Arts and culture

Budget Resources

Emma Vines and Philip Dearman

Funding in the 2023–24 Budget for arts and cultural heritage falls broadly into 2 streams: money to fulfil the objectives of the new National Cultural Policy announced in January, and top-up support for the National Collecting Institutions (NCIs), announced in April. Both streams are addressed here, with measures related to media detailed in a separate Budget review article.

Funding the new National Cultural Policy

On 30 January 2023, the Australian Government launched a new National Cultural Policy – Revive: a place for every story, a story for every place. This fulfilled a 2022 election commitment and put in place Australia’s first national cultural policy since the Gillard Government’s release of Creative Australia in 2013.

The announcement of Revive included a commitment of $286.0 million over 4 years, part of which would fund the reconfiguration of the Australia Council under a broader agency, Creative Australia. Legislation enabling the creation of Creative Australia was passed by the Parliament in March 2023, and from 1 July 2023, the functions of the Australia Council will be transferred to Creative Australia. The 2023–24 Budget commits $286.0 million over 5 years (not 4) from 2022–23 (and $81.2 million per year ongoing) to the arts, entertainment and cultural sector against the objectives outlined in Revive (Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2023–24, p. 181). Of that funding, $199.0 million over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $72.3 million per year ongoing) will go to Creative Australia to implement Revive, including the establishment of 4 smaller bodies which will ‘provide greater strategic oversight and engagement across the sector including a First Nations-led body, Music Australia, Writers Australia and Creative Workplaces.’

Creative Australia’s revenue from Government (still listed as the Australia Council in the budget papers as Creative Australia will not be established until July 2023) will increase from $220.5 million in 2022–23 to $326.2 million in 2026–27 (Portfolio Budget Statements: 2023–24: Budget related paper no. 1.12: Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts Portfolio, p. 119). As a consequence of the new arrangements, the body is expected to see a substantial increase in average staffing levels, rising from 104 staff in 2022–23 to 143 in 2023–24 (Agency resourcing: budget paper no. 4: 2023–24, p. 161).

Other significant announcements include (Budget paper no. 2, pp. 181–182):

  • $13.4 million over 5 years from 2022–23 to protect and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists through new legislation and artist mentorship and training programs
  • ‘$12.9 million over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $3.7 million per year ongoing) to expand the Public Lending Right and Educational Lending Right Schemes to include digital material’
  • $12.0 million over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $3.0 million per year ongoing) for Screen Australia to support Australian games businesses
  • $11.8 million over 4 years from 2023–24 to pilot long-term loans of National Gallery of Australia (NGA) works to regional and suburban cultural institutions
  • $11.0 million over 3 years from 2022–23 to ‘establish a First Nations Languages Policy Partnership and conduct a National Indigenous Languages survey’
  • $8.5 million over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $2.2 million per year ongoing) to increase funding for the Regional Arts Fund.

Additional funding is also allocated to support access to art and music therapy programs, the development of an Arts and Disability Associated Plan under Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–2031, and digitisation and storage by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies of at-risk audio-visual material. This latter funding appears to respond to concerns raised by First Nations Media Australia in its submission (pp. 8–9) to the Senate committee Inquiry into the National Cultural Policy (the inquiry).

Funding has also been committed to support specialist school-based arts education programs and to enable the Copyright Agency to enhance the Resale Royalty Scheme.

In a separate but related measure, $9.3 million is being provided to support Australia’s national arts training organisations (Budget paper no. 2, p. 183). The Office for the Arts states that the purpose of this funding is ‘to secure critical training courses and skills development and maintain Australian trained in-demand performers and production specialists for Australia's live performing arts and screen industry and the creative economy more broadly’.

Screen production incentives

An additional $112.2 million over 4 years from 2024–25 is being provided to increase the Location Offset rebate to 30%. The increase in the rebate, as well as the funding for Revive described above, will be partly paid for by the termination of the Location Incentive Program in July 2023, and the redirection of funds from the 2022–23 October Budget measure ‘Supporting the Arts’ and the 2020–21 Budget measure ‘COVID-19 Response Package–communications, cyber safety and the arts’ (Budget paper no. 2, pp. 182).

Eligibility requirements for the Offset have been tightened, with productions required to meet a qualifying Australian production expenditure threshold of $20 million for films and $1.5 million per hour for television series (an increase from $15 million and $1 million respectively) from 1 July 2023.

An increase in the Offset was called for in AusFilm’s submission to the inquiry. In response to the Budget announcement, AusFilm CEO, Kate Marks, said:

Increasing the Location Offset will result in meaningful benefits for the entire sector and the economy related to jobs and training opportunities, innovations in technology, infrastructure development, along with direct benefits to businesses not dedicated to the screen industry (e.g., construction, education, hospitality, security, travel, real estate). It will also drive significant benefits to regional locations and businesses.

Earlier this year, a report produced for the Australia New Zealand Screen Association by creative industries consultancy firm Olsberg SPI found that every $1 invested through the Location Offset returned $5.89 in additional economic value (p. 34).

