Softly, softly, but Minister Brandis…

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CANBERRA arts lobbyists The Childers Group have written to Federal Arts Minister George Brandis asking about his proposed National Programme for Excellence in the Arts.

Spokesperson David Williams
Spokesperson David Williams

The program, revealed in the in the 2015-2016 Budget announcement, has caused considered concern in the Act arts community and among smaller arts organisations and individual artists fearful that the word “excellence” implies an augmented focus on elite arts.

Childers Group spokesperson Professor David Williams is diplomatic as ever, writing tactfully to the minister, “we appreciate that the Australian Government through Senator Brandis is engaged in the arts and is seeking to improve funding mechanisms and support…However, more information about the proposal would enable the arts sector to appreciate the opportunities and challenges.”

The group has asked Senator Brandis for aims, objectives and proposed operational structure of the new program, whether it will be subject to arms-length peer review, and what might be the future of funding for independent artists and smaller projects driving innovation.

Further questions addressed to Senator Brandis relate to maintenance of Australia Council funding for small to medium arts companies, whether costs associated with the programs will be borne by the Department, what job losses might be anticipated at the Australia Council and whether there had been Cabinet and/or backbench consultation about the new program.

Significantly, The Childers’ Group has also asked the Minister to expand on his mystifying statement that “Arts funding has until now been limited almost exclusively to projects favoured by the Australia Council”, a state of affairs universally understood to be in line with the Australia Council’s charter.

It’s a case of softly, softly catchee monkee right now, but when Professor Williams, writes, “We do trust that the Minister can provide the information requested in a timely manner so we can contribute positively to this important discussion,” tolerance is wearing thin.

For more information about the Childers Group, visit

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Helen Musa
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