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Election Messages for the Performing Arts

Election Messages for the Performing Arts
August 5, 2010

Performing Art peak bodies APACA, AMPAG and LPA have called for Australia’s next Government to increase support for the development and presentation of new Australian work and for greater support for regional and international touring.

The recommendations are among key policy and funding areas that the Australian Performing Arts Centres Association (APACA), the Australian Major Performing Arts Group (AMPAG) and Live Performance Australia (LPA) feel Australia’s political parties should address.

The peak bodies feel that their four recommendations will provide increased audiences, greater artistic innovation, more jobs and improved revenue, thereby positioning performing arts companies and groups to better attract philanthropy, private investment and sponsorship and ultimately reduce reliance on government investment.

The recommendations are:

1. Increased support for the development and presentation of new Australian work
The importance of developing new Australian work should not be underestimated. New Australian works define national identity, provide the opportunity for innovation & creativity and enhance the reputation of Australia internationally. New works of today are the classics of the next generation. Even more importantly, they create employment for many artists, technicians, craftsmen and other workers. However as with any new innovative “product”, new Australian work needs to progress through multiple stages of development to reach a premiere season. As with other industries, the benefit of venture capital and seed funds are crucial to the creation of new work, and become even more necessary the larger and more complex the piece . Although Government funding does exist for these various phases of development, it is limited in scope and often requires reapplication at each stage. There is no grand vision.

Recommendation 1: Establish a fund of $5 million per annum (with an upper individual investment of $250,000) which allows robust investment in the development and initial presentation of exclusively new Australian work across all genres. This would be open to both the not for profit and commercial sectors. 

2. Greater Support for Touring – regionally and internationally

Once a work is created, touring ensures that it has greater longevity and provides the best possible return on the initial investment made by the government, private sector and other partners. Although it is not always the case, regional touring is often facilitated by the Playing Australia fund. The present fund of $6.3 million pa has been oversubscribed for many years resulting in many companies disengaging with the process, especially those with works of scale or more challenging works.. Increasing the value of the fund would provide significant benefits in regard to increasing the breadth, diversity and quality of works seen by audiences in regional and remote Australia, and assist in meeting the significant unmet audience demand.

Recommendation 2: Increase the existing Playing Australia fund by $2 million per year.

International touring provides Australian artists with challenge and exposure to new environments, further boosting their ability to engage with and entertain the Australian public. For trade, and international relations, cultural ties are an enduring and effective way to build networks in both the public and private sectors. International touring reinforces Australia’s standing as a stable, sophisticated and creative nation with a diverse culture. It also promotes more positive images of our internal relationships, improves market access for Australian cultural exports and promotes Australian tourism and education.

Yet opportunities are lost because of lack of a cohesive vision and sufficient funding for an international touring program.

The Australia International Cultural Council (AICC) provides $500,000 a year to support international touring with an upper limit of $40K for a grant. Clearly this is insufficient to tour anything but the smallest touring parties. The Australia Council also provides some limited international touring support. It is our contention that a fund of $10Mpa, based on a three year business cycle, is required to sufficiently respond to demand for Australian works overseas, be they a commercial product like a new Australian musical sought by Broadway or Asia or an invitation to an arts company to appear at a key international festival or on a major international touring circuit. 

An export fund of this nature would allow Australia to better respond to international opportunities, undertake more significant cultural diplomacy and further position itself as a creative and exciting partner for innovative investment projects.

Recommendation 3:
Create a fund of $10 million pa for a minimum of three years to assist the touring of new Australian work. This would be open to major festivals, companies and commercial producers.

3. Soft Infrastructure (Investing in People)
The investment made by the Federal government in performing arts product is inhibited from being its most effective by the absence of a strong foundation of skilled people and fully resourced performance spaces. 

While extensive infrastructure exists throughout the country it is failing to realise its full potential due to key skills gaps (e.g. venue technicians, venue based producers, audience development). The provision of targeted training programs to address these gaps will greatly maximise the investment made in both touring and infrastructure. 

As with other industries, in order to address these gaps a coordinated approach is required to implement training for what were previously considered “on the job skills” such as technical production, management and entrepreneurial producing. 

Recommendation 4:
That the Federal Government coordinates a Performing Arts Industry Training Task force involving the three levels of government and relevant industry partners to develop a strategy which addresses specific skills gaps. 

AMPAG, LPA and APACA acknowledge that it is not the role of Government to ensure the sustainability of the sector. However with comparatively small additional funds, inefficiencies in the current system of support could be addressed, improving outcomes for communities throughout Australia. 

The latest Australia Council for the Arts research, along with independent research undertaken by Live Performance Australia, has shown that the arts are strongly supported by the Australian community . Live performance brings together members of the community to be entertained, enriched and enthralled. There are in excess of 15 million attendances at live performances each year, generating an industry value add of $1.1 billion. Federal Government investment in music and live performance is extremely important and is around $123 million pa or 0.04% of total government spending. This is equivalent to around 1.5 cents per Australian, per day, year. The music and live performance sector creates about 30,500 jobs and contributes over $1 billion to GDP. This is a return on investment for the Federal government of about 800%. 




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