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Funding overview

Figure 1: Funding overview 2018–19

 Four Year Funding 15%. Government initiatives 11%. Council grants and initiatives 13%. Major Performing Arts 61%.

$ MILLIONS

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

2017-18

2018-19

Four Year Funding1

22.8

23.1

22.6

29.0

29.5

28.7

Major Performing Arts

103.1

106.0

107.8

109.1

111.0

113.6

Government initiatives

28.0

28.6

15.4

14.1

24.4

20.2

Council grants and initiatives

45.3

33.8

28.0

24.8

24.3

23.5

Grand total

199.2

191.5

173.7

177.1

189.3

186.02

1. The Four Year Funding program commenced 1 January 2017. Prior to 2017 multi-year funding to small to medium organisations was provided through the Key Organisations program.

2. The decrease in 2019 grant expenditure compared to the prior year is offset by an increase in programs where the nature of the investment is not direct expenditure into grants. These programs include the Venice Biennale 2019 exhibition which was installed and opened in the 2019 financial year. The combined investment in the arts is consistent with the prior year.

Four Year Funding

In 2018–19 the Council provided multi-year operational support to 128 small to medium organisations through the Four Year Funding program, including two strategic organisations and two territory orchestras. The Council also supports the small to medium sector through grants, strategic activity and government initiatives.

Major Performing Arts

The Major Performing Arts (MPA) Framework supports 29 leading companies in the fields of dance, theatre, circus, opera and orchestral and chamber music. This includes Victorian Opera which transitioned from a Four Year Funded Organisation to an MPA company from January 2019. The MPA Framework is a joint policy of the Australian and state governments and the Australia Council administers funding to the companies on their behalf.

Government initiatives

The Australia Council delivers a range of funding on behalf of the Australian Government through government initiatives that include the Major Festivals Initiative, the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, Playing Australia and the Contemporary Music Touring Program. The Council also administers novated Catalyst contracts.

Council grants and initiatives

Australia Council grants and initiatives support a diverse range of artists, organisations, artistic practice and arts activity through the Council’s peer assessed grants, fellowships and awards, and a wide range of strategic development activity delivered nationally and internationally.

Figure 2: Grants and initiative funding by area of practice

 Strategic development 4%. Visual arts 18%. Theatre 20%. Music 15%. Multi-art form 10%. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts 7%. Community arts and cultural development 8%. Dance 9%. Emerging and experimental arts 4%. Literature 7%.

Note: Total percentages do not add to 100% due to rounding.

$ MILLIONS

2016-17

2017-18

2018-19

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts

5.3

5.4

4.8

Community arts and cultural development

6.1

6.2

6.0

Dance

6.3

6.7

6.2

Emerging and experimental arts

2.4

2.4

2.7

Literature

4.1

4.7

5.1

Multi-art form

5.0

9.5

7.0

Music

9.5

10.3

10.6

Theatre

12.3

15.5

14.1

Visual arts

12.7

13.7

12.7

Strategic development1

4.2

3.8

3.2

Grand total

68.0

78.2

72.4

Note: First Nations-led projects are funded through all areas of practice.

Note: The support comprises grants and multi-year funding paid in 2018–19. This includes project and career development grants, fellowships and awards, Four Year Funding and government and strategic initiatives. An additional $113.6 million was invested nationally through the MPA Framework.

1. 'Strategic development' includes capacity building and international development. It combines the categories reported as ‘Career, development and other’ and ‘Market and audience development’ in 2016–17 and 2017–18. The Four Year Funding strategic organisations were reported in this category in 2016–17 and 2017–18, and are reported in ‘Multi-art form’ in 2018–19.

Figure 3: Funding by location of activity

Map of Australia. Northern Territory 6%. Western Australia 7%. South Australia 7%. Victoria 21%. Queensland 12%. New South Wales 24%. Australian Capital Territory 2%. Tasmania 4%. National 10%. Overseas 7%.

$ MILLION

2016–17

2017–18

2018–19

New South Wales

16.8

19.5

17.5

Victoria

14.8

15.8

15.1

Queensland

7.5

9.3

8.8

South Australia

5.8

6.2

5.2

Western Australia

5.2

5.2

5.4

Tasmania

2.5

3.2

2.7

Northern Territory

4.3

5.7

4.6

Australian Capital Territory

1.4

1.9

1.3

National

4.2

5.5

7.1

Overseas

5.5

5.9

4.9

Grand total

68.0

78.2

72.4

Note: The support comprises grants and multi-year funding paid in 2018–19. This includes project and career development grants, fellowships and awards, Four Year Funding and government and strategic initiatives. An additional $113.6 million was invested nationally through the MPA Framework.

Figure 4: Funding in regional Australia 2018–19

 Major Performing Arts 23%. Council grants and initiatives 19%. Four Year Funding 26%. Government initiatives 31%.

The Australia Council directly invested $29.3 million in funding for the arts in regional Australia in 2018–19. This investment supported the creation of art with and by regional communities and artists; funding for arts organisations based in regional Australia; professional development for regional leaders; and the touring of diverse Australian work to regional audiences, including through government initiatives such as the national regional touring programs. See: Regional arts for more on our investment in regional arts and their impact.

Figure 5: Direct and indirect investment 2018–19

 Direct investment 89%. Indirect investment 6%. Overhead and depreciation 5%.

$ MILLIONS

Direct investment

188.4

Indirect investment

13.2

Overhead and depreciation

11.0

Total expenses

212.6

Direct investment – includes our investment in the arts sector under funding agreements and our program delivery expenses. This includes project and career development grants, fellowships and awards, Four Year Funding, government initiatives and the Major Performing Arts Framework.

Indirect investment – includes our investment in Australian arts through international development activity, capacity building, research, the Venice Biennale project and other strategic initiatives.

Overhead and depreciation – includes our operational costs such as our facilities, building, corporate resources and IT as well as our Board, the Australian Pavilion in Venice and depreciation.

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
  • Fellowships.

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

‘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.

Peer assessment

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.