NAVA concern for ARC Act & independence
Leya Reid, Media release, NAVA raises alarm over changes to Australian Research Council, 16 December 2021
Acting Minister for Education and Youth, the Hon Stuart Robert MP, announced changes to the Australian Research Council (ARC) that raise significant concerns for the National Association of the Visual Arts (NAVA). The reforms are aimed at aligning ARC governance and research funding with the Government’s manufacturing priorities and commercialisation agenda as part of a “new direction” that the Federal Government says will drive pandemic recovery.
Acting Minister for Education and Youth, the Hon Stuart Robert MP outlined the changes in a Letter of Expectations sent to the ARC.
The changes will see a shift away from the peer review process in favour of increased input from businesses and research end users into grant assessments. The reforms also include a recommendation to direct 70 per cent of applied research grants to align with six government-determined National Manufacturing Priorities in future Linkage Program rounds.
“NAVA has serious concerns that the changes will result in a loss of critical research, investment and innovation in the arts and creative industries across Australia,” said NAVA Executive Director Penelope Benton. “The changes dilute the arm’s length, peer review process and align the majority of research funding towards areas of mandated government priorities.”
“The changes come off the back of university funding cuts announced in 2020 through the Job-ready package, which saw disproportionate course and staffing cuts to faculties including humanities and the visual arts. The move to prioritise manufacturing outcomes threatens a further long-term diminuisation and decline in Australia’s creative future.”
The ARC is an independent body operating under the Australian Research Council Act 2001 which states in section 33C that the Minister must not direct the CEO.
“Arts and humanities research is vital for Australia’s culture and national identity. Through evidence-based research, universities and key bodies enhance our understanding of the complexities of the human process, explore our capacity to create, and reflect and innovate in response to critical social, environmental and economic challenges in contemporary society.”
“NAVA calls for an immediate halt to the actions outlined in the Letter of Expectations and an immediate inquiry into the political interference in the independence of the ARC.”