I am aiming to write a feature article on the recent funding cuts to the Australian arts and how this has affected the sector in conjunction with the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown. I believe this feature would be suited for publications like The Guardian, SBS News, and ABC News. The target audience is Australian artists, but I want this feature to be informative enough for a general readership as well, considering the information is incredibly important to the Australian public as a whole.
My focus will be on how these funding cuts and the coronavirus lockdown have done near irreversible damage to the most vulnerable members of the arts and culture sectors. As my angle encompasses the experiences of local and amateur artists, I am considering interviewing a range of actors, filmmakers, producers and community directors, like my colleagues from the South Coast Writers Centre.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Australia’s governments committed close to $1 billion to the arts and culture sectors every year. That number may seem incredibly high, but it is barely one percent of the governments’ total combined expenditure. These findings were published in the report, ‘The Big Picture: public expenditure on artistic, cultural and creative activity in Australia’ by the independent think tank A New Approach.
A notable finding made in the report is that, despite arts and culture funding reaching its highest point in the 2017-2018 period, government support has not matched Australia’s population growth. A 4.9% drop in public expenditure on the arts has occurred over the period of 2007 to 2018 and, an even more alarming note, is that Australia’s expenditure on the arts is drastically lower than other members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
It is not just a matter of funding being cut, but a misuse of funding has occurred within the past two years. One of the worst examples took place in 2018. In his article ‘‘Stop stealing from us’: NSW’s ‘demoralising’ raid on arts funding should concern the nation’, Ben Eltham explains that in May 2018, Create NSW announced the recipients of funding a month later than schedule. When the announcement was made, the May round of the Arts and Development Fund was the smallest on record with only 2.7% of applicants receiving $256,000. It was discovered by Michaela Boland of ABC News that the NSW arts minister, Don Harwin, had taken $400,000 of the $660,000 total from the Fund to give a one-off $1 million grant to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, which had received close to $15 million in funding in 2017.
The coronavirus lockdown has brought new issues up for the arts industry. Esther Anatolitis writing for The Guardian noted that the overwhelming majority of workers in the arts industry are employed on a casual basis and, based on the technicalities of the JobSeeker/JobKeeper package, may not be entitled to receiving the stimulus. The arts in Australia was already weakened, but the coronavirus lockdown may be a death blow to the industry.