In 2013, 702,000 Australians attended a performance, workshop, or school activity facilitated by a national dance organisation (Key Arts Organisation (KAO) or Major Performing Arts company (MPA)). Australian dance continued to make a significant impact overseas, reaching an international audience of 69,000 through 122 performances by KAOs and MPAs across Europe, South America and the Middle East. From a small amount of funding support our dance companies are engaging audiences, sharing Australian cultural experiences and supporting developing artists.
However, this is all at risk due to the changes in funding being rolled out following the May 2015 Federal Budget. The Australia Council for the Arts has suffered a $34 million cut over the past two budgets, reducing overall funding from $218.7million to $184.5 million.
These reductions have been focused on initiatives and sector grants and the cessation of programs such as ArtStart, Australian Fellowships and Artists In Residence programs.
$110 million over four years has been directed to the Ministry for the Arts to facilitate the National Program for Excellence in the Arts (NPEA). The guidelines for this program are being drafted, but initial indications show the NPEA will not support individual artists or organisational sustainability.
The arts sector, concerned about these changes, were successful in lobbying the Senate to inquire into these changes. The inquiry is being undertaken by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee and received over 2000 submissions from the public, many opposing the changes.
The inquiry is hearing from a diverse range of artists and organisations, including many dance focused groups. The Committee is due to report in November.
The arts broadly and the professional dance sector specifically contributes to the understanding of Australia’s culture and international profile. While MPA dance companies earn 73 percent of their income via box office and other non-government support, internal Australia Council reporting highlights the reliance small to medium companies have on government support to be able to deliver their creative output. In 2013, dance key organisations received 69 percent of all income from government sources, compared to 37 percent in music and 50 percent in theatre.
Despite a recent increased focus on growing private sector funding by KAO dance companies, it remains only approximately $1 million a year, spread across 13 organisations. While this focus has seen an increase on previous years (260 percent since 2008), private funding for the arts has predominately been directed at larger, more established arts organisations. Small to medium organisations need a growth in base capacity and ongoing stability to be able to harness such relationships.