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Where Australia Council funding goes – 09/10 version

September 15th, 2010 by marcus

This graph is a breakdown of Australia Council arts funding last year by artform. Despite recent scare campaigns that have suggested that Australia was somehow in the throes of doing away with the “heritage arts” in favour of “new media” there doesn’t appear to be much evidence of it in the numbers!  Right click “view image” to see the graph at full size.

The lime green figures are the allocations to the various artform boards of the Australia Council. These are the competitive boards that Australian artists can apply to for grants from the Australia Council to make new works. The purple figures are a breakdown of the “Major Performing Arts Board” funding by artform.

As you can see there is still massive discrepancy between the amounts of money that go into the major performing arts and how much goes into everything else combined.

My favourite little factoid: Opera Australia last year received more funding from the Australia Council than all the applicants for all 6 of the Australia Council’s major artform boards combined.  Opera Australia alone received $18.3 million. By contrast the Australia Council’s entire competitive funds for literature ($4.2m), music ($3.6m), theatre ($2.5m), dance ($1.8m) visual arts ($4.8m) and inter-arts or cross artform projects ($0.8m) combined totaled just $17.6 million. That’s one opera company receiving more than seven hundred and eighty one separate projects, organisations and individuals competitively funded across all those forms.

And the new media funding that is apparently all the rage if you believe the scare campaigns? Opera Australia’s budget could power the the “inter-arts” office for the next 23 years — there’s a pretty good chance new media will be heritage itself by then. Even if you add in the $386,000 from the positive but spread rather thinly “Arts in the digital era strategy” that reduces to about 16 years.

Seriously, next time someone suggests [as Richard Mills did in this essay commissioned and published by the Australia Council] that we are flirting with getting rid of the “old” to make way for the “new” laugh in their faces and point them to this graph.

[Some notes for the pedantic: I have used the figures from the Australia Council’s online database of funding recipients. You can interrogate the database for yourself here. All the figures above are based on the last financial year (1 July 09 – 30th June 2010) and compare the Australia Council’s artform board allocations to that of Major Performing Arts Fund. It does not include Key Organisations funding ($14.2m across all artforms), Arts Development ($5.7m – mostly for marketing across all artforms), or ArtStart ($2.5m – not categorised by artform). It’s a usefully indicative breakdown but if you really want to interrogate the numbers look at the database yourself]

This post, including the graph is published under a creative commons license. You are free to reproduce and adapt it on your own site or publication with attribution.

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38 responses so far ↓

  • […] There is now an updated 2009-10 version of this data here. […]

  • 2 fee plumley Sep 15, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    at the risk of getting embroiled in this argument… again :) … i just wanted to correct the figure you quote for the digital program (Arts content for the digital era).

    We have had a budget of $800,000 for each of the three years of the Strategic Initiative, plus an additional budget within the MPA digital program. I don’t know where you got the $386,000 from – maybe expenditure reported at the time of some calculation or other – but I wanted to be clear of the commitment the Australia Council has been making in this area.

  • 3 marcus Sep 15, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Hi Fee,

    It’s the amount that I can find that was reported as expended on grants in the last last year financial year. As it doesn’t have it’s own category it’s a little tricky to pluck out.

    I got the figures under “Arts Organisations” [not the most intuitive place to look for it] is that where all the digital era money is? There are two programs there with funding marked “Digital Era Grants” and that is the total figure i get when adding them up. If other funding appears elsewhere in the numbers i will update it if you can point me towards it.

    Search at:

    Am I looking in the wrong spot? Could it be that some of the 800k is spent elsewhere, on overheads or events, or was spent before or after the financial year? I’m only counting money given out not overheads, admin. conferences or other expenses.

