As you may already be aware, the Australia Council for the Arts has supported Peril since 2006.
This support has enabled us to share work from – literally – hundreds of writers, poets, artists, and critical thinkers from all around Australia, many of whom are from diverse cultural backgrounds.
We believe the Australia Council has supported this work because it recognises that cultural diversity needs to be more than tolerated in Australia, but instead celebrated as a given value of a society of citizens. We also believe that you (at least those of you in Australia) – dear reader/taxpayer – invest in us through this funding, and we take the $3,000-10,000 a year that we have been funded by you, through the Australia Council for the Arts, very seriously. That might not sound like a lot of cash, and it isn’t in the grand scale of things, but we’re honoured to do what we do with that investment, and we would love to keep doing it, which is why we would like to ask you to support arts funding in Australia.
We have added our voices to the Australians for Artistic Freedom petition, via Overland, which follows the recent federal budget announcement of plans to remove roughly $110 million from the Australia Council’s budget, and to redirect that funding to the newly created National Programme for Excellence in the Arts, with a largely discretionary remit for funding under the Arts Minister of the day.
There are many ways to assess a government’s investment in the arts, whether in terms of per capita arts funding, spending as a percentage of GDP, or as a proportion of all government spending, but whichever way you look at it, $110m over 4 years is meaningful proportion of the federal arts funding. Here at Peril, we are deeply concerned by these proposed changes, which we believe will disproportionately impact the small and independent sector, in which many culturally and linguistically diverse artists work.
While details are still emerging, and the devil is always in the details, it seems at this stage that major performing arts companies (already recipients of the lion’s share of federal funding) are currently “safe”; that smaller programs (which often support emerging or experimental artists) like ArtStart, Capacity Building and Artists in Residence programs will need to find savings; and the new National Programme for Excellence in the Arts will move away from peer-assessment models of funding, to as of yet, undefined categories of “excellence” and works with more popular/accessible appeal.
Now we’re all for excellence here at Peril, but we also acknowledge that – in so many ways – seemingly objective standards of that which is “good” and that which is “valuable” have often, in the cultural sense, sidelined the “other”, marginalised dissenting voices and reinforced dominant narratives of culture. Showcasing the work of Asian Australians, and other voices that reflect on Australia’s heritage, is a way that Peril acknowledges non-dominant cultures in Australia have a right to make claim to a political and creative community, and to actively participate in it.
We believe that being allowed to be different is a hallmark of an inclusive society.
Because of this, we see the arts as more than just the “cherry on the top” of a rich and prosperous society, an entertainment product made by an arts industry that can be purchased as a luxury consumer good. We wonder what it says about a country that can find $450m to further “combat terrorism” at home, but not consider the integral role of the arts in creating a society that is connected, resilient, meaningful and purposeful. The arts give us the ability to give expression to difference in the public sphere, to give insight and understanding into our past, and to deepen the symbolic vocabulary with which we can describe our collective future.
If you too would like to express your concern about the size and nature of the proposed funding cuts to the Australian arts budget, then we would welcome your voices alongside ours at the Australians for Artistic Freedom petition. The original open letter via Overland can be found here together with a full list of supporting artists and arts organisations.
If you are an artist or arts organisation and would like to add your name to this list of signatories, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would to like to sign the general petition, you can do so at the Australians for Artistic Freedom page.
Eleanor Jackson, Editor in Chief, on behalf of the Peril team.