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Accountability

Responsible Minister

The Minister responsible for the Council until May 2019 was Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications and the Arts. On 26 May 2019 The Hon Paul Fletcher MP became responsible for the Council following his appointment as Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts.

Department of Communications and the Arts

The Department may attend Council Board meetings as an observer. Senior representatives from the Department attended meetings during 2018–19.

Ministerial directions and rules

The Council is bound by the Australia Council Rule 2013 (‘the Rule’) issued for the purpose of section 48(1)(a), (b) and (c) of the Act. Section 48(1) of the Act provides for restrictions on financial transactions and requires that ministerial approval is sought in writing for an amount prescribed by the rules. The Rule prescribes the amount of $1,000,000 for the purposes of section 48(1)(a), (b) and (c) of the Act.

No ministerial directions were received in 2018–19.

General Policy Orders and government policies

No General Policy Orders or government policies affecting the Council were issued in 2018–19. Previously issued General Policy Orders and government policies continued to be noted.

Judicial decisions and reviews by outside bodies

During 2018–19 there were no judicial decisions or decisions of administrative tribunals that have had, or may have, a significant impact on the Council’s operations.

Changes affecting the Council

No significant external changes affected the Council in 2018–19.

Significant events

No significant events in the context of section 19 of the PGPA Act occurred during 2018–19. This section requires the Council to notify the responsible Minister of events such as proposals to form a company, partnership or trust, to acquire or dispose of a significant shareholding in a company or commence or cease business activities or to make other significant changes.

External audit

Under section 7 of the Auditor General Act 1997 the Auditor-General acts as the external auditor for the Commonwealth. The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) supports the Auditor-General, whose primary client is the Australian Parliament. The ANAO did not conduct any performance audits of Council during 2018–19. There were no reports on the operations of the Council by the Auditor General (other than the report on the financial statements) or by a parliamentary committee.

Internal audit

During 2018–19 the Council’s internal auditors, O’Connor Marsden, conducted their final audit: Follow up on up review on recommendations from previous audits.

RSM were appointed as the Council’s internal auditors in September 2018 and conducted three further audits during 2018–19 including Third Party Grants and Awards, Effectiveness of staff related policies and procedures and Accounts payable and limited data analytics.

Freedom of information

The Council is a Commonwealth agency subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982. As such, it is required to publish information for the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme. The Council website provides details of the information published in accordance with the Information Publication Scheme requirements.

Grants

Information on awarded grants is available online.

Service charter

The Council’s service charter reflects its commitment to provide excellent client service. It confirms the Council’s responsibility for maintaining service standards that are respectful, responsive and fair, that clients and other stakeholders can expect.

The Council service charter can be found online.

Risk management

The Council has a Risk Management Policy and an associated Risk Management Framework that provides a comprehensive approach to managing risk in a systematic and transparent manner. The framework provides principles and guidelines to assist staff to identify, evaluate and effectively manage all significant risks. The framework also requires the Council to prepare a Risk Management Report for the Board’s review every six months, which is an essential component to ensuring the framework’s principles are being implemented.

The Council has a Fraud Control Policy, which provides guidance on what constitutes fraud, the Council’s responsibility for managing fraud and the process for addressing and reporting suspected incidents of fraud.

These documents are reviewed and updated annually to ensure alignment with current legislation and best practice. Each year the Council also produces a Risk Management Annual Plan and a Fraud Control Annual Plan, which detail specific activities to be performed under these areas, such as internal audit reviews. These plans are approved by the Audit and Finance Committee.

The principles outlined in these documents are embedded in the diverse decision-making processes across the organisation.

The current Risk Management Policy, Risk Management Framework and Fraud Control Policy and their respective annual plans are available on the Council’s intranet.

Project control group

The Project Control Group (PCG) continued to ensure a consistent organisation wide approach towards the management of projects which significantly contribute to the achievement of the Council’s strategic goals and corporate objectives.

The PCG comprises members of the Executive team, and it approves, endorses, monitors and provides guidance for strategic project activity, which has an impact across the entire organisation.

Workplace forum staff representatives

A Workplace Forum staff representative presents a staff report at each Board meeting which contains information on current staff issues. The representative may be invited to participate in discussion about the staff report at the discretion of the Chair.

Ms Stacey Sidley and Ms Simonette Turner continued in the role of Workplace Forum staff representatives, until Ms Turner left the organisation in April 2019 and Ms Sidley stood down in May 2019. Following the nomination process as outlined in the Workplace Forum Charter, Ms Sophie Byrne and Ms Samantha Groth were appointed to the Forum as staff representatives in May 2019.

All new Workplace Forum staff representatives participate in an initial induction to understand the nature of the role and the confidentiality required to perform it. The Workplace Forum staff representatives are also subject to the Workplace Forum Charter in carrying out their roles.

Art providing therapy and wellbeing

Safe in Sound draws on artists' extensive experience in sound art and improvisation to encourage focused listening for people with disabilities, family and carers. From July to December 2018, a Council project grant supported Safe in Sound to stage an intimate, relaxed concert series in the homes of families impacted by Leukodystrophy. The concerts featured Robbie Avenaim on percussion, distinguished saxophonist and flautist Jim Denley in Sydney, and acclaimed vocalist Carolyn Connors in Melbourne.

The unique performances provided positive experiences of improvised sound art for people who would not otherwise be able to experience it, and new contexts for live music composition and performance. Family members and carers witnessed profound benefits beyond the immediate enjoyment of the experience.

“...to see the look of absolute joy and excitement on her face as she composed her own unique music with Robbie and Carolyn was priceless." – Safe in Sound participant

A woman laying on a bed smiling, surrounded by three musicians and their instruments.
Robbie Avenaim Jim Denley and Jess participating in the Safe in Sound concert series 2018-19. Credit: Tainanos Pakioufakis.

Artists with disability creating great art

Artists with disability create great art that is being recognised.1 Walter Kadiki, Australia’s leading Deaf Poet, was invited to collaborate and perform with NOW-ID, an interdisciplinary dance and design company based in the US. Walter’s powerful poetry was the impetus and focus for the new work, A Tonal Caress. The original contemporary dance-based work was performed at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in the USA in July 2018.

1. Australia Council 2017, Creating Pathways: Insight on support for artists with disability.

A man faces away from the camera with his hands in the air in front of a red backdrop.
Walter Kadiki, A Tonal Caress poetry project with NOW ID, Salt Lake City. Image courtesy of the artist.