  • […] 15, 2010 Over at his blog, Marcus Westbury has done some careful analysis of the way the Australia Council slices up its funding […]

  • 5 fee plumley Sep 15, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    like i said, calculations of expenditure to date wouldn’t generally include what had been committed for an entire period – many agreements are based on an amount but don’t pay it out in full, or were waiting for contracts etc before payment could be made – as with all financial transactions.

    yes, we come under ‘Arts Organisations’ – the program crosses the whole of council but it had to come under some budget header (because that’s how the cost centre system functions – no one in their right mind would rebuild a cost centre just for a temporary program!).

    the two big projects have been DCF and GiR, but on top of that there’s evaluation, the rights roundtable, archives project, ePhilanthropy, the ABC partnership and of course all the overheads – that amount covers the whole shebang. we’ll be publishing an annual report soon which will explain all of that, i know not all of those areas have been publicised as much as DCF/GiR so it’ll be good when the report’s out.

    but i promise you that’s what i’ve had to spend. it’s been the best shopping trip of my life. imagine, someone from the begging-bowl side of digital culture gets asked to invest in developing that sector. awesome. totally freakin awesome. i just hope it’s left a strong enough legacy!

  • 6 Peter Anderson Sep 16, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Marcus. The figures are not surprising, and continue the structural imbalance that has been a feature of the Australia Council since it was established. The debate over this issue is not at all new, and in fact was a feature of the introduction to that excellent little book by Tim Rowse “Arguing The Arts” published back in 1985. Here, on page 3, he quotes a letter to The Australian: “Opera and Ballet are hardly the cultural treasures of Australia. They are the cultural treasures of the Old World, transplanted and cosseted at the tax-payers expense into an overstuffed antique with meagre relevance to the Australian experience”.

    At the time – 1984/5 – the debate was about funding for the community arts board vs funding for opera, ballet and orchestras. And, at that time the largest companies picked up just under half of the Council’s funds. I think it is fair to say that the major performing arts organisations have done very well over the last few decades in the debates about the proportional shares of Australia Council funding.

    In the 80s it was opera vs community arts, now opera vs new media.

    Rowse also quotes a letter to The Bulletin critical of funding for community arts … “I wish to protest the push … to take funding away from the successful members of our culture – [opera, ballet, orchestras] – and give it to the unlistenable, the unreadable, the untalented and usually pornographic bodies and persons seeking such funds. I wonder whether the critics remember the cultural desert of thirty years ago”.

    Ironic that we’re having almost the same debate 30 years on …

  • 7 marcus Sep 16, 2010 at 10:50 am

    @Peter, Lots of great context and history there.

    I agree with you although i would add one clarification. I don’t think it’s about “opera vs new media.” I have raised that example and it is one that comes up repeatedly but it is to some extent a peripheral issue.

    I think the key issue is tyring to find a better balance between the work of living Australian artists and the work of companies that honour dead [mostly not Australian] ones. The key issue is some sort of parity between new work and old companies – getting up to date on artform definitions [who the hell actually uses the term “new media” anyway n 2010?] is essential to that but it isn’t more important than that.

  • 8 karen hands Sep 16, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Presented in such a way these figures are staggering. But as we know, figures such as these can rarely speak for themselves. I’m not particularly pro-Opera or Orchestra, however I think that the ongoing debate surrounding Ozco and “heritage” arts/organisations needs to delve a little deeper than the surface-scratching that is currently taking place.

    There are several factors that immediately come to mind that can rationalise, if not justify, such a large amount of funding being directed to Opera Australia. The most important factor though, particularly in the context of the recent publication of the Throsby and Cunningham reports, is Opera Australia’s ability to employ and maintain artists and creative staff. Opera Australia’s 2009 Annual Report claims a FTE of 423 staff. Yes, there is a portion (57) of this figure that is clearly identified as “administration”, but the majority of this number are represented as performing artists or supporting creative/production personnel. Assuming these 366 artistic/creative staff receive a FTE salary and entitlements commensurate with the training required to be a musician, singer, wigmaker, concert master etc, you won’t get much change, if any, from $18M. If the $18M represents the paid, full-time employment of 366 individual professional, trained, talented artists who all have entered into the field with honest intentions of wanting to practice their art, then money well spent, I say!

  • 9 marcus Sep 16, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Karen… I think that’s a reasonable point to make. However, if the same amount of money was spent elsewhere in the arts wouldn’t it also employ people?

    If you want to make the argument in purely employment terms it would be an interesting analysis to compare that employment in Opera Australia with the 781 projects funded by the various art form boards for less money to see which has the best multiplier effect. I genuinely don’t know what the result would be if we did that but it’s the missing information before we could discuss that.

