Arts Funding in Australia
Ben Eltham, Arts funding in Australia: the coming crunch, ArtsHub 20 March 2015
UK arts analyst John Kieffer warns Australia could be headed for a British-style funding crunch.
It’s been a rough ride for the arts in Britain. After years of plenty under the Blair and Brown governments, arts funding nose-dived after 2010. In a climate of austerity in which few public services were spared, David Cameron’s government slashed arts funding dramatically.
The pain was intense. Some arts organisations were defunded completely; many were forced to make do with huge cuts. A recent report card by the National Campaign for the Arts warned that ‘we have now reached a tipping point where further cuts to funding will permanently damage how the sector supports society.’ In 2016, the budget for the UK’s Department of Media, Culture and Sport will be half as large as it was in 2010.
British cultural analyst John Kieffer has been on the front lines of the austerity battle. As part of the amusingly-named consultancy Three Johns and a Shelagh (with John Newbigin, John Holden and Shelagh Wright), Kieffer has been advising a string of high-profile British arts companies on how to adapt to a hostile environment.
Now Kieffer is in Australia. He’s been brought here by Creative Partnerships Australia, in an attempt to provoke a discussion that will ‘challenge traditional assumptions about the sustainability, resilience and relevance of the arts.’
According to Creative Partnerships Australia’s Fiona Menzies, ‘it really is about getting to think differently about the status quo.’ Menzies adds, rather politely, that Kieffer ‘has some quite challenging ideas.’
There’s no doubt that the British experience is a salient warning for Australia. While arts funding has stagnated in Australia in recent years, broad public support for arts funding is not guaranteed. Given the federal government’s well-publicised budget issues – mirrored in many of the states and territories – a future budget crisis could see punitive cuts to arts funding.