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A letter to [MY FEDERAL MEMBER] to #FreeTheArts
4 Jun 2015
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In the name of crowd-sourced political activism, please see below for the letter I wrote to my Federal Member of Parliament about the recent arts funding cuts. We have a very small window to get the cuts reversed, so I encourage you all to write to your own Federal MPs about how the cuts will affect you. And don't forget to sign the petition at: www.australianunions.org.au/australians_for_artistic_freedom.

The arts are how we see ourselves, push ourselves, support ourselves & celebrate who we are. Artists, artsworkers & audiences need to advocate, agitate & raise awareness. If you make, create or work in the arts. If you enjoy Australian music, books or films. If you perform or applaud, join in or absorb. If you love your local gallery or festival. If you use art as form of reflection, expression, entertainment or escape. The proposed funding cuts affect us all. Write. Sign. Spread the word.

Feel free to copy and paste any of the following that you find useful. Or check out my article about the cuts on the Writers Victoria website: http://writersvictoria.org.au/news-views/post/federal-budget-and-freethearts/

You can find the details of your Federal MP at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Members


Dear Adam,

I am writing to thank and applaud The Greens for the stance the party has taken in response to the recent reallocation of federal arts funding.

As a member of your electorate, I ask for your ongoing support to help us reverse the cuts to the Australia Council for the Arts and to ensure that federal arts funding continues to be administered through an arms-length, peer reviewed processes.

I am particularly concerned that the proposed changes will result in:

  • Arts funding decisions not being made with the same level of political independence, accountability or peer review that The Australia Council provides.
  • Arts funding infrastructure being unnecessarily duplicated, causing resources to be diverted away from the sector.
  • Significantly less funding and fewer opportunities for independent artists and small to medium arts organisations, resulting in increased competition, downsizing, job losses and reduction in Australia’s creative and cultural industries. The Literature Section of the Australia Council already has one of the smallest pools of available funding, so writers like myself are particularly nervous about what will happen next. Melbourne’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature could be at risk.
  • Loss of unique capacity-building, training, development and research initiatives, which could see us risk the next generations of cultural workers, Melbourne’s status as the ‘State of the Arts’ and Australia’s reputation for cultural ambition and excellence.
  • Further preferencing of those organisations that have the resources and contacts to seek and obtain philanthropic support through the diversion of funds to Creative Partnerships Australia.
  • Irreparable damage to the operations and impact of the Australia Council itself, should the organisation have to make further efficiency savings after having just completed a major restructure, responded to $28.2 million of cuts as part of Budget 2014, and lost $6 million to fund a new Books Industry Council.

What should have been a period of stability and strategic growth now risks destabilisation. The cancellation of the Australia’s six-year funding program and June grants round has meant that thousands of hours of work have been wasted. What Australian arts and culture will look like in 2016 and beyond is unknown.

But with no reduction to funding to the 28 major performing arts organisations, the brunt of these changes will be felt by those least able to afford them – small to medium arts organisations and independent artists.

By supporting arts organisations, The Australia Council has allowed me to build and sustain a career doing what I love, and make a significant contribution to Australia’s collective identity, culture and economy.

By supporting artists, The Australia Council has allowed me to develop my practice as a writer. And by supporting arts leaders, The Australia Council has given me peerless professional development. I am most concerned that these changes will mean that others will not be able to benefit from these programs in the future – and that Australia’s cultural landscape will be poorer as a result.

Since the announcement, the sector has been in an uproar about the lack of accountability, concerns about equity in terms of access to funding, and the potential impact on freedom of expression. More than 9,000 people have already petition calling to reverse the proposed cuts: www.australianunions.org.au/australians_for_artistic_freedom

The ecology of the arts and cultural sectors is diverse and varied – and its contribution to the Australian lifestyle and economy often understated. With dollar-for-dollar grant subsidies significantly smaller than those received by other sectors, the creative industries in Victoria alone contributed $22.7 billion in 2013 (or 8% of the state economy) and employed more than 220,000 people.

The small to medium arts sector is propped up on the good will and hard work of passionate people who invest their own time and energy (often at the expense of their personal finances or wellbeing) to deliver high-quality programs and services on already low resources.

The creative industries are growing at almost double the rate of the broader economy, and a recent report showed that 89% of Victorians attended a cultural venue or event last year – each engagement an opportunity to support education, community cohesion, access, inclusivity, health, expression and understanding. Risking this delicate arts ecology simply doesn’t make cultural, artistic or economic sense.

Thank you for continuing to be an advocate for the arts.

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