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An Open Letter to the Australian Government on the Future of Arts Funding

Dear Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Treasurer Joe Hockey and Minister for Arts George Brandis,

We view with dismay the many proposed changes to health, education and welfare support announced in the 2014 budget, and fear that the consequences these changes are likely to have will be dire for our most vulnerable citizens: the young, the elderly, the disadvantaged and Indigenous Australians.

We also strongly object to the reduction in arts funding, specifically the Australia Council’s loss of $28.2 million (not to mention the attack on Australian screen culture with cuts of $38 million to Screen Australia’s budget and a massive $120 million cut from the ABC and SBS over the coming four years). This decrease in federal support will be devastating to those who make art of any kind in this country, and many important works, works that would inform national debate and expand the horizons of Australia and its citizens, will simply never be made. Ultimately, these cuts will impoverish Australian culture and society.

Cutting the support the Australia Council offers will mean the loss of libraries, galleries, museums, concerts, regional tours, writing centres, and community and regional arts centres. In 2009, 11 million people visited an art gallery. To give that number context, it’s more people than went to the AFL and NRL combined. Those numbers tell us what many already know: that art is as crucial a part of our national identity as sport. Australians are passionate about creating, attending, consuming and investing in art.

The sector is ‘central to the social life of Australians’, as last year’s Creative Australia policy noted, and ‘an increasingly important part of the economic mainstream’. Following two comprehensive government reviews and a long process of consultation, the Creative Australia policy had promised to invest an additional $200 million in the sector; there is no mention of this additional funding in the current budget.

Importantly, the arts sector is one of the largest employers in the country. ‘In 2011, cultural industries directly employed 531 000 people, and indirectly generated a further 3.7million jobs,’ critic and writer Alison Croggon recently observed. ‘Copyright industries were worth $93.2 billion to the Australian economy in 2007, with exports worth more than $500 million.’

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that in 2008–9, the arts contributed $86 billion to the Australian GDP – that is, 7% – $13 billion of which flowed directly from our field, literature and print media.

It is worth noting that the mining sector only provides $121 billion to the GDP, and employs fewer workers (187 400 directly, 599 680 indirectly), yet receives far more government financial support at federal and state levels.

Government support of the arts is vital to civic participation, as well as employment, innovation, growth, education, health, trade and tourism. The arts, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found in 2011, help build a ‘socially inclusive society’, one that makes people feel of value, and encourages greater participation in employment, education, training and volunteering.

Australia has a long history of valuing the arts and supporting its artists and writers. The Commonwealth Literary Fund was first started in 1908 and eventually became the Literature Board, before moving to the auspices of the Australia Council. The $200 million in grants the Australia Council as a whole currently bestows enables large organisations, such as the Australian Ballet, to put on annual programs, but also allows regional companies such as Back to Back Theatre or Bangarra Dance Theatre to tour internationally. It helps decades-old publications continue to foster a love of literature, finding and supporting new writers who will become tomorrow’s great Australian authors.

The loss of funding indicated in the 2014 budget will devastate these smaller organisations and practitioners, robbing Australia of a whole generation of artists, writers, publishers, editors, theatre makers, actors, dancers and thinkers. Crucially, it will deprive people, particularly in rural and regional areas and in remote communities, of the opportunity to create, educate, learn and collaborate. These proposed funding cuts endanger us intellectually, artistically and severely damage our reputation internationally. Moreover, we fear the prospect of a world of culture and art that is unaffordable to the majority of Australians.

You have an opportunity now to restore and increase funding to the arts. We ask you that you don’t devalue our artists or their work, and instead recognise what art offers Australia.

We look forward to your response.