    But as an example, the Renew Newcastle project I’ve been doing ( receives no federal funding but does receive $50,000 a year from the NSW government. At a rough, back of the envelope guess, it would generate full or part time employment for anywhere between 40 and a hundred people – mostly artists, craftspeople, artisans of various kinds. That’s not direct funding but facilitating self employment opportunities of various kinds – a very high multiplier on the arts $ invested.

    The problem with these arguments is not that they aren’t valid but they rely on being made in isolation. That the Opera employs 400+ people is a good point. It is only a relevant point in terms of funding priorities when compared against how many might be employed if we allocated resources differently.

    Having said my argument isn’t and has never been to kill the opera, it’s about all the opportunities that are lost while we weigh our priorities too heavily on it.

  • 10 karen hands Sep 16, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Hi Marcus

    To answer your proposition, yes, if the $18M that is currently funneled into OA was immediately diverted elsewhere it would continue to provide employment opportunities for artists. And depending on how the numbers are presented, perhaps this would result in more ongoing or contract FTE positions or more social benefits than what OA can currently claim. No doubt about it.

    The debate about where the funding goes has been presented in terms of an artform, in this case the ‘heritage’ artform of opera, receiving millions of dollars at the expense of ‘opportunities’ for individual artists. The point I was (poorly, sorry) trying to outline is that while an organisation who practices a particular artform is in receipt of the grants, the money does go a long way to supporting the employment and career of individual artists who choose to practice this artform, in this case classical music. This to me seems as valid a career choice for an artist as someone who wants to form a rock band or compose electronic soundscapes. I’m not sure what percentage of the $18M OA receives from Ozco would go towards overheads or directly to the artists, but given a rough estimate of employment costs for 366 full time artistic workers, a $18M investment from Ozco doesn’t seem too unfair in terms of its (Ozco’s) agenda.

    As you have stated, I agree that the more artists who can benefit through opportunities or employment from each dollar invested by the Ozco then obviously the better for everyone: artists, consumers, organisations, Ozco, Australian art and culture.

  • 11 marcus Sep 16, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    @Karen. Agreed. From my point of view though the key thing you said was “the money does go a long way to supporting the employment and career of individual artists who choose to practice this artform, in this case classical music. This to me seems as valid a career choice for an artist as someone who wants to form a rock band or compose electronic soundscapes.”

    Which is exactly the point i am making. Not that opera should be less important but that other forms should be important as well. One look at the numbers (currently 98% of music funding goes to orchestras, opera and classical music) shows that being in a rock band or composing electronic soundscapes is not considered as valid a career choice. Obviously if you are in a commercially successful rock band you won’t likely need it but there are market failures evident across much larger parts of the music sector than just classical music.

  • 12 karen hands Sep 16, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Absolutely. The issues with Ozco’s funding decisions aren’t so much binary in terms of heritage-vs-new arts, organisation-vs-individual, or about how much goes where, but rather about the options available for artists who choose or aspire to individual practice.

  • 13 Nick Herd Sep 16, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Regarding your last comment. If the point you are trying to make is that there should be more funding for the arts, with the priority for new funding going elsewhere than the performing arts you need to be clear about this. As it stands many people read what you say as an argument for redirecting the existing funding away from the performing arts – slicing the pie differently, rather than making the pie bigger.

  • 14 marcus Sep 16, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    @Nick. I think there is a compelling case for increasing funding to the arts to catch up with years of underresourcing and to take advantage of obvious opportunities that are not currently being capitalised on.

    However, in the absence of increased funding – and i’m not going to wait for it – i would also argue that there is a strong case for a top to bottom review of priorities within a finite arts budget. I don’t think there is anything inconsistent in holding both those positions.

    Serious question, if you were given the Australia’s Council’s current budget today with no strings attached and no obligations towards one form or another, is this mix how you would divide it up?

    As suggesting i am calling for allocating resources away from “the performing arts,” there are clearly a lot of very poorly resourced performing artists in the current two-track funding system. I am not calling for directing resources away from them at all.

