Current Issue #488

Labor to fund WOMAD Academy, match Coalition on $85 million Aboriginal art gallery

Labor to fund WOMAD Academy, match Coalition on $85 million Aboriginal art gallery

Issues like climate change and tax reform may have taken centre stage in the federal election campaign, but both major parties have also made a string of commitments to the arts. So how will South Australian artists and organisations be impacted?

Music Industry

Announced in April, the Coalition’s planned $31 Australian Music Industry Package will  allocate $22.5 million to helping established businesses and venues host live music, along with a $2 million top up for the Australia Council’s Contemporary Music Touring Program and $1.6 million for Sounds Australia’s promotion of local music to international markets.

It also included a South Australian focus with a $2.7 million plan for a new development program for Indigenous musicians, to be administered by Adelaide-based non-profit Music SA. Over the weekend, Labor made one key addition to its ‘Soundtrack Australia’ music policy, which was launched last year, by allocating $2.7 million for a grants program aimed at Indigenous musicians – without explicitly basing it in South Australia.

The Cat Empire’s Felix Riebl will act as a WOMAD Academy mentor, pictured with his Spinifex Gum collaborators Marliya

Yesterday, however, it was also announced that Labor would fund another professional development program tied to annual music festival WOMADelaide. The ‘WOMAD Academy’ will pair artists with industry mentors across a 12-month period, with opportunities to perform at WOMADelaide and associated international WOMAD festivals. The funding will also include a top-to-bottom review to identify further reductions in the festival’s environmental impact, with a view to create new models for sustainable music festivals that can be applied across the sector.

Undoing Brandis-era cuts

Announced in full over the weekend, Labor’s ‘Renewing Creative Australia’ policy makes a strong pitch to the many arts communities disrupted by cuts to the sector by then-Arts Minister George Brandis in 2015. Central to this theme is its planned annual injection of $37.5 million into the Australia Council (totaling $112 million, roughly equivalent to the Brandis raids), with an emphasis on rebuilding the small to medium and independent projects and organisations affected three years ago.

It has also earmarked $2.3 million to training organisations and institutions including NIDA, the Australian Ballet School and CircusOz. In addition to that $2.7 million in Indigenous music grants, $3 million will go towards existing First Nations’ theatre and dance companies, while also allocating $8 million over four years to establish a new Indigenous theatre company based on partnerships and co-productions.

Funding cuts saw two of South Australia’s longest-running contemporary arts organisations, the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia and the Australian Experimental Art Foundation merge to form ACE Open in 2016 (Photo: Josie Withers)

$85 million guaranteed for North Terrace gallery

No matter the outcome of Saturday’s election, the proposed Aboriginal art and culture gallery for the former Royal Adelaide Hospital site will receive $85 million in funding, with Labor matching the Coalition’s earlier commitment.

Has the Coalition rolled over on arts?

Aside from today’s news from the Steven Marshall state government’s that a big budget reboot of video game franchise Mortal Kombat would be filmed in Adelaide, local arts announcements have been relatively thin on the ground from the Coalition. Indeed, a fairly thorough search for nationwide arts policies on the Liberals’ website produces little more than the ‘Little Dreamers School Holiday Program’, which will help young carers access arts activities and $5.7 million for school music and arts programs. The aforementioned North Terrace gallery appears to be the single biggest arts commitment the Liberals are taking to voters this election. Which Labor has now matched.

Whether this strategy is in keeping with Scott Morrison’s broader election theme of attacking ‘reckless’ spending programs from Labor, or due to the fact the Marshall government is mid-way through consultation for its Arts Plan, is up for debate. But with only one marginal South Australian seat in play and issues like roads, housing and Bill Shorten occupying the majority of the Coalition’s campaign focus, it could simply be that there aren’t too many arts-loving voters to be coaxed towards the Liberal Party on arts policy alone.

After all, can anyone picture a hypothetical swing voter who would put their concerns over climate change to one side after hearing Scott Morrison match Labor’s WOMADelaide funding?

WOMADelaide 2018 (Photo: Sia Duff)

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