Zora Sanders, Meanjin
Jacinda Woodhead, Overland
Alex Miller, author
Alexis Wright, author
Anna Funder, author
Christos Tsiolkas, author
J. M. Coetzee, author
Sonya Hartnett, author
Chloe Hooper, writer
Don Watson, writer
Hannah Kent, author
Shaun Tan, author and illustrator
Garth Nix, author
Peter Temple, writer
Sally Rippin, author and illustrator
Andy Griffiths, author
Kim Scott, author
Alison Croggon, writer and critic
Daniel Keene, playwright
Robert Drewe, author
Kirsten Tranter, author
Fiona Capp, author
Tony Birch, writer
Michelle de Kretser, author
Larissa Behrendt, writer
Lisa Dempster, Melbourne Writers Festival
Jennifer Mills, author, fiction editor Overland
Martine Murray, author
Andrea Goldsmith, author
Emeritus Professor John McLaren AM, author
Marion Halligan AM, author
Dr Jessica Wilkinson, poet, academic and editor
Ivor Indyk, Giramondo Publishing, UWS
Evelyn Juers, author
Peter Rose, Australian Book Review
Professor Gail Jones, author
Dr Jeff Sparrow, Overland
Favel Parrett, author
Dr Benjamin Law, author
Dr Maria Tumarkin, author
Matthew Lamb, Island
Sam Cooney, The Lifted Brow
Rjurik Davidson, writer and editor
Amy Middleton, Archer Magazine
Alice Grundy, Seizure
Elizabeth McMahon, Southerly
Tessa Lunney, Southerly
David Brooks, Southerly
Geoff Lemon, Going Down Swinging
Robert Skinner, The Canary Press
Alex Skutenko, Overland
Lesley Halm, Island
Dr Peter Minter, Overland
Dr Kate Fagan, author and musician
Susan Hornbeck, Griffith REVIEW
Geordie Williamson, Island
Kent MacCarter, Cordite Poetry Review
Josephine Rowe, author
Richard Watts, writer and broadcaster
Angela Meyer, author and literary journalist
Delia Falconer, author
Connor Tomas O’Brien, Tomely
Van Badham, writer
Melissa Keil, author and editor
Professor John Kinsella, poet and writer
Gideon Haigh, journalist
Dr Tom Cho, author
Judith Beveridge, Meanjin
Kalinda Ashton, author
Simon Mitchell, author
Margo Lanagan, writer
Lally Katz, writer
Sally Heath, writer and publisher
James Ley, writer and editor
Luke Davies, writer and poet
Omar Musa, rapper, poet and author
Ben Walter, writer
David Leser, writer and journalist
Ben Eltham, writer and journalist
Robert Macklin, author and journalist
Alan Close, writer
Chris Womersley, author
James Bradley, author and critic
Bronte Coates, Stilts
Carmel Bird, writer
Maxine Clarke, poet and writer
Alice Pung, author
Kate Larsen, writer and arts manager
Craig Sherborne, author
John Birmingham, writer
Steve Bisley, actor and writer
Candida Baker, author
Hannie Rayson, playwright
Di Morrissey, author
Marele Day, author
Rebecca Starford, Text Publishing and Kill Your Darlings
Susan Johnson, author
Mungo MacCallum, writer and journalist
Melissa Cranenburgh, editor and writer
Kerry Greenwood, author
Dr Clare Wright, author and academic
Isobelle Carmody, author
Charlotte Wood, author
Linda Jaivin, writer and translator
Rachel Power, author and journalist
Andrew Nette, author
Sandra Symons, academic
David Whish-Wilson, author
Michael Rowbotham, author
Paul Clifford, Westerly
Delys Bird, Westerly
Simone Howell, author
Steven Amsterdam, author
Giovanni Tiso, writer and translator
Wilma Mann, historian and writer
Dr Trisha Kotai-Ewers, writer
Sandra Hall, writer
John Harman, Author
Ben Ellis, playwright
Kate Richards, author
Elise Jones, editor, Allen & Unwin
Jon Doust, author
Kathryn Heyman, author
Vicki-Lee Alomes, screenwriter
Honorary Associate Professor Anitra Nelson, writer and academic
Andrew P Street, Time Out
Emma Jones, writer
Margaret Barbalet, writer
Patrick Holland, writer
Thomas Henning, writer
Shane Jesse Christmass, author
Dr Jessica White, author
Dean Bryant, writer and director
Marcel Dorney, playwright and director
Suzanne Ingelbrecht, playwright
Dr Carolyn D’Cruz, academic
Mitchell Oakley Smith, editor and author
