State-funded arts organisations face budget battle

South Australia’s arts organisations and festivals are all facing the prospect of reduced State Government funding, Arts Minister Jack Snelling has confirmed.

Feb 24, 2016, updated Feb 24, 2016
Arts Minister Jack Snelling

Arts Minister Jack Snelling

InDaily revealed yesterday that the flagship Adelaide Festival had been advised of a $1 million cut to its 2016/17 budget.

It’s now clear they won’t be alone among arts organisations in being forced to make do with reduced State Government funding.

InDaily put a series of questions to Snelling, including about whether other arts organisations faced funding cuts, and he responded: “Like all areas, the Arts is not immune to cross-government efficiency targets.”

“We are working with all of our organisations and festivals that we fund as to what impact that may have. Exact details will be clear after the next State Budget.”

A debate on arts funding erupted last week, when InDaily published an opinion piece by veteran arts administrator Rainer Jozeps, who claimed that arts organisations faced shrinking resources under the Weatherill Government.

He made specific claims about funding, including that the Adelaide Festival faced a $1 million cut to its 2016 budget.

This was denied outright by Arts South Australia boss Peter Louca, who pointed to an increased budget in 2015/16 compared to the previous financial year.

However, the Festival then told InDaily that it had been warned of a $1 million cut for next financial year.

In Parliament question time yesterday, Snelling confirmed that the incoming directors of the Festival – Rachel Healy and Neil Armfield – had been informed of the reduction in funding.

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“I can’t recall having had a conversation along those lines with them myself, but certainly I am in no doubt that as part of the recruitment of the new festival directors it would have been made clear to them about what expectations might be with regard to the funding of the Festival,” Snelling said.

“It would be unfair on them for them to take on the job without a realistic appreciation of what the future budgets might be. So I wouldn’t be surprised if a discussion had been had with them along those lines…”

Today, Snelling reiterated the Government’s support for the Festival.

“The Adelaide Festival remains one of the premier events on Australia’s Arts calendar.

“Rachel Healy and Neil Armfield are working very hard on the 2017 Festival programme and the State Government is working with them.”

Shadow arts minister John Gardner said “it’s sad to see the Weatherill Labor Government undermining one of South Australia’s premier festivals, just days before we will be celebrating its launch”.

He said as well being one of Australia’s premier cultural events, the Festival was also a significant tourist drawcard which brought flow-on economic benefits to South Australia.

“The Government has a duty to reassure the South Australian community that they are not putting these benefits at risk by reducing the size and scope of the Festival,” Gardner said.

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