Future of Circus Oz in doubt after members reject reforms

AAR-Circus-Oz-Big-Top-photo-by-Ponch-HawkesOver the past two years, the Circus Oz Board completed a comprehensive internal assessment that examined different robust business and artistic models to best support the needs and opportunities for circus in Australia.

Through this process, the Board confirmed a vision for a renewed Circus Oz with a strong and prosperous future, where the company continued to entertain audiences, inject fun into society and support circus artists and the artform.

During 2021, the Board worked closely with the Australia Council for the Arts and Creative Victoria as they commissioned an independent review of Circus Oz, which included consultation with a wide range of representatives from the circus and physical theatre sector.

The government review identified that Circus Oz has a tremendous rich legacy, but there were systemic issues holding back the company.

It was recommended that if Circus Oz is to continue to receive public funds, reforms were required to introduce an entirely skills-based board and broaden the membership criteria to diversify representation.

The insights from the governments’ review aligned with the Board’s proposed vision for reform initially presented to the 100 Company Members in September 2021.

The decision on how to respond to governance and membership reform, based on the recommendations in the review, was a matter for the Company Members (made up predominantly of former Circus Oz employees).

This week, the Circus Oz Company Members were polled regarding their support for such change. The Poll results indicate the formal vote will not support making the required reforms.

Without the Company Members support, the Board have been compelled to confirm they cannot meet the governments’ funding requirement and are now working on the process of closing the company, including finalising any employment and program obligations, contracts, and commitments.

After surviving the pandemic challenges and recently emerging with new artform support initiatives, audience engagement programs and launching 2022 shows, the Board acknowledges this is a devastating blow to the current teams of creatives, circus artists and employees.

The Board thanks them for their significant work, commitment, and professionalism throughout this challenging time.

We respect and appreciate that for staff and members, their commitment, heart and passion has been what built this organisation and critical to the company’s principles, beliefs and success. We understand what a deeply sad time it is for the Circus Oz family.

The Board respects this was likely a hard decision for the Company Members who previously contributed to shaping the legacy and iconic brand of Circus Oz.

Circus Oz has played a major role in the development of circus and physical theatre in Australia over many generations, and the company leaves a significant artistic and creative legacy that has shaped the artistic expression and ambitions of many of today’s circus artists.

For more information about Circus Oz, visit: www.circusoz.com for details.

Image: Circus Oz Big Top – photo by Ponch Hawkes