The new South Australian Government’s first budget, delivered this week, sees savings targets and cuts to the arts, and the dismantling of Arts South Australia. The Arts Industry Council of South Australia (AICSA) takes a look at the impact this will have on the sector.
While the Marshall Government has delivered on most of its election promises, including a $1 million increase in grants for artists, when combined with the savings targets applied to institutions and programs, and a euphemistically described “refocussing” of Arts South Australia, the sector is facing a $4.9 million reduction in funds in 2018-2019.
$3million of the cuts is allocated to savings across arts institutions and programs, and $1.9 million is allocated to Arts South Australia itself. These savings then increase annually in forward estimates to $31.9 million over four years through to 2022 ($18.5 million to organisations/programs and $13.4million from Arts SA respectively).
Staffing of Arts South Australia is expected to reduce by half to two-thirds. A significant change to Arts South Australia has been foreshadowed by recent decisions, including the abolishment of the position of Executive Director of Arts South Australia and removal of a range of organisations to other Departments.
Recently, SA Film Corporation, Adelaide Film Festival, Jam Factory and contemporary music were moved to the Department of Industry and Skills, under Minister David Pisoni; and History Trust of SA, Carclew, Patch and Windmill were on Thursday 30 August moved over to the Department for Education, under Minister John Gardner.
Just one effect of these changes, is that in a state renowned for its children’s and youth arts, much of this part of our sector now sits outside of the rest of the arts. The Premier today announced that Arts South Australia’s role shall become “the provision of policy advice to government, with other administrative functions being incorporated into the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s existing corporate structure.”
How this will effect grants programs and their assessment, and the planning and delivery of other initiatives, is unknown. Additionally, the support, reporting and oversight functions currently provided by Arts South Australia to arts institutions will be removed and incorporated into the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s existing corporate functions.
The Arts Industry Council of South Australia believes this splitting up of the portfolio and reduction in its status, significantly reduces the sector’s capacity to work strategically with the South Australian Government. This change has been implemented without any formal consultation with the arts sector. The South Australian Government has announced it will progress the development of an Arts Plan in consultation with the arts, cultural and creative sector.
“We welcome a commitment to the development of this new plan however we are very disappointed that the Government has jumped the gun by already implementing major changes without any consultation,” said Gail Kovatseff, Chair of AICSA. “We have been asking for a meeting with the Government since its election in March; the Government has yet to meet with us.”
“While the Government has honoured its election commitment to increase grants programs by $1million per annum, the other savings measures will offset any positive impact. This can be seen in the Government’s own budget papers where its activity indicators for numbers of Independent Makers and Presenters grants, and their average value of the appallingly low $10,500, remains static.”
“In addition, these ‘efficiency cuts’ come after most arts organisations will have already confirmed their activities for 2019. This will mean that organisations are faced with the choice of either delivering deficit results for 2018-2019 or cutting actual artistic activity.”
These cuts are the largest the sector has dealt with for many years. Any cuts to such a small area of government spending, as the arts is, will have an immediate and pronounced impact on the very diverse, successful and wide-reaching arts sector in South Australia.
‘Efficiency’ savings have a pronounced impact. One example can be seen in the defunding of artistic programming at the much-loved Hopgood Theatre. The Government has committed no ongoing funding, leaving the future of this theatre in doubt. Ongoing funding at current levels (a tiny amount compared to those budgeted for community sports clubs, for instance) is essential for this southern suburbs arts, community and social hub to continue to operate.
AICSA congratulates the Save The Hopgood Theatre community campaign, which included a rally on the steps of Parliament House this week, on their vocal championing of the importance of the arts in communities.
Other announcements in today’s budget include:
-The expected announcement of the establishment of the National Aboriginal Art and Culture Gallery, with $200,000 provided to define the scope of the gallery, and $60 million forecast across 2020-2022 to commence its construction;
– $1 million to complete sustainment works at three regional theatres, Chaffey Theatre, Northern Festival Centre and Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre ;
– $550,000 per year from 2019-2020 to support the growth of live music across the state and to support music programs at schools and universities; and
– Continuation of support to the Adelaide Festival, for major performance events, with $1.25 million allocated in 2018-2019
“While we absolutely welcome these investments, the future of contemporary global artistic practice in South Australia relies not only on infrastructure, festivals and arts centres, but on supporting artists and the development of their practices,” said Kovatseff. “Sadly the Government has given with one hand and taken away with the other.”
AICSA is very concerned that some of the mistakes of the Federal Government are being repeated in South Australia. We have seen the results of the defunding and the undermining of the Australia Council, and how this impacts on artists and arts organisations. This is a fiscal issue, but it is also about not throwing out the years of experience and deep sector knowledge that is within Arts South Australia, and creating administrative structures that don’t work.
“The changes and cuts seen in this budget really bring into question the sustainability of the sector and needs urgent review,” said Kovatseff. “We call on the Government to immediately halt further changes to the arts portfolio and to meet with AICSA as soon as possible so we can contribute to commencing progress towards the State Arts Plan.”
“It is through this plan that we can hope to engage a whole-of-government approach to the arts, not through the disintegration of the lead arts agency,” said Kovatseff.
For more information, visit: www.aicsa.net.au for details.
Image: Hopgood Theatre, Noarlunga (supplied)