A LOCAL arts organisation for artists with disabilities has had $888,000 ripped from its budget by the Abbott government.
David Doyle, the executive director of Fremantle-based DADAA, revealed the gaping hole in his finances this week following federal arts minister George Brandis’s decision to slash $105 million from the Australia Council.
He says DADAA’s cut threatens to run deeper as the organisation had been adept at using the funds to leverage cash from the corporate sector—particularly miners—for projects across the city and regional areas.
“The arts is one of our smallest funders, but it was critical money to creating large partnerships with the business community,” he says. To stem the bleeding DADAA has imposed travel bans on staff, putting an end to groundbreaking national and international research and partnerships, and will have to cut permanent staff.
Mr Doyle says DADAA has a huge staff, with many artists with disabilities relying on work at the Beach Street organisation to get them through. “It will also have a knock-on effect to the the local economy, as last year we had a budget of $3 million and a huge chain of supply from airlines to arts suppliers.” If alternative funding can’t be found, programs will be scaled back or dropped.
Mr Doyle says eight years ago DADAA was chosen as one of 11 groups to be given six-year funding contracts by the Australia Council. It won a second six-year contract in 2013 but within a year the council tore up the agreement and warned DADAA it could rely on funding only till 2016.
DADAA and 440 other arts organisations across Australia prepared onerous funding applications this year but all were shelved because of Senator Brandis’s shock decision to carve out $105m for his new pet project, an alternative funding body called the National Centre for Excellence in the Arts, which will be overseen directly by his office.
Critics say the decision was payback for the Australia Council-funded Biennale of Sydney rejecting sponsorship from Transfield, which runs offshore detention centres.
Mr Doyle says his contacts within the federal arts department reveal there is no plan on how redirected funds are to be spent.
“Under the previous government we had a democratisation of the arts, particularly through inclusion and disability strategies, and people who have not accessed arts before are now doing it on a weekly basis,” he says.
“It’s good for health, welfare and resilient communities, and under this environment that will go. This is putting us back 20 years.”
He predicts the decision will have a “catastrophic” effect on WA’s arts community and support industry.
Perth-based Tura New Music, Community Arts Network WA and the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art have revealed to the Herald their combined losses could top $700,000 a year.
“We’re a stepping stone for artists so for this to happen will mean people might miss out on an opportunity to build their career,” says Annalisa Oxenburgh from Tura, who said the company might even have to fold.
PICA boss Amy Barrett-Lennard says programs and jobs are on the line, and her growth plans are now in jeopardy.
Mr Doyle says Senator Brandis has effectively silenced criticism of the move by quarantining large, classical, high-end organisations—which have media clout—from cuts and they’ve been either reluctant to speak on the issue or have been complimentary of his reforms.
Mr Doyle says the Australia Council has been too acquiesent. He’s written a stern letter to chair Rupert Myer for his “poor” form in not consulting with affected organisations or speaking out on their behalf.
WA arts minister John Day wouldn’t commit to filling any hole, saying the Barnett government has already invested more than $180m to the arts in 2014/15 and $428.3m on a new museum.
by STEVE GRANT and EMMIE DOWLING