  • 15 Peter Anderson Sep 16, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Marcus. Back to your point of clarifiaction regarding the issue being about Opera vs New Media. I don’t think it is about this either, but that is how some have characterised the current debate. Back in the 80s it wasn’t really about Opera vs Community Arts, but that’s how the debate was characterised.

    The issue of how funding major organisations feeds into the support for individual artists is a complex one. One thing we can see from the latest data is that there is a skew in the employment status of professional artists broadly by artform – the proportion of artists working as employees, rather than freelance/sole traders (micro-businesses) shifts in this way … ccd artists (58%), actors (57%), dancers (44%), musicians (33%), then a big drop to Vis art (13%), Writers (12%), craft (8%) and composers (7%). Throsby & Zednik 2010 p. 53. Overall, work in the arts is characterised by very high levels of non-employee status (I think only agriculture has higher levels, and there the proportion of employers is much higher).

    But as the situation of CCD workers shows, it’s not just the major performing arts organisations that employ artists … ironically, it may actually be the shift in funding sources away from the Australia Council that has produced the high level of employee status in the CCD sector. In other words, a shift away from small project grants.

    And one more point … regarding the funding of rock bands. I think you need to go back to the arguments made many years ago about the importance of funding for ensuring a mix of culture being available. I think it was David Throsby who argued that without funding there would be no Opera, but an adequate supply of rock music (in other words, funding is partly there to deal with ‘market’ or ‘supply’ failure issues). That’s what Malcolm Frazer was talking about when he made that famous quip many years ago – “Art is not something that can be judged by harsh economic criteria”

    Although on the topic of rock music funding … I’m reminded of my own quip when the Queensland Government introduced a funding program for Rock Music in the late 90s … “Ah, Queensland government policy on rock music … I remember when it was delivered by Special Branch and the Dog Squad”.

  • 16 Peter Mc Sep 16, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Dear Marcus
    you post a question about my statements on LP yesterday I’ve given a longish answer there:

    I don’t want to put it here because it would be a little out of context. In short I’m objecting to your high vs low art arguments. Also I thought at one time that the orchestras where not funded by ozco but by the ABC. If something like this where to happen again then it would make ozco’s job much easier.

  • 17 john walker Sep 20, 2010 at 7:24 am

    I dont have the exact figures on me , but the figure for visual arts board funding seriously understates total funding.
    If you add the approximately 15 Million in visual arts and craft funding under the VACS program, the total is about the same as the Opera.

    If the management of the Opera had spent so much on posh hotels in venice that there was no money left over for the actual musicians and singers to go to Venice there would have been public scandal and public inquiries.

    The ratio of costs to payments of the publicly funded visual arts sector sector is of the order of 12 to 3.

    Opera at least delivers visible results.

  • 18 marcus Sep 20, 2010 at 7:32 am

    @John that is the total amount given out by the Vis arts and craft board last year. You can check the figures at the URL above. Indeed there is some vis arts organisational and marketing funding outside that (see the numbers at the bottom of the post) that may be higher but it is not funding for artists to actually make work – which is what i’m comparing here.

  • […] follow Marcus Westbury’s blog and so last week read his post Where Australia Council funding goes – 09/10 version with interest, especially given that I’m just about into the last quarter of my my ArtStart […]

  • 20 john walker Sep 21, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Marcus, in the funded visual arts sector, managers are ‘artists’; they are the reason the system exists. The point that is worth repeating is that within the visual arts there is a vast amount of money that simply is not reaching people who produce visible results. Being a bit narky about the opera only serves to highlight that the opera is by comparison reasonably managed, employs lots of artists and therefore creates a public audience that is prepared to support it. The truth is that other artforms are not underfunded, by comparison, it is simply – specifically within the visual arts – being grossly mismanaged. In theatre and music, a complete failure to deliver a performance would be noticed. By comparison, in the funded visual arts sector, a complete failure to deliver is almost the norm, and because it has no audiences apart from itself, no-one notices.

  • 21 Christopher Madden Sep 21, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Hey Marcus
    Just a thought on methodology. I thinkwe need to be very careful in how we interpret the Council’s funding figures. As you know, the major performing arts board money is administered on behalf of the government by the Ozco. In essence, then, it’s not really the Council’s money to do with as it wishes.

