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Arts Minister Brandis to have final say on National Program for Excellence in the Arts funding

Arts Minister Brandis to have final say on National Program for Excellence in the Arts funding
July 2, 2015

Australian Attorney General and Arts Minister, George Brandis will have the final say on all grants allocated through the newly established National Program for Excellence in the Arts, draft guidelines published on Wednesday (1st July) suggest.

The program was announced in May’s budget and was funded by the redistribution of $104.7 million previously allocated to the Australia Council.

The 10-page document sets out the program’s aim to “strengthen Australia’s reputation as a sophisticated and artistic nation”, laying out the key criteria arts organisations must satisfy to make a successful funding application.

Projects must be “high quality”, with proven value for money and evidence of audience demand, the guidelines state. Private funding is also essential for a project to gain support.

Funding will be allocated on an “open and competitive basis” across three streams from an annual pot of “approximately $20 million” over the next four financial years, subject to the availability of funds.

The draft guidelines also state “the final amount of any funding and length of funding term will be assessed by the Ministry for the Arts and independent assessors. Recommendations will then be made to the Minister for the Arts.”

The reallocation of funding from the Australia Council was met with widespread concern across the sector when it was announced in the budget. Arts leaders criticised the lack of open consultation and the late cancellation of the Australia Council’s next six-year funding round that left many organisations uncertain of their future.

With $80 million budgeted for the first four years of the program, it is unclear how the remaining $24.7 million budgeted for Senator Brandis’s funding changes will be used.

The removal of the arms-length funding principle has been the subject of several open letters and a successful motion for a Senate inquiry into the new arrangements, supported by the Greens and Labor party as well as all eight crossbench senators.

At a meeting in Canberra the shadow Arts Minister, Mark Dreyfus, labelled Brandis’s program a “slush fund”.

The National Program for Excellence in the Arts draft guidelines outline the program’s aims to deliver “a wide range of quality arts and cultural experiences that grow arts audiences, throughout Australia and internationally”, and to encourage greater private sector support.

The draft guidelines also state “funding will be conditional on organisations leveraging funds from other sources to realise projects.

“Organisations will need to demonstrate evidence of financial, cash or in-kind support from sources other than the Australian government.”

This echoes the letter Senator Brandis wrote to the Australia Council in March 2014, asking for a policy to penalise organisations that refused arts funding from corporate sponsors on “unreasonable grounds”.

Applications will be assessed and ranked by a team of at least three people, comprising of ministry representatives and independent assessors. As yet undisclosed measures will seek to ensure “an appropriate mix across art forms” and between regional, urban and international projects.

The ministry may “moderate assessments” to ensure that program and government policy objectives are met.

Successful applicants will be publicly listed in the Ministry for the Arts grants register, unless the Minister obtains an exemption in accordance with the Commonwealth Grant Rules and Guidelines. Senator Brandis may apply for exemption “where officials assess that publishing grant information in accordance with the CGRGs could adversely affect the achievement of government policy outcomes.”

19th June 2015 - SENATE TO LAUNCH INQUIRY INTO NATIONAL PROGRAM FOR EXCELLENCE IN THE ARTS

21st May 2015 - AUSTRALIA COUNCIL BEGINS CUTS TO PROGRAMS FOLLOWING THE FEDERAL BUDGET

18th May 2015 - ARTISTS CAMPAIGN AGAINST GOVERNMENT’S AUSTRALIA COUNCIL FUNDING CHANGE

13th May 2015 - FEDERAL BUDGET TAKES $100 MILLION FROM AUSTRALIA COUNCIL TO ESTABLISH ARTS EXCELLENCE PROGRAM

4th August 2014 - ARTS MINISTER PUTS AUSTRALIA’S LEADING OPERA COMPANIES UNDER REVIEW


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