Stakeholder reaction

While cultural institutions have generally welcomed Revive (see for example, Screen Australia, the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) and the Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD)), some concerns were raised by stakeholders in pre-budget submissions, particularly over the need for more assistance to smaller organisations and individual artists (for example, the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA)). This latter concern has been somewhat addressed, with the NAVA mostly welcoming the measures contained in the Budget, while reiterating concerns related to poor pay rates for artists (an issue for the Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces once established), as well as the need for initiatives to provide targeted support for independent artists and small-to-medium sized organisations.

Other responses to the Budget have also been supportive. An article published by The Music Network, quotes Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (APRA AMCOS) CEO, Dean Ormston, as welcoming the Government’s commitment to Music Australia:

The creation of Music Australia with recurrent annual funding will, for the first time in the nation’s history, provide an opportunity for a whole-of-government, cross-portfolio, strategic and long-term relationship with the breadth of the Australian contemporary music industry.

Funding for National Collecting Institutions

When the Government announced on 5 April that this year’s Budget would include $535.3 million in funding for the NCIs, it said it was ‘reversing a decade of decline’. Funding for NCIs has long been controversial, under both Labor and Coalition Governments. The application of an efficiency dividend since the 1980s has been described in one recent academic commentary as having ‘strangled’ the NCIs’ capacity to fulfill their mandates, and put them ‘in the invidious position of maintaining some core functions while neglecting or abandoning others’. A 2008 Senate inquiry into the efficiency dividend and its impact on smaller agencies was similarly critical:

Of most significance is the incongruity between the legislated mandate of these agencies to grow and develop their collections at the same time as needing to find productivity improvements beyond those in the general economy and delivering a wider range of services due to technological change. (p. 56)

These concerns have also been directly conveyed to ministers by NCI heads. In June 2022, Ryan Stokes, Chair of the NGA, outlined the scale of the challenge to the then new Minister for the Arts Tony Burke.

The National Collecting Institutions are facing significant financial pressures. This magnitude of the challenge for the next financial year is material and for the National Galley it does threaten our ability to deliver core estimates and eventually our viability. We don’t intend to burden you with this on our first engagement however the timing presents this as an urgent priority. (p. 1)

While top-up funding has been provided for some NCIs in previous budgets, particularly for capital works (see for example, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2021–22, pp. 162–163), operational funding was not forecast to increase under the previous Government. Figure 1 compares the total government revenue for 9 NCIs across the forward estimates according to the current Government’s 2023–24 Budget, with funding promised under the former Coalition Government (as per the March 2022–23 Budget). The substantial increase under the current Government is due to the allocation of $535.3 million over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $118.3 million per year ongoing) to 9 NCIs, including the Bundanon Trust, but excluding the Australian War Memorial (AWM), discussed below (Budget paper no. 2, p. 177).

Figure 1       Government revenue for NCIs across the forward estimates, March 2022–23 Budget and May 2023–24 Budget

Note that the calculations in figure 1 exclude funding for the Bundanon Trust, which is a Commonwealth company rather than a corporate entity.

Sources: Parliamentary Library calculations based on data taken from Portfolio Budget Statements released in March 2022 and May 2023. Includes revenue from Government for the Australian National Maritime Museum, Australian War Memorial, National Film and Sound Archive, National Gallery of Australia, National Library of Australia, National Museum of Australia, National Portrait Gallery of Australia, Old Parliament House–Museum of Australian Democracy and National Archives of Australia

Australian War Memorial

No additional funding has been provided to the AWM as part of this measure. Total funding to the AWM is projected to decrease this financial year, due in part to a reduction in the equity injections provided by the current Government (Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), Portfolio Budget Statements 2023–24: budget related paper no. 1.4B: Defence Portfolio (Department of Veterans’ Affairs), p. 83). Under the Morrison Government, $550 million was provided for its current expansion project across 2020–21 and 2021–22.

The inquiry has exposed differences between the equity injections provided for construction, and funding provided for ongoing operating costs. Despite substantial funding for its expansion, the AWM indicated to the inquiry that its operating loss for 2022–23 was $10.5 million, with a cash shortfall estimated at $3.3 million (p. 1). The AWM also stated that the efficiency dividend has resulted in a reduction in ongoing funding of $5.56 million since 2017–18 (pp. 2–3). Despite this shortfall, unlike the other NCIs, the AWM will see a slight decrease in its operational revenue from government in 2023–24 and is expected to see a reduction in base funding by the end of the forward estimates (p. 96).


Of particular media attention in the months leading up to the Budget was the future of Trove. The National Library of Australia (NLA) had received top-up funding of $16.4 million over 4 years in the December 2016–17 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) (p. 140) for Trove, followed by a further $8.5 million over 2 years from 2021–22 in the 2021–22 MYEFO (p. 277). Ongoing funding levels, however, remained uncertain, with media reports in late 2022 suggesting the future of Trove was under a cloud.

On 3 April 2023, the Government announced that the 2023–24 Budget would include $33.0 million over 4 years for the continuation of Trove (and $9.2 million in indexed ongoing annual funding beyond the forward estimates). This money will be drawn from the NLA’s additional funding of $146.1 million over 4 years (and $31.2 million per year ongoing) (Budget paper no. 2, p. 177).

While the 2023–24 Budget provides long-term funding to Trove, stakeholders may consider the quantum insufficient – an internal NLA document (prepared prior to the 2022 Federal Election) forecast that funding of between $7 and $10 million annually would maintain Trove, but not support any improvement or expansion of the service.


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