    I don’t advocate getting bogged down in data methodologies, but I think great care needs to be taken when interpreting the data, especially when the majors funding is so big in comparison to the Council’s discretionary funds. I certainly don’t think data that includes the majors funding should be taken as representative of Australia Council decision making, which seems to be how you are using it.

    The options for refining the data would be to:

    1) remove the majors funding and analyse how the Council distributes money over which it has discretion; or

    2) include all of government cultural spending (ie including the other funds that DEWHA puts toward the arts.

    The first would relate to the Council only, but the second to all federal government support. My preference would be for the second option. It may only alter your conclusions by degrees, but the interpretation would be more robust.

  • 22 marcus Sep 21, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    @Christopher, you’re right in that if we did a whole of Government or whole of department analysis we would get a different mix and i certainly agree that it is an exercise worth doing.

    Anecdotally [and apologies for generalising] it would make some aspects of this mix look better (there are other pools of Indigenous funding for example) but on the whole i am sure it would make the amounts of money actually coming out of the system to living artists look comparatively worse.

    However, i don’t think it is illegitimate to take the Australia Council’s budget and use it as an example of cultural policy priorities. Yes, there are behind the scenes structural reasons for this mix and much of it is not at the Australia Council’s discretion however this is in fact what the Australia Council does. That’s important to understand. In that context we can debate what it would be desirable for the Australia Council to do and prioritise and then work through the reasons why that doesn’t happen, how that could happen, or whose fault it is that it doesn’t happen.

    What it is also important to do is to broadly illustrate the nature of the playing field at a time when some major performing arts companies are running disingenuous public campaigns suggesting that their funding is under threat due to a policy shift towards new media. That is clearly a fiction as these numbers illustrate.

  • 23 john walker Sep 21, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    @Christoper Madden. I think it would be almost impossible to get accurate funding figures for the arts. The cynic would suggest that this is because it is meant to be impossible to understand, like most mobile phone plans. There is a very valid question in all of this – what is the value of the Australia Council to the Australian public? The Council was created in the 1970s on a command economy model as a taste-making public patron. In the modern free market economy that is Australia, the Council is something of an anachronism…(like most of its board members, it is of a certain age and disposition that has seen better days).

  • 24 karen hands Sep 23, 2010 at 9:57 am

    @Marcus. John Walker makes a legitimate point in saying that the real question should be on examining the validity of the role or operations of the Australia Council. This seems to be at the core of the recent debates that yourself and Ben Eltham are honorably championing. Somehow though, this important question has become fused and confused with the issues of cultural policy, the value of heritage arts, the status quo of opportunities for individual artists and over- scrutinisation of funding decisions without regard to underlying impetus or existing policy.

    It could be that in our post-GFC, more Keynesian-friendly society the current Ozco model is the best way to support large organisations and institutions. There hasn’t been a compelling argument yet to say that they don’t. Or that the large organisations do not provide value in exchange for the grants they receive. The Centre for Social Impact and Arts Qld recently published New Models, New Money that explores an independent model for the funding of artists, A Foundation for Artists. Perhaps reform would be better achieved through advocacy of this already well-researched proposal so that it can take flight and not fall between the inevitable bureaucratic cracks.

  • 25 john walker Sep 23, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    @Marcus: The funded field has a long history of duplicating itself and creating ever more complex labyrinths of sub organisations. In the Foundation for the Artist submission, it actually states that the intention for the foundation is that increased funding to artists should not come at the expense of reduced funding to existing arts organisations. For at least 20 years, evidence of failure to deliver has not resulted in reform of the management of existing systems rather it has resulted in the creation of extra organisations to attempt to address the failures of the existing system. A prime example of this is the devolution of visual arts board programs outsourced to other organisations in the 1990s. While the funding for the actual programs was outsourced, the funding needed for the management and support of these programs was retained within the VAB budget. By the time of Myer Report in 2001, this resulted in the need for an extra $15m of VACS funding to cover the management costs to the organisations of these outsourced programs.
    The Australia Council was granted statutory independence in 1975 on the basis that it was the government’s independent policy advisor/tastemaker and administrator of government funded arts programs. This 1970s model, by the 1990s, was incompatible with the general ethos of Australian free market culture. There seems to me to be no justification for a statutory, autonomous authority being in charge of the spending of vast amounts of public money. The Council should simply be another commonwealth department directly answerable to elected authority. There is an absurd amount of duplication, triplication of arts organisations in the funded sector. The Foundation for the Artist is no doubt well intended but the proposal is to create yet another publicly funded organisation with significant management costs to attempt to rectify the failure to deliver of the already over-managed and very expensive publicly funded system.

