­vest an ad­di­tional $200m in the sec­tor; there is no men­tion of this ad­di­tional fund­ing in the cur­rent bud­get.

Im­por­tantly, the arts sec­tor is one of the largest em­ploy­ers in the coun­try. “In 2011, cul­tural in­dus­tries di­rectly em­ployed 531,000 peo­ple, and in­di­rectly gen­er­ated a fur­ther 3.7m jobs,” critic and writer Ali­son Crog­gon re­cently ob­served. “Copy­right in­dus­tries were worth $93.2bn to the Aus­tralian econ­omy in 2007, with ex­ports worth more than $500m.” The Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics found that in 2008–9, the arts con­trib­uted $86bn to the Aus­tralian GDP – that is, 7% – $13bn of which flowed di­rectly from our field, lit­er­a­ture and print me­dia.

It is worth not­ing that the min­ing sec­tor only pro­vides $121bn to the GDP, and em­ploys fewer work­ers (187,400 di­rectly, 599,680 in­di­rectly), yet re­ceives far more govern­ment fi­nan­cial sup­port at fed­eral and state lev­els. Govern­ment sup­port of the arts is vi­tal to civic par­tic­i­pa­tion, as well as em­ploy­ment, in­no­va­tion, growth, ed­u­ca­tion, health, trade and tourism. The arts, the Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics found in 2011, help build a “so­cially in­clu­sive so­ci­ety”, one that makes peo­ple feel of value, and en­cour­ages greater par­tic­i­pa­tion in em­ploy­ment, ed­u­ca­tion, train­ing and vol­un­teer­ing.

Aus­tralia has a long his­tory of valu­ing the arts and sup­port­ing its artists and writ­ers. The Com­mon­wealth Lit­er­ary Fund was first started in 1908 and even­tu­ally be­came the Lit­er­a­ture Board, be­fore mov­ing to the aus­pices of the Aus­tralia Coun­cil. The $200m in grants the Aus­tralia Coun­cil as a whole cur­rently be­stows en­ables large or­gan­i­sa­tions, such as the Aus­tralian Bal­let, to put on an­nual pro­grams, but also al­lows re­gional com­pa­nies such as Back to Back Theatre or Ban­garra Dance Theatre to tour in­ter­na­tion­ally. It helps decades-old pub­li­ca­tions con­tinue to fos­ter a love of lit­er­a­ture, find­ing and sup­port­ing new writ­ers who will be­come to­mor­row’s great Aus­tralian au­thors.

The loss of fund­ing in­di­cated in the 2014 bud­get will dev­as­tate these smaller or­gan­i­sa­tions and prac­ti­tion­ers, rob­bing Aus­tralia of a whole gen­er­a­tion of artists, writ­ers, pub­lish­ers, ed­i­tors, theatre mak­ers, ac­tors, dancers and thinkers. Cru­cially, it will de­prive peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly in ru­ral and re­gional ar­eas and in re­mote com­mu­ni­ties, of the op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate, ed­u­cate, learn and col­lab­o­rate. These pro­posed fund­ing cuts en­dan­ger us in­tel­lec­tu­ally, ar­tis­ti­cally and se­verely dam­age our rep­u­ta­tion in­ter­na­tion­ally. More­over, we fear the prospect of a world of cul­ture and art that is un­af­ford­able to the ma­jor­ity of Aus­tralians.

You have an op­por­tu­nity now to re­store and in­crease fund­ing to the arts. We ask you that you don’t de­value our artists or their work, and in­stead recog­nise what art of­fers Aus­tralia.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.