Ausdance honorary life members respond to Ausdance National’s loss of operational funding

The founders and honorary life members of Ausdance—the Australian Dance Council—are extremely disappointed that an organisation with such a high national and international reputation for innovation and creativity has not been supported with four-year organisation funding by the Australia Council.

Funding cuts to the organisation’s innovative partnerships, public forums, its advocacy campaigns to support the small to medium dance sector (including years of work with the Australia Council to increase the Council’s own profile and funding—petitions to both Houses of Parliament in 2006, Dance Plan 2012 etc.); its seminal publications, dance education programs, and its international leadership in Safe Dance research leaves us believing that the Australia Council no longer sees value in the leadership shown by Ausdance National

over the last four decades. We do not believe the Australia Council’s offer of ‘transitional’ or project funding would be adequate to fully support an efficient and effective arts service organisation.

Ausdance initiatives have been central to improving the health, education, employment opportunities, career transitions, research, teaching standards, and sector communication across all forms of dance in Australia. It has been especially influential in promoting dialogue between the larger Major Performing Arts companies, the small to medium companies, independent artists and the tertiary sector. 

Excellence and innovation across this whole ecology have propelled Australian dance to international recognition. Ausdance National has also worked closely with education advocates and researchers through the (unfunded) National Advocates for Arts Education, the Tertiary Dance Council of Australia and ArtsPeak. The Ausdance network offers a uniquely integrated service of international, national and state/territory activities.

To give the dance profession a credible and respected voice at the highest levels, Ausdance National has provided advice to—and fostered partnerships with—the federal departments of Education and the Arts, the Australia Council, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), the National Library of Australia, the National Film & Sound Archive, the Australian Institute of Sport, The Australian Ballet School, NAISDA, the Vocational Education & Training authority, dance company education programs, touring networks, and international organisations such as the World Dance Alliance, the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science, the World Alliance for Arts Education, Dance UK and Dance USA.

As one artist has written:

Ausdance is an organisation that has supported and facilitated new research (Safe Dance, Brolga (journal), teacher standards), passionate dialogue (conferences, forums, ArtsPeak) and real connections amongst our diverse community of teachers, artists, government and audience. Ausdance has been a leader for all the arts and has been central to my development as a dance artist: advocating for me, supporting my wider education and providing opportunities for my emerging and then established voice to be heard. From the youth dance conferences to the national summits – we would have been lost without Ausdance. (There have been) so many more initiatives that have changed dance practices across the country and then modelled across the world.

In the current context, it is ironic that Dance UK has recently merged with two other dance agencies to create a model similar to Ausdance. As Arts Council England noted:

This commissioned grant for £650,000 a year, for three years … will strengthen the national dance infrastructure. Working through its joint national membership which includes dance agencies, higher education institutions, teachers, schools, professional dancers, choreographers and touring dance companies in every region, the consortium will support a more coherent national approach to the delivery of dance services. It will offer dance services and development across the spectrum from children and young people’s dance to professional dance practice and being representative of the creative case for diversity.

This new collaborative working model will directly benefit the 40,000 plus dance workforce, and children dancing in and outside school, and will indirectly impact on the millions of adults who participate in dance and watch performances. It will provide:

  • a single more powerful voice for dance to policy makers and politicians
  • a centralised knowledge hub
  • policy direction
  • industry intelligence
  • a three-year programme of strategic initiatives with industry-wide benefit, and
  • promote best practice and nurture talent.

The decision not to support Ausdance National is mystifying, given the reach of its services and the model it has provided for Dance UK and other international service organisations.

The small to medium cultural sector has been significantly impacted, and will result in the loss of cultural and creative capital in Australia for years to come. It defies belief that the announcement of the ‘innovation agenda’ did not include a role the arts, and that the mantra of ‘jobs and growth’ appears not to apply comprehensively to the arts community. As one of the most important contributors to the lives of all Australians, the arts and cultural sector has, at best, been marginalised. 

We call on both political parties to commit to transparent and credible arts policies to enable future large-scale decisions such as the Government’s recent restructure of arts funding programs to be made in a context that is widely understood and supported. We seek the following commitments from the Australian Government to:

  • Produce a coherent arts policy in which funding decisions are contextualised and understood by the entire cultural sector;
  • Provide appropriate funding for essential national infrastructure/service organisations including Ausdance National;
  • Immediately increase available project funding for dance organisations and independent artists;
  • Provide new funding for the Catalyst program that is not drawn from the Australia Council.

Signed, Ausdance Honorary Life Members:

  • Associate Professor Ralph Buck
  • Lee Christofis
  • Hilary Trotter Chuck 
  • Shane Colquhoun
  • Valda Craig
  • Julie Dyson AM
  • Annie Greig
  • Emeritus Professor Warren Lett
  • Nicky lo Bianco
  • Professor Shirley McKechnie AO
  • Sandra Macarthur-Onslow
  • Professor Cheryl Stock AM
  • Professor Susan Street AO
  • Paul Summers

Australia Council's response

Read the reply from Tony Grybowski, Chief Executive Officer, Australia Council for the Arts (98KB PDF).