  • 26 martin portus Sep 23, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Here and on the Drum Marcus shows a graph comparing the support given to Australia’s 28 major performing arts companies with the Australia Council expenditure on artforms through its individual artform boards.

    Unfortunately some key funding categories are omitted. So in the interests of well informed (and welcome) debate, below is a link to a graph of Australia Council expenditure with these now included.

    I have tried to keep Marcus’ format. You can see in purple the amount given to our major performing arts companies. These amounts incidentally are set not by the Australia Council, but on the agreement of the federal and state and territory arts ministers.

    The amounts in green are the expenditure by the Council itself on each artform, by each artform board – as Marcus indicated – but also from other programs and initiatives. Most significant is the amount invested in those key organisations from each artform, those 140 small to medium companies around the country which receive triennial funding.

    Just two notes of explanation:
    The investment noted as Cross -artform includes what Marcus tags as Inter-Arts (digital and new media) as well as community arts – in those areas which can’t be related to a particular one artform.
    And the category of Other Music includes the following major performing arts organisations: The Australia Chamber Orchestra, Brandenburg Ensemble, Music Viva and the Melba Foundation.

    So here’s the whole pie – and the current carve-up! May the debate continue…

    Martin Portus
    Director Communications
    Australia Council for the Arts

  • 27 marcus Sep 23, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Martin, thanks for doing that. I think that will definitely help and informed debate. Is their any chance you could allow comments on your web site or via some other channel so that people don’t keep firing all the methodology comments and questions to me?

  • 28 anne sanders Sep 24, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    @ Martin Portus: thanks for providing this information however I’m seeking clarification on the figures you have provided. As you state the Purple category represents the MPA orgs allocation which was ‘based on agreement between fed/state/territory arts ministries’. I assume that this is the triennial major organisations funds resulting from the Nugent Inquiry back in 1999 – currently under review at the CMC (Cultural Ministers Council).
    Specifically in relation to the VACB Green and Blue allocations: I assume that these are funds that are managed directly by the Australia Council and therefore do no include the VACS triennial organisation funding which was the result of the Myer Inquiry (modelled on the success of the Nugent). This is also currently under review with the CMC.
    If the Purple includes the triennial major orgs funding (separate to the Aus Co) then why isn’t the VAC Strategy organisation funding included as a separate colour band under VACB?
    A further question re: VACB Green or project funding: how much of this is allocated to organisations and how much to individual artists?

  • 29 martin portus Sep 24, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    I posted yesterday this more comprehensive graph of Australia Council expenditure on artforms and the federal and state expenditure on supporting the major performing arts companies.

    Marcus took his information from the Australia Council’s online grants list which is based on grants that have been approved. This graph, drawing on information soon to be published in our annual report, is based on the amounts we actually paid to grant recipients during the year. It includes the further data of key organisations on multi-year grants, in many cases approved before 1 July 2009 but part paid in 2009-10.

    I also focused on seperate artform expenditure rather than just on artform boards, so the data also includes investments related to those artforms but from other Australia Council programs and initiatives beyond the boards.

    To make an easy comparison with Marcus’ earlier graph, I also focused just on the major performing arts companies and that artform expenditure.

    The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Board last financial year invested $1.9 million across all artforms. But the total expenditure by Council in Indigenous arts (including ATSIA) was $7.8 million.

    Council has no definition or tag to do with whatever “heritage” arts is. Everything the Australia Council funds is regarded here as contemporary art-making.

