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Federal Government abolishes Catalyst arts fund: restores funds to Australia Council
Following widespread criticism since its announcement in 2015 budget, the Australian Government has announced that it will scrap the controversial Catalyst arts fund, restoring $61 million of its monies to the Australia Council.
Announced as the National Program for Excellence in the Arts by then Federal Arts Minister George Brandis as part of the 2015 Federal Budget, the fund gave the Arts Ministry direct control over public funding of arts projects.
That led many in the arts community to accuse the Government of political interference, with the Federal Opposition labelling the program "a slush fund".
The fund stripped more than $100 million from the Australia Council over four years - approximately 15% of its budget - and led more than 60 small to medium-sized arts organisations losing their funding.
Renamed as the Catalyst program by Senator Brandis's successor Mitch Fifield, close to a third of its funding was returned to the Australia Council's funding in 2015.
Today’s announcement will $61 million in unallocated funds, and a total of $80.2 million, returned to the Australia Council the next four years.
In a statement issued today (Saturday 18th March), Senator Fifield said his decision to abolish the fund was made after listening to feedback from the arts community.
The statement explained “while Catalyst has been successful in supporting a broad range of arts projects, especially those by small to medium arts organisations, the Government has listened and responded to feedback from the Department, the Australia Council and the arts sector regarding the ongoing arrangements for the Australian Government's funding for the arts portfolio.”
Senator Fifield said the change would allow the Australia Council to "address specific recommendations" from the Operate Review regarding the Victorian and Queensland Opera, and the sustainability of the Queensland Ballet and the Brandenburg Orchestra.
The Department of Communications and the Arts will retain $2 million a year to provide funding for organisations that are not supported by the Australia Council.
Senator Fifield added “this may include the galleries, libraries, archives and museums sector and some regional and community, education and health organisations.”
The Department will continue to administer the Visions of Australia and Festivals Australia initiatives, which were transferred from the Australia Council in 2015.
The Catalyst program provided $35 million to 189 projects across the arts and culture sector with the vast majority of money going to small and medium-sized organisations, some in marginal electorates prior to last year’s Federal election.
Welcoming the reversal, the Australia Council has issued a statement advising “this announcement represents a positive long term change for the Australian arts sector, by providing increased support for the Australia Council’s sector driven funding model, and greater clarity around the architecture of arts investment at the Commonwealth level.
“The Council will work closely with the Department of Communication and the Arts to facilitate a smooth transition to the new funding arrangements, as it takes responsibility for existing Catalyst grants, the Major Festivals Initiative, and integrates additional investment back into the Council’s programs. The details around this transition and the specific impact on Council programs will be determined in the coming weeks.”
The uncommitted funds will be directed towards the Australia Council’s existing grants program.
Image: Kage Physical Theatre lost funds as a result of the the National Program for Excellence in the Arts (top, courtesy Jeff Busby) and Mitch Fifield (below).
6th October 2016 - FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO RESTORE AUSTRALIA COUNCIL FUNDING?
20th November 2015 - FEDERAL GOVERNMENT RETHINKS ARTS FUNDING WITH CHANGES TO UNPOPULAR NPEA INITIATIVE
12th November 2015 - ARTS MINISTER MITCH FIFIELD LOOKS AT NPEA REVISION
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