The NSW arts funding review has suggested peak organisations should rely on fee for service instead of being government funded.

The State Government has released a discussion paper as part of a systemic review of arts funding raising tough questions about current funding policy. The paper questions whether peak and service organisations should receive government funding, suggesting some of their services might be better provided on a fee for service basis.

The paper looks at who should be supported, how funding programs should be structured and the administration of arts funding. It raises the question of whether funding fewer organisations at higher levels to assist their capacity is or whether more organisations should be funded at lower levels to assist a greater spread of funding.

The NSW Government provided $5.9 million to peak and service organisations, $1 million of which was devolved to small grants programs for individuals, groups and small organisations. These primarily target emerging artists, volunteers and organisations or individuals in regional areas. The paper questions whether the devolved funding model delivers effective outcomes.

Service organisations have reacted with shock and concern to the danger of losing state funding, saying there is no way they could continue to provide the programs that support artists to if they were dependent on fee for service.

The Executive Officer of Music NSW Kirsty Brown said it was ‘completely unrealistic’ to think that the organisation could function without State Government support. She said Music NSW reached 40,000 young people annually on a budget of less than $200,000. Most of the funds are spent through the Indent program, which enables young people to access drug-free and alcohol-free entertainment. The program was founded at the 1996 drug summit in recognition of the need to provide young people with alternative recreation, particularly in regional areas.

‘We deliver so much for so little. It’s inconceivable that we would be able to reach 40,000 young people if we had to go out and fund ourselves and compete in a commercial sphere,’ said Brown.She said said Music NSW devolves about $60,000 of its funding, giving young musicians and bands the opportunity to gain skills and, in some cases, TAFE qualifications.

The Executive Director of the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) Tamara Winikoff said that while the questions being asked about peak and service organisations were no stronger than those being asked about other parts of the sector, they failed to acknowledge that peak organisations provide services to people who are in no position to pay.’These are services that simply would not work on a fee for service basis. Arts NSW provides money to us to broker career opportunities for artists. These are not programs that people could be charged for because that are set up to help people develop viable arts careers.’ She said while these services could theoretically be brought back into the department, the result would be no saving to Arts NSW and the programs would be less effective because they would lose the advantage of the expertise of the peak organisations in their specialist areas. ‘It’s important for appropriate criteria to be used to assess the achievements of different kinds of organisations. In the case of service organisations the impacts are long term and fundamental to the health of the industry.’

The Executive Director of the Arts Law Centre Robyn Ayres said peak and service organisations were often targeted because governments did not understand or respect the work they do or were threatened by their involvement in policy. ‘Perhaps some of the advocacy that we do may not be completely palatable to governments.’

Ayres said cutting funding to peak organisations would make a small saving but cost more in the long run. NSW Government’s investment of $135,000 in the Arts Law Centre delivers about $2 million in pro bono legal work that could not be accessed if the Centre were forced to charge more than a nominal fee, and therefore to compete with its donors. This would have a huge impact on artists and arts organisations. ‘There’s no way the artists and arts organisations who are getting free or low cost legal sevices could manage to pay commercial rates for copyright and intellectual property and employment issues and liability.’

CEO of Accessible Arts Sancha Donald said if Arts NSW did not fund the organisation it would need to take on the work, ‘performed by the dedicated change makers in arts and disability’ to ensure the arts sector in NSW is fully accessible to audience members, artists, and employees.

Organisations at risk of losing funding if NSW removes funding to peak and service organisations are: Accessible Arts,  Arts Law Centre of Australia, Arts on Tour, Ausdance NSW, Australian Music Centre,  Australian Writers Guild, History Council of NSW ,Museums and Galleries NSW, MusicNSW, National Association for the Visual Arts, PlayWriting Australia,  Regional Arts NSW, Regional Arts Development Office, Royal Australian Historical Society and the Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW.

The discussion paper said a review was timely to enable the arts funding program to ‘to meet Government priorities and the needs of the changing arts sector within a tight fiscal environment.’It said there was a demand for longer term funding commitments but opportunities for new organisations to access multi-year funding was limited. It also noted diversification of income was desirable but small to medium organisations had ‘limited access to the skills needed to develop these revenues to assist them to develop more sustainable operations.’ The review will also consider whether the current distinctions between established and emerging organisations are desirable; the challenges of accessing appropriate and affordable space, particularly in the Sydney CBD; the cost of touring and the potential for new technologies to significantly impact on art making, presentation, accessibility, audience interaction and marketing.
Responses to the discussion paper are invited until Friday 26 July. The full paper, submission forms and information on consultation sessions are available from the Review of Arts Funding.

Deborah Stone | dstone@artshub.com.au

Deborah Stone is Editor of artsHub.

To contact the artsHub news desk email editor@artshub.com.au. Keep up-to-date with the latest industry news; be part of the conversation and an engaged arts community by following artsHub on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr .

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