Chapter 6 - Existing government funding
This chapter describes the funding programs managed by the Commonwealth
and the states and territories in the Indigenous arts and craft sector. The
need for growth funding for Indigenous art programs in general, and infrastructure
support in particular, was discussed in chapter 4. This chapter describes the
existing programs used for those purposes, and covers other funding issues.
The main funding to support Indigenous art centres is provided by the
Commonwealth through the National Arts and Crafts Industry Support (NACIS)
program administered by the Department of Communications, Information
Technology and the Arts (DCITA), and two programs administered by the Australia
Council through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board. Some
support is also provided by state and territory governments. Some art centres
are funded from their own resources, although this is not the case in most
DCITA administers three main relevant funding schemes:
- National Arts and Crafts Industry Support (NACIS) program ($5.6
million in 2006–07) – provides direct funding support to Indigenous art centres
and support organisations;
- Indigenous Culture Support (ICS) (formerly the Regional Arts and
program ($6.8 million in 2006–07) – this program is broader than arts and
crafts and provides funding support to preserve, develop and promote Indigenous
arts and cultures within Indigenous communities; and
- Indigenous visual arts special initiative (IVASI), which provides
$4 million over four years (2004-05 to 2007-08) – provides for the training of
emerging Indigenous artists, to upgrade facilities, and to fund specific
marketing initiatives. This funding complements the core operational support provided
through the NACIS program.
The NACIS program is the most relevant to the Indigenous visual arts and
craft sector. However the ICS program also provides support for some visual
arts and craft activities, particularly for activities which focus on maintenance
and transfer of cultural skills and knowledge.
Funding under the NACIS program over the 10 year period from 1995-96 to
2005-06 is provided in the table below.
Table 6.1: Funding under the NACIS program, 1995-96 to
n.a. information not available
* Increase in expenditure attributed to
additional funds being
provided for one-off projects
DCITA, Correspondence, 14 February 2007.
DCITA advised the committee that comparable data on funding of the ICS
program directed towards activities that have an Indigenous visual arts
emphasis is not available due to 'changes in systems over the past 10
years...Detailed analysis would be required to extract this data'.
NACIS funding was increased by $1 million per annum for four years
commencing in 2006–07. At the same time an additional $0.5 million per annum
over the same period was allocated for training visual artists to enhance their
engagement with the commercial arts market.
These additions were made as a result of the government's decision not to
proceed with a resale royalty scheme. Resale royalty issues are discussed
further in chapter 12.
DCITA also provides funding to a range of Indigenous arts-related
activities through mainstream arts support programs. Under the Visions of
Australia program from 2004-05 to 2006-07, approximately $517 000 has been
provided to seven projects with an Indigenous visual arts component. Under the
Festivals Australia program from 1996-97 to 2006-07, approximately
$266 000 has been provided to 16 projects with an Indigenous visual
arts focus. Under the Regional Arts Fund from 2004-05 to 2006-07, approximately
$858 000 has been provided for projects with an Indigenous visual arts
In addition, DCITA has provided funding through the Networking the
Nation (NTN) and IT Training and Technical Support (ITTTS) programs for a range
of information technology and communications activities in remote communities.
Under the NTN program, four programs receiving a total of $1.4 million in
funding, had direct connections to Indigenous visual arts.
The Australia Council manages two relevant schemes:
- The Visual Arts and Craft Strategy (VACS). This delivers $1.8
million annually to the Indigenous visual arts sector, of which $845 000 is
Australian Government funding. This includes some funding to peak bodies Desart
and ANKAAA. VACS is a jointly funded Commonwealth, state and territory
government program. Commonwealth funding is contingent on matching funding from
state and territory governments. Direct grants are provided to individuals and
artist-run programs. Funds are also allocated to contemporary arts
organisations, craft and design organisations and a number of programs
supporting Indigenous arts infrastructure.
- A further $3.7 million of Australia Government funding was
distributed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the
Australia Council in 2004–2005. This includes about $1 million for art centres.
The Australia Council stated that the value of the Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Arts Board (ATSIAB) grants has fallen slightly in real terms
since the 1990s.
The Australia Council indicated that the value of ATSIAB grants going
specifically to visual arts and crafts has grown to approximately $2.7 million
in 2005-06. The Australia Council also provides some other support to
Indigenous visual arts and craft, including some funding for the Visual Arts
Board and the Community Cultural Development Board, totalling $84 000 in
The Commonwealth's Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR)
runs several programs which can support Indigenous visual arts and crafts. It
operates several initiatives under the Indigenous Economic Development Strategy
(IEDS). These include:
- Structured Training and Employment Projects (STEP)
- Indigenous Small Business Fund (ISBF)
- Indigenous Capital Assistance Scheme (ICAS)
- Indigenous Community Volunteers (ICV)
- New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS).
