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Federal Government rethinks arts funding with changes to unpopular NPEA initiative
Federal Arts and Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has announced that the Australian Government will partially reverse funding cuts to the Australia Council, returning $32 million that was stripped from the arts funding body earlier this year.
The change of direction by the Federal Government follows widespread objections to its unheralded announcement in the Federal budget to create a National Program for Excellence in the Arts (NPEA).
However, Senator Fifield (pictured below) has not completely ditched the NPEA, which will be renamed as Catalyst - Australian Arts and Culture Fund, with $12 million to allocate to arts organisations annually, down from $20 million because of the money that has been returned to the Australia Council.
Introducing the Catalyst fund, Senator Fifield explained "Catalyst aims to support innovative ideas from arts and cultural organisations that may find it difficult to access funding for such projects from other sources and could include library, archive, museum, arts education and infrastructure projects.”
"The program aims to forge new creative partnerships and stimulate novel ways to build participation by Australians in our cultural life."
In a move to repair relations with the arts community, Senator Fifield said he had consulted widely with the sector on the design of the fund and had listened to the concerns, emphasising that the fund will recognise "the essential role of small to medium arts organisations" as well as large organisations.”
He added “the new Catalyst fund is open to small, medium and large arts organisations at a national, regional and community level.
"It will support projects that demonstrate innovation, increase access and participation in the regions and enhance our international reputation."
As with the NPEA, applications for funding with be assessed with the input of independent expert assessors.
There will be three funding streams: partnerships and collaborations, international and cultural diplomacy, and innovation and participation.
The previous three funding streams were endowment incentives, international and cultural diplomacy and strategic initiatives.
The NPEA, created by Attorney-General and then Arts Minister George Brandis, was to be funded by the Australia Council suffering a $105 million cut over four years.
Labor slammed the NPEA, which was to have been administered by Senator Brandis, with no independent input, as a "slush fund" for the Minister, while artists, performers and writers complained funding decisions could be subject to political interference and would likely favour established arts organisations.
Senator Brandis said he created the NPEA fund because arts funding had become a "closed shop" and access needed to be broadened.
While the restoration of funds to the Australia Council is likely to be welcomed by the arts sector, uncertainty over funding over recent months has led to it having already cut grant programs.
Having last year introduced a new streamlined grants model and peer assessment process, the result of a two-year reform process and consultation with the sector, the Australia Council halted its June grant round and suspended its Six-Year Funding for Arts Organisations category.
The Australia Council, which uses an arm's length, peer-reviewed grants model, has been the Australian Government's principal arts funding body since its creation in 1967.
A Senate Inquiry into arts funding is set to report on 2nd December.
Click here to view the guidelines for Catalyst.
12th November 2015 - ARTS MINISTER MITCH FIFIELD LOOKS AT NPEA REVISION
16th June 2015 - AUSTRALIA COUNCIL ANNOUNCES FIRST RESULTS OF NEW GRANTS MODEL
19th August 2014 - AUSTRALIA COUNCIL INTRODUCES SIGNIFICANT CHANGES TO GRANT FUNDING
18th August 2014 - AUSTRALIA COUNCIL’S STRATEGY FOR A CULTURALLY AMBITIOUS NATION
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