    Martin Portus
    Director Communications
    Australia Council for the Arts

  • 30 Jenny Lee Sep 27, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    I noticed you’ve trotted out the same inaccurate figures in the SMH on the weekend. Are you going to correct your figures in your table for your talk at the Opera House? I guess that would get in the way of your killer line ‘opera gets more than the rest combined’ blah, blah, blah … Facts are so boring.

  • 31 marcus Sep 27, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Hi Jenny,

    Firstly, the article that appeared in the paper on Saturday was actually written before this post and submitted weeks ago – it was the reason i added up the numbers in the first place.

    At some point i will get around to responding to the OzCo numbers in detail – but the numbers in this article stand. Go and have a look at the raw data on the Australia Council site. . Opera Australia did indeed receive more funding last year than 781 separate projects, organisations and individuals competitively funded across the literature, music, theatre, dance, visual arts and inter-arts boards.

    What the Australia Council has done is include funds that are not in the artform board budgets, money that was allocated before last financial year and money from other programs to reach a number that is still considerably less than the opera and orchestra budget.

    Nonetheless, the fact remains that artists applying to any of those boards last year competed for less than the total amount given in a single grant to Opera Australia.

    You don’t need to take my word for it. The Australia Council publish a detailed breakdown and i have linked to it in the post above.

  • 32 Jenny Lee Sep 27, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Do you know what financial year the opera money was allocated? I don’t know the answer to this, but I reckon there’s a good chance it was allocated before the last financial year as well.

  • 33 marcus Sep 27, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    @Jenny, According to the Australia Council web site the OA one is was an 09/10 financial year grant. For all i know there could be additional money carrying over from a previous year on top of that amount or – equally it could include funds to carry on after this financial year [although i suspect someone would have pointed that out if it did]. In any case what i have done is very simple, transparent and easy for you or anyone else to check.

    I’ve taken the published list of 09/10 financial year grants from the major performing arts board (the purple numbers) and compared it to the 09/10 published grants from all of the Australia Council’s artform based boards (the green ones). The reason i did it was commissioned by the Opera House’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas to do a talk about the unique benefits opera gets under the current system so i started by looking up the numbers. The Opera House also organised the piece that went in the paper on Saturday. I published the numbers here because i thought it made more sense to show it as a graph and neither of those formats allow for that.

    As for the new Australia Council numbers that they’ve published – i’m sure they are broadly correct. But in order to get to those numbers they include a lot of spending that isn’t “arts grants” and isn’t included on the arts grants list on their web site. For example – and they haven’t given me a breakdown so this is an educated guess – they might include support to sector organisations, they might include money they spent sponsoring conferences, marketing initiatives and events, they might include money that has been allocated to companies in previous year’s budgets but paid this year. When i get a breakdown i will write something up about how and why the numbers differ BUT the point remains that the amounts i’ve quoted are the published grant totals for each of the above boards.

    As i said, click on the link and take a look at the raw numbers – it gives a good perspective on what the funding system does and its free of any suspicious interpretation from me :)


  • 34 john walker Sep 28, 2010 at 7:51 am

    Much public funding in the areas covered by the Boards is not included in the figures you are using.
    For example as best as I can work out, The figures do not include the amounts paid to the support of ‘key’ organisations under the VACS program.
    Whilst these payments are off the Australia council books they are none the less public money .

    I suggest that you are comparing apples and oranges.

    The whole area of public funding and policy is intrinsically ‘impossible’ ; the system was created to fund things that by definition lack sufficient numbers of paying public audiences to be independently viable. There is an infinite supply of economically nonviable art forms and a finite supply of government money, this fight is as old as the Council it self.

  • […] have been happening around the traps will have noticed that the Australia Council has responded to my graph of their 09/10 grants by art form with one of their own that you can see above or read about on their site. As you would expect a lot […]

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  • 37 The Cultural Dividend Nov 7, 2010 at 10:47 am

    […] Revealing how, where and why this is happening in Australia is one way to begin to identify whether there is a case either for the distribution of funding away from large ‘high’ cultural activities to creators and communities, or that we have too many, too few, or just the right number of museums per capita… [i] […]

  • […] is for Everyone! But  it’s hard to argue with the fact that arts funding in Australia still disproportionately privileges the traditional high arts over support for any other form of cultural expression. By a […]