A spokesperson for the Australia Council said more organisations were invited to proceed to Stage 2 than expected due to the “high standard” of applications received. The revised estimate of success was emailed to Stage 2 applicants on October 25.
Those lucky few who succeed stand to get a larger slice of the unchanged $28 million-per-year figure. However, National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) executive director Esther Anatolitis said it would be “devastating for the arts in Australia” if there were a significant drop in the number of organisations funded.
“I’m really concerned about the future of the organisations who put all the work into these applications,” she said.
“It is the only initiative at the federal level that invests strategically and comprehensively in the arts – which means the future of Australian culture and innovation.”
NAVA has proceeded to Stage 2, but missed out on funding in 2016. And unlike the federal four-year operational funding, private sector funding tended to focus on individual art projects, she said.
“One of the most important ways to honour taxpayers’ money is to make sure it’s invested in ways that are strategic, that are long-term, investing in companies themselves, where we take that dollar and turn it into five, six, 10 and build an entire industry,” she said.
In August Theatre Network Australia (TNA) predicted the low success rate, with its modelling showing 30 fewer organisations would succeed.
The advocacy group estimated that with CPI and the loss of alternative federal funding sources such as international travel grants, the shortfall to maintain the same number of funding recipients was about $7 million.
Executive director Nicole Beyer said TNA was having “good discussions” with federal Arts Minister Paul Fletcher’s office and was “hopeful that the upcoming budget process will include a bid for this urgent shortfall … $7 million per annum is not a huge ask”.
“Minister Fletcher understands the urgent need, and the sector’s job now is to convince his colleagues in government to support a budget bid.”
Mr Fletcher would not be drawn on whether the government would increase funding to the council in the next budget, saying it was “the government’s expectation that agency organisations seek to operate efficiently”.
Any additional funding to the four-year grant scheme was “a matter for the Australia Council to consider within its budget”, he said.
Previous arts minister George Brandis stripped the Australia Council of $105 million in funding in 2015. Some of that money has since been restored, but TNA estimates the shortfall remains at $20-25 million.
Opposition arts spokesman Tony Burke said: “Every cut to the Australia Council is a direct cut to the telling of Australian stories.
“It hasn’t happened by accident. This has been a deliberate Liberal policy ever since they were elected.”
Hannah Francis is Arts Editor at The Age