NAAE calls for urgent Government action to strengthen the arts during COVID-19

Following the Australia Council for the Arts 3 April funding announcement of four year funding for a diminished number of arts organisations, the National Advocates for Arts Education (NAAE) is calling for a significant increase of the Australia Council’s budget as part of a larger set of stimulus measures proposed by a broad arts industry alliance to save the arts industry from collapse.

NAAE calls for urgent Government action to strengthen the arts during COVID-19


NAAE Chair, John Nicholas Saunders, said: “The arts funding cuts represent a grave loss to the cultural lives of young Australians in metropolitan, regional and remote Australia. Arts organisations play a significant role in the education sector, through the vast range of exceptional education and community programs they offer, as well as professional development opportunities for teachers. The funding cuts will significantly reduce these opportunities, as the future of many of the companies that were unsuccessful in receiving four year funding is now in serious jeopardy.”

“Publication of the Council’s organisational grant decisions reveals that many of Australia’s small to medium arts organisations will no longer be federally funded. Youth arts investment has been decimated, damaging career pathways. NAAE has great concerns about the impact on arts education and young people who are seeking to work in the arts industry.”

NAAE is the united national voice for arts education and provides policy advice and support for decision makers at all levels. It is the Australian network of peak national professional arts and arts education associations which represent arts educators and professional practitioners across the five art forms of dance, drama, media, music and the visual arts.

Saunders continued: “Beyond the classroom, small organisations such as youth theatre, music and dance companies, visual arts, craft, design, media and community arts organisations, provide young people with creative pathways and opportunities similar to the role of community sporting clubs. This loss is especially damaging in regional and remote communities.

“It is not a matter of some companies being more or less deserving of funding; the fact is that there is simply not enough money to adequately support the essential infrastructure of small to medium arts organisations. This has a significant negative impact on the entire ecology of the arts sector and on arts education. The current COVID-19 pandemic has seriously exacerbated the situation.”

Music Australia’s representative on NAAE, Dr Linda Lorenza, said: “Continuing Government budget cuts since 2015 have been inexorably eating away at the Australia Council’s ability to do its job. In light of the billions of dollars currently going to essential services during the current crisis, the dire situation for the Arts industry must also be recognised. We ask the Government to respond by increasing the funding to the Australia Council so that the arts can weather the current storm.”

Ausdance National’s Vice President and NAAE representative, Julie Dyson AM said: “The 30 small to medium arts organisations that have lost funding in the current round represent a major loss of infrastructure to an industry that contributes $111.7 billion (6.4% of GDP) to the Australian economy. These organisations have always brought people together and fostered community spirit and involvement, particularly needed now during the current crisis.”

Art Education Australia’s President and representative on NAAE, Professor Margaret Baguley, said: “Never before has there been such an outpouring of creativity in our nation. People are finding new and creative ways to communicate, learn and hope, to support their wellbeing. The impact of the Arts on the nation’s health and wellbeing is significant during times of crisis such as evidenced in the recent bushfires, drought and now the Coronavirus pandemic.”

Executive Director of the National Association for the Visual Arts, and NAAE representative, Esther Anatolitis said: “Research all over the world, from the World Bank and IMF down, tells us that the number one skill set needed for the future of work is creativity. During this time of crisis, we need to take urgent action to ensure that creative education flourishes and creative careers are fostered. That’s the only way we’re going to get through this – and be ready for future challenges of even greater scale.”

NAAE recognises the challenges that are being faced by the Australian Government during the present COVID-19 crisis, particularly in relation to the health, tourism, airlines and many other sectors. Through successive budget cuts, the Australia Council for the Arts is also facing its own crisis where it is unable to fund the essential arts infrastructure that supports the work of Australia’s cultural producers and educators.

Therefore, NAAE calls for urgent action by the Federal Government to provide an arts-industry specific package that includes a significant increase in the Australia Council’s funding, now and in future budgets, to ensure the survival of Australia’s rich arts ecology.

For further comment contact NAAE Chair John Nicholas Saunders


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