New funding cuts solidify Federal Government’s disregard for the Arts

Image Source: Tanja Bruckner

By Biannca Challans 

The 2019 budget promises a lot for jobs and infrastructure, but with many of us entering the workforce in non-traditional roles, places and fields, what is the Government doing to support the Arts?

In South Australia, we know that the Arts are not high on the priority list.

Before Stephen Marshall had even been elected into his Premiership, cuts to Arts funding had already been put into progression.

While change is welcome after more than twenty years of static organisational structure, those working in the Arts are wary of what this potential development could involve.

Reshuffling the South Australian Arts area involves regrouping sections into both the Education Department as well as the Premier and Cabinet Departments.

This will result in funds reduced by more than $31 million over the next four years.

In the National Budget for 2019/2020, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg states that education is “the first defence of the nation”, and “critical to our prosperity, harmony and advancement as a country”.

Shifting Arts into the Education Department might be of benefit for long-term Federal and State Liberal Governments.

However the same remarks of “prosperity, harmony and advancement” are often also attributed to the contribution that the culture and the wider Arts field have given to our society.

Frydenberg’s maiden parliamentary address in 2010 voiced the opinion: “I want to see an Australia where individuals, not governments, invent the future. In this place, we are painting the canvas of the nation and its future.”

Executive Director for the National Association for the Visual Arts, Esther Anatolitis voiced concern for this change of heart.

“This budget makes no new investment in Australia’s artists. This budget makes no commitment towards redressing the debilitating cuts that are damaging the arts industry, making it harder and harder for artists to sustain careers.” Ms Anatolitis said.

Last year on a National level, Liberal leader and former Education Minister, Simon Birmingham was responsible for a lot of blocked arts grants and fund cuts.

Neither Labor or Liberal have announced their intentions for Arts funding in their current Federal campaigns.

In Victoria, Liberal kept quiet about their plans for the Arts during the Victorian State Election last year.

Labor currently holds Victorian government, and have promised funding in favour of Arts individual projects alongside Greens support.

In December 2018, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten pledged $28 million to the New South Wales music and Arts industry.

“Australia is a better country when we back our arts, when we back our culture, when we back our music,” Shorten said.

The Greens also backed this pledge as part of their State Election campaign earlier this year, which supported funding for NSW community radio.

The NSW Liberal-National coalition showed clear favouritism across the state, giving funding to initiatives in Liberal-National electorates above initiatives recommended by an expert-panel.d

The grant money has now been distributed, leaving worthy Arts projects without any funding.

“There are people in our community with the courage to commit their lives to inventing that future,” Ms Anatolitis said.

“They are our artists. Artists define what’s possible. And artists defy what’s impossible. In doing so, artists create our future.”

Labor and Greens say they have big plans to support the Arts but are yet to confirm whether the Arts makes the cut in this year’s campaign priorities.

Liberal are changing the future of Australian culture and society by sectioning Arts under Education, and underfunding those with big ideas.

The current actions of many in power demonstrate the lack of care for a large part of Australia’s culture.

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