Our grants programs
Our peer assessed grant programs promote artistic excellence and freedom of expression. They support creation, innovation and experimentation across broad and evolving areas of practice.
We offer the following programs:
- Four Year Funding for Organisations
- Career Development Grants for Individuals and Groups
- Arts Projects for Individuals and Groups
- Arts Projects for Organisations
Our guiding principles
The Council’s grants programs are guided by two fundamental principles:
1. The ‘arm’s length principle’, embodied in section 12 of the Australia Council Act 2013, which provides that the Minister must not give a direction in relation to the making of a decision by the Council, in a particular case, relating to the provision of support (including by the provision of financial assistance or a guarantee).
2. The ‘peer assessment principle’, whereby decisions on grants are made following assessment by artists, individuals closely associated with the arts, and community representatives who are peers of those being assessed. Grants are offered to artists and arts organisations whose proposals, in competition with those of other applicants, and within budgetary constraints, demonstrate the highest degree of artistic merit and innovation.
Four Year Funding
The Australia Council’s Four Year Funding program provides multi-year funding for arts organisations. This enables them to plan artistic programs and support artists with longer term certainty and increases their capacity to leverage other support and collaborations.
The first round of the Four Year Funding program is supporting 128 organisations from 2017 to 2020, including two strategic organisations and two territory orchestras. In 2018 these organisations created 978 new works and reached audiences of 12.9 million across Australia and the world,1 delivering significant public value to the nation – from the intrinsic value of enriching arts experiences, through to broader social, economic and cultural impacts.
Maintaining the underlying principles of arm’s length and peer assessed investment in Four Year Funded Organisations, the Council has completed the first stage of a two stage application and assessment process for the Four Year Funding program for 2021 to 2024. Following consultation and considering the changes in Commonwealth funding programs for small to medium arts organisations, the Council increased the funding range up to $500,000.
We received 412 expressions of interest in April 2019 (stage one). Of these, 162 organisations have been invited to submit a full application in stage two.
Regular grants rounds
Women continue to fare well in our regular grants rounds and we are seeing a continue trend of strong First Nations‑led projects funded through all areas of arts practice. International activity is a key success factor for the sustainability of Australian arts, and we are seeing a high proportion of applications with international components (45% of approved grants in 2018–19).
Continued improvement in the accessibility of our grants program remains an ongoing commitment, and grant applicants can submit applications in a range of accessible formats. We invest in outreach and engagement with applicants and peers across the diversity priority areas of our Cultural Engagement Framework. One in three applications continue to come from people applying for the first time.
We continue to receive many high quality and ambitious proposals, and meritorious demand for Australia Council funding currently far exceeds our capacity. In our three grant rounds in 2018–19 we received 4,065 applications for arts projects and career development grants and fellowships (up from 3,992 in the previous year), with 587 approved.2
‘Unfunded excellence’ refers to grant applications that peers assess as having high merit and deserving support, but which cannot be funded within the scope of the Council’s budget. These are opportunities not yet realised for the artists and their audiences.
The mismatch between the investment potential of the sector and available funds places significant strain on the ecology, the ability of artists to make a living, and their artistic ambitions. Unfunded excellence represents enormous potential to realise greater cultural ambitions for Australia and to maximise the impacts of the arts that reverberate through our society, economy and culture.
Applications for Australia Council grants are independently assessed by artists and arts professionals from across the country who bring deep artistic knowledge, expertise and industry experience.
The peers represent a wide range of perspectives from different career stages, cultural backgrounds and an extraordinary diversity of practice.
In 2018–19 peers were selected from our current peer pool to assess applications across the Council’s project and career development grants, fellowships, government initiatives and Major Performing Arts Collaborative Arts Projects. By June 2019, 56% of the 741 peers in the pool had assessed applications on at least one occasion.
The deep discussions during the assessment process enable a unique exchange of knowledge about emerging artistic practice, innovative collaborations, region specific developments and much more. This strengthens the national sector and enriches the artistic work which supports personal, social, cultural and economic benefits across Australia.
1. The 128 organisations include Victorian Opera which transitioned to an MPA company from January 2019. Four Year Funded Organisations reporting is for the 2018 calendar year. The data was correct at 30 July 2019.
2. These were applications for our regular grants rounds. Across the organisation, including strategic initiatives we received 4,821 applications and approved 895 in 2018–19.