Australia’s conservative government will nearly halve its budget deficit in the coming fiscal year, in the process eliminating more than AUS$100 million (US$93.6 million) in funding for arts and culture programs, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. The changes include a $28.2 million cut over four years to federal arts funding body the Australia Council, a $25.1 million cut, also over four years, to federal TV and film funding body Screen Australia, and a $33.8 million cut to “arts programs ran [sic] by the Attorney-General’s department.” Programs terminated entirely, according to the Guardian, include the Asia Pacific Centre for Arts and Cultural Leadership, which fostered art exchanges between South Australia and Asia, and the Australian Interactive Games Fund, which funded video game development. The new budget also calls for a “back office” merger of seven leading Australian cultural institutions in an effort to save $2.4 million over four years: the National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery of Australia, National Library of Australia, Old Parliament House, National Film and Sound Archive, National Museum of Australia, and the National Archives of Australia.
Some in the country’s culture industry remain unfazed, including Australia Council Chief Executive Tony Grabowski, who told the Herald, “In this difficult fiscal environment, it shows this government’s ongoing commitment to the arts sector.” But many others, among them a handful of Australian scholars writing at The Conversation, have raised concerns about both the nature and scale of the cuts. Jo Caust, associate professor in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne, predicts:
At the same time there is an increase of A$5.3million promised over the next four years to the Creative Partnerships Program – reflecting a desire by government to encourage other sources of support for the arts apart from direct government subsidy.
But it is larger arts organizations again that receive the most benefit mostly from philanthropy and sponsorship. The impact of these changes will be felt most keenly in the areas of the arts sector that can least afford them.