Investigating the reality of the Australian funding model for the arts.
An Act to provide for a Council for purposes connected with the support and promotion of the arts, and for related purposes.Australia Council Act 2013
Forty-five years since the establishment of the Australian Council for the Arts and we are still funding the arts through this same model. Whilst elements of the model have adapted with contemporaneous shifts in political, cultural, and economic climates, currently Australian artists earn unequivocally less than most other occupational groups in Australia. This is despite an increased appetite to make art from the artist population, and despite the sector’s significant return on economic investments through employing 5.5% of the Australian workforce. It is also in contrary to the experience of the workers of other industries who have an equivalent reliance on Government funding but who do not experience the same levels of financial instability experienced by artists. This research project therefore begins with a hypothesis that the funding model may no longer meet industry need, a position that informs the overarching research question: how can we better fund the arts in Australia?
The research commences with an historical study of the federal political activity that formalised arts funding in the Australia Council model in the mid 1970s, up until its current iteration in 2020. Other research focusses on this history through the lenses of either cultural policy development or economic concerns, though none currently exist that position this history from within the operational perspective of the practising artist or arts worker. This critical overview of the history, role and function of arts funding will inform a series of interviews across three key stakeholders who further contribute to or benefit from the funding model, namely: artists and creative practitioners, leaders of arts organisations, and philanthropists who extend or replace Government funding the arts. The qualitative information gathered will be systematically codified so as to define a theory of what constitutes ‘problems’ and ‘success’ with the funding model for each of these groups. With this theory in hand the project will culminate in a response to the research question by developing of a set of recommendations for improving the way we fund the arts.