Brigid Lowry, author
Ben Peek, author
Peter Bibby, playwright, poet and writer
Ben Brooker, writer and editor
Lefa Singleton Norta, Express Media
Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, writer and academic
Anthony Panegyres, writer
Emily Laidlaw, Kill Your Darlings
Emily Stewart, writer and editor
Hon Professor G R E Phillips, writer and academic
Mandy Beaumont, writer and academic
Martin Harrison, poet and academic
Pam Brown, poet, editor and reviewer
Oliver Mol, writer
Dr Mireille Juchau, writer
Tiffany Barton, playwright, actor and theatre producer
Robyn Cadwallader, writer
Tim Richards, journalist, author and critic
Jocelyn Richardson, writer and Chart editor
Adam Curley, writer
Dan Hogan, writer
Bec Zajac, Overland
Aden Rolfe, writer
Anwyn Crawford, writer
Dr Patrick Allington, writer, critic and editor
Jason Childs, writer
Netta Fitzgerald, writer
Karen Pickering, presenter  and writer
Kate Blackwood, editor
Ness Demaine, writer
Lou Heinrich, writer
Max Cooper, writer
Eliza Sarlos, writer and creative producer
Jason Nahrung, editor, journalist and writer
Nick Parsons, playwright and screenwriter, Chairman and Screen Studies Editor Currency Press
Claire Nashar, writer
Simon Collinson, The Lifted Brow
Inga Simpson, writer
Susie Conte, playwright
Dmetri Kakmi, author
Can Yalcinkaya, academic, writer and editor
Daniel Best, non-fiction writer, publisher and journalist
Jane Abbott, writer
Dan Bledwich, author
Vince Ruston, poet, editor and artist
Vivienne Glance, playwright and poet
James Robert Douglas, writer
Kyla Lee Ward, author and poet
Clare Strahan, writer and play-maker
Sara Wiseman, actor
Christine Bongers, author
Hannah Mae Cartmel, The Rag and Bone Man Press
Melissa Archer, writer and journalist
Cameron Rogers, author and screenwriter
Andrew Bovell, playwright and screenwriter
Patrick Lenton, writer and marketer
Diana Jenkins, writer
David M. Green, comedian and writer
Toby Fitch, poet
P.M. Newton, writer
Gillian Polack, writer
Belinda Lopez, writer and radio producer
Lex Hirst, editor & co-director of the National Young Writers’ Festival
Chad Parkhill, writer and editor
Bert Goldsmith, writer and comedian
Jane Bodie, playwright, Playwriting Australia, former Head of Playwriting at NIDA
Lyndal Beer, artist
Nina Smith, author
Justine Indigo-Rose, artist and musician
Cat Sparks, author and editor
Florence Forrest, writer, poet, artist
Peter Matheson, dramaturg
Lana Schwarcz, playwright, puppeteer and performer
Lana Rosenbaum, writer
Mark Calderwood, artist, writer
Ellena Savage, writer and editor
Kate Hennessy, writer
Katherine Lyall-Watson, playwright and editor
Nathan Curnow, poet
Stuart Barnes, writer and editor
Jodi McAlister, writer and academic
Ned Manning writer, actor, teacher
Rachel Leary, writer and performer
Craig Hildebrand-Burke, writer & teacher
S. G. Larner, writer
Vanessa Page, poet
Elena Gomez, poet and editor
JYL Koh, writer
Abigail King, performer
Joshua Allen, writer and editor
Stephen Sewell, writer
Meredith Curnow, publisher
Jill Jones, poet and academic
Rebecca Hawkings, writer and academic
Darryl Emmerson, writer and singer
Jessica Jones, author
Anita Bell, author and producer at Tarampa Studios
Laurie Ormond, researcher, writer and editor
Russell Fletcher  William McBride, writer and performance maker
David Follett, comics creator and illustrator
Kristy De Camps, author, writer, editor
AH Cayley, writer and broadcaster
Marty Hiatt, poet and translator
Dan Goronszy, theatre maker, interactive arts
Meera Atkinson, writer
Tara Cartland, writer
Tom Holloway, playwright
Deborah Parsons, writer
Luke Carson, actor and writer
Judith Ridge, writer, editor and arts program manager
Robert Reid, playwright
Terri-Ann White
Emma Ashmere, writer
Meredith Forrester, editor
