2016 State and Federal Budgets

Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Kate Larsen

The word 'funding' spelled out in fridge magnets
cc image by Howard Lake

WV looks at what the recent State and Federal Budget announcements could mean for writers and literary organisations.

In good news, last month’s State Budget included $152 million in new funds to support Victoria's creative and cultural sectors.

This includes support to deliver the initiatives set out in Victoria’s first creative industries strategy, Creative State (also launched in April).

Writers and literary organisations in particular will benefit from the $7.25 million increase to Creative Victoria’s Organisations Investment Program - which includes an additional $1.5 million to be allocated to the current round, with a focus on growth increases, innovation and capacity building. Screen- and games-writers may see increased support through the $14.2 million allocated for film, TV, online content and digital games.

Readers will benefit from the $5 million funding increase allocated to the State Library of Victoria (on top of the $55.4 million redevelopment funding the library received last year). The State’s Indigenous writers and artsworkers may see an impact from the $800,000 allocated to support Aboriginal employment and training in the creative sector. And writers with disability will continue to see changes in the way they can access services as opportunities with another $25.3 million going towards the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Last night’s Federal Budget, on the other hand, was distinctly underwhelming.

The sector was braced for disappointment after the massive arts funding cuts and changes we have come to expect over the last two years. But as Richard Watts wrote for Artshub, this week’s budget “neither inflicts major damage nor helps heal the damage done in previous years.”

The 2015 Budget left overall arts funding intact, but cut $104.8 million from The Australia Council to go towards a new National Programme for Excellence in the Arts (now called ‘Catalyst’). The cuts also followed $28.2 million taken from the Australia Council in 2014, and the announcement that $6 million would be taken from the Australia Council budget to fund a new Books Industry Council (this was rescinded in 2015, but the money was returned to Treasury rather than the arts).

The biggest impact of those cuts has been on individual writers and artists, who now have to apply for a smaller (and more competitive) pool of Australia Council funding but who are not eligible to apply to Catalyst. The changes are also expected to impact the viability of many arts organisations following next week’s announcement of the Australia Council’s four-year funding program.

While this year’s budget was not as dramatic, the impact of efficiency dividends continue to be felt. And the lack of indexation on the Government's funding of arts and culture amounts to a cut of nearly $1.5 million to the sector in real terms.

This is particularly disappointing following the recommendation of last year’s Senate Inquiry into Federal Arts Funding to return the amount last year’s funding cuts to the Australia Council in full.  Arts and culture were not mentioned at any time during the budget announcement last night.

Advocates and arts organisations have started to gear up for this year’s Federal election with an #AusVotesArts campaign.

“All parties are now on notice to address the parlous state of federal funding of arts and culture by producing meaningful policies and allocating adequate resources to implement them,” Tamara Winikoff said in an ArtsPeak call-to-action.

How to find out more

About Kate Larsen

Kate is the Director of Writers Victoria.