Fierce campaign wins new ‘united arts portfolio’

South Australia’s increasingly vocal arts sector is being promised indexed funding, a cultural policy and a new “united arts portfolio” shifting into the powerful Department of Premier and Cabinet after months of campaigning.

Sep 14, 2023, updated Sep 14, 2023
Place des Anges. Photo: Ben Kelly

Place des Anges. Photo: Ben Kelly

As arts critics launch an online petition over their sector “being starved of new funding”, Arts Minister Andrea Michaels has responded, revealing details to develop a “landmark state cultural policy focussing on a long-term vision for the sector”.

The State Government announced today it is recognising the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising costs on the arts, cultural and creative sector by providing multi-year funded arts organisations with a bonus payment equal to indexation for not-for-profits in the 2022/2023 year.

Michaels said the decision will lead to about an extra $130,000 for 20 more organisations.

Its new “united arts portfolio” will be overseen by Michaels and DPC deputy chief executive Alison Lloydd-Wright from October 1, after the sector was scattered through different departments by the previous government.

This means administration of the Music Development Office, South Australian Film Corporation, Adelaide Film Festival, JamFactory and the Creative Industries Division will shift back to DPC from the Department for Industry, Innovation and Science.

Arts South Australia director Jennifer Layther and creative industries director Becc Bates will report to Lloydd-Wright.

Michaels also announced that work will begin shortly on a long-term cultural policy to be developed with the arts, cultural and creative sector and be released by mid-2024.

And that the government will launch the terms of reference for the previously announced task force into sustainable careers for artists and arts workers.

“Hand in hand with the consultation on the new cultural policy, the department will also consult on new legislation that will recognise and enshrine the value of arts, culture and creativity,” the statement said.

“South Australia is globally renowned for its extraordinary arts, culture and creative sector and this is an exciting new chapter as we embark on a landmark state cultural policy to set a long-term vision for the sector in our state,” Michaels said.

“We will have a united arts portfolio, working strategically and collaboratively across government to support and promote arts, culture and creativity. “

The announcement is being welcomed by industry leaders, including Arts Industry Council of SA chair Jessica Alice who called for a re-think after the State Budget had a funding indexation for not-for-profits but not the arts sector.

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Alice had claimed the decision put long-term programs, jobs and organisations at risk.

Today, Alice said the additional funding would particularly support the small to medium arts organisations “that are the foundation of the arts sector”.

JamFactory chief executive officer Brian Parkes described the creation of a united team for the arts, cultural and creative sector as “a pivotal moment for the arts in South Australia”.

The news comes after the group of 50 longstanding members of the local arts sector who sent Premier Peter Malinauskas a letter about the “dire state of the arts in SA”, ramped up their campaigning to launch an online petition this week.

The petition has more than 450 signatures supporting its claims that the state’s arts sector needs more government funding.

“In the past South Australia was renowned for its support of the arts sector, and its artists and arts organisations, but in recent times the arts have become less important to SA state governments,” the petition said.

“In 2019–20, the SA Government reduced its spending on arts and culture by 6 per cent and then by three per cent in 2020–21.

“Crucial state cultural institutions, including the SA Museum, the State Library, the Art Gallery, the Symphony Orchestra and many others, have been forced to make annual cost savings, endured budget cuts, lost staff, and been compelled to reduce their programs.”

It also pointed to a “lack of strategic leadership” and how the previous Liberal Government had “dismantled the government arts department, with components of the arts portfolio scattered across three departments”.

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