Bronwyn Mehan, Spineless Wonders
Amanda Langlois puppeteer, musician, teacher
L Phillip Lucas, writer and editor
Patti Miller, writer
Henrietta Zeffert, writer, Right Now
Rihana Ries, writer and editor
Mark Roberts, editor, Rochford Street Review
Krissy Kneen, writer
Sarah Armstrong, writer
Denise Lines, writer
Eli Glasman, author
Telia Nevile, writer
Margaret Hamilton AM, The Children’s Book Council of Australia
(The CBCA is a national, voluntary organisation which promotes and encourages Australia’s children’s authors and illustrators. It will suffer from budget cuts to the Australia Council. The CBCA national conference in Canberra on 16-18 May secured funding which enabled us to pay speakers ASA rates. Without this kind of support the 2016 national conference in Sydney would be in jeopardy and the creators of children’s books would be severely disadvantaged. As a CBCA National Board member I urge the government to continue its support for this vital work in raising literacy standards and promoting reading.)
Anna Solding, author, editor and publisher at MidnightSun
Hila Shachar, writer and lecturer
Jeni Thornley, writer, filmmaker and lecturer
Gillian Dooley, editor, librarian, writer, musician
Briony Kidd, writer and filmmaker
Tim Littlemore  Amanda Webster, writer
Juan Garrido Salgado
Michael Sharkey, editor, Australian Poetry Journal
Klare Lanson, Writer, Poet, Performance Maker, Sound Artist
Belinda Jeffrey, author and illustrator
John Hamilton, Screenwriter
Ashleigh Synnott, writer
Sharon Kernot, writer
Graham Parks, writer and military historian
Jim Hearn, writer
Lou Pollard, performer and writer
Elizabeth Little, librarian and writer
Cherie Grant  Philip Salom, Poet, Novelist, Reviewer and Opinion-artist!
Jacky T, Poet, MC, Producer (Slamalamadingdong)
Rebekah Clarkson, writer
Zoe Dattner, Sleepers Publishing
Emma Rooksby, writer
Julie Check Emilie Collyer, writer
Bel Schenk, poet
Katherine E Seppings, artist, writer, photographer, poet and editor
Dr Kate Richards, writer
Toby Tremayne, writer
Duncan Graham, playwright
Pip Newling, writer
Perry Gretton, writer and editor
Amelia Groom, writer
Amy Maynard, writer and academic
Stefanie Bennett, poet, author and editor
Kristin Martin, poet and writer of children’s fiction
Valerie Parv, writer, editor and scriptwriter
Geraldine Burrowes, writer and artist
Deb Kelly, writer
Trent Jamieson, writer
Craig Behenna, writer and director Claire Aman, writer
Noel Mengel, journalist, author
Nicki Bloom, writer
Liana Brenner, Artist
Ella Roby, writer and editor
Bridget Haylock, writer
Steph Harmon, editor
Laurie Duggan, poet and critic
Lucy Treloar, writer
John Connell, author
Carmen Cara Don Smith comedian and writer
Geoff Orton, Writers Bloc, Younger Young Writers’ Program
Claire Thomas, writer
Daniel Young, Tincture Journal
Lauren Strickland, writer and editor
Alison Miles, librarian and writer
Liz Horne, writer and printmaker
Somaya Langley, sound & media artist, producer & digital curator
Bessie Byrne, journalist
Autumn Royal, poet
Andrew Keen, writer and filmmaker
Donna Ward, publisher, Inkerman & Blunt
Jessica Bellamy, playwright
Kim Haworth, writer, editor
Peta Murray, playwright
Felicity Nicol, Director & Artistic Director of Ashfield Youth Theatre
Aashish Kaul, author
Marek Platek, comedian & writer
Eluned Lloyd, poet and library worker
Kathryn Ledson author
Melissa Lucashenko, writer
Tegan Lang, arts worker
Koraly Dimitriadis, writer & performer
Rachel Hennessy, writer
Mark Langham, playwright
Demet Divaroren, Writer
Mia Wotherspoon, Writer
Phillip A Ellis, author
David Williamson, playwright
Kristin Williamson, author

Signatures are still being collected for this petition. To add your name visit the Meanjin website.


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