These programs are discussed further in chapter 7.
Both STEP and ISBF are being utilised in partnership with ANKAAA, with
funding worth over $700 000 over several years. This project involves the
employment of a business development officer and the formulation and
implementation of 'business, strategic, marketing and/or export plans'.
In addition to these initiatives, DEWR administers the program which is
the largest single employer of Indigenous Australians: the Community
Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme. DEWR have said that 'around 130
arts activities are currently undertaken by 95 CDEP organisations. These
activities can support up to 2100 participants.'
There are numerous art centres receiving both CDEP funding and DCITA
funding for different art activities, and the future of these arrangements is a
matter of contention. CDEP labour is often used to support arts activities funded
by other government agencies, especially in the case of non-art activities such
as the maintenance and operation of arts centres, including retail sales, food
preparation and office administration. DEWR has described the use of CDEP
labour to support activities funded by other government programs as 'CDEP
DEWR stated that there are 34 arts activities funded under CDEP that are also
supported through other government programs, and these have up to 328 CDEP
The committee understands that DEWR and other Australian Government agencies:
are currently looking to progress the removal of CDEP
cross-subsidisation from a range of Government service delivery areas. The aim
is to create real employment, business opportunities and career paths for
Indigenous Australians participating in CDEP activities that elsewhere would be
The Indigenous art community appears worried that changes to CDEP may
undermine capacity to train Indigenous staff, to employ staff and thus to
continue the current range of activities. In a sector already generally agreed
to be facing infrastructure constraints and having over-worked staff, this is a
source of concern.
The committee examines aspects of this issue further in chapter 7.
States and territories
States and territories provide funding through their arts programs. Some
appears to be through Indigenous-specific strategies, while other funding
appears to be through mainstream arts funding programs. Some jurisdictions
provided more comprehensive data to the inquiry than others, and the committee
is concerned at the lack of comprehensive data in this area.
The Northern Territory Government supports the Indigenous arts industry
through its Indigenous arts strategy, Building Stronger Arts Business
(BSAB). The BSAB includes three elements:
- Talking Arts Business – provides for the development of
strategic partnerships with Indigenous arts practitioners, the Commonwealth and
Territory Government sector organisations to ensure sustainability of the
- Doing Arts Business – provides for culturally appropriate
services to encourage arts development and provide Indigenous arts
practitioners with training and employment in the arts; and
- Sharing Arts Business – creates opportunities to promote
the Territory's Indigenous arts sector to local, national and international
The Northern Territory Government has increased its funding to
Aboriginal arts since 2001. Prior to that time, funding to Indigenous projects
as a proportion of total NT arts sponsorship was 11 per cent (2000-2001); this
increased to 16 per cent or $425 000 in 2001-02. Commitments under the
BSAB are currently $1.09 million per annum.
Specific Indigenous outcomes under the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy
(VACS) are delivered in the Territory through direct funding support to peak
Indigenous advocacy and support organisations, Desart and ANKAAA.
In Queensland, the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy (VACS) 2004-2007 has a
combined Commonwealth and state-funded budget of $7.4 million ($4.245 million
funded from Queensland). Under VACS, support is provided towards the Indigenous
visual arts and craft sector, including:
- Indigenous Art Centres – many Indigenous art centres in Queensland
receive annual operational funding through Arts Queensland (via VACS) with
funding being supplemented by DCITA or the Torres Strait Regional Authority;
- UMI Arts Ltd – a peak body funded to service 11 Indigenous arts
centres in Far North Qld;
- Dreaming Festival 2006 - Arts Qld contributed $75 000 towards the
visual arts and craft component;
- Queensland Indigenous Arts Marketing and Export Agency; and
- Regional Millennium Arts Project – capital infrastructure support
has been provided to many Indigenous art centres.
Other programs include the Arts Centre Pilot Project. This project will
focus on four art centres and fund activities related to information technology
systems development, and marketing and promotions, with the aim of
strengthening the current capability of the art centres. The Indigenous Regional
Arts Development Fund (IRADF) is a partnership program between Arts Queensland
and Indigenous community councils and communities. Projects are funded to
support cultural retention and economic independence. Fifteen Aboriginal
councils, community organisations and local councils will participate in IRADF
in 2006-07. The annual budget for the program is $0.5 million.
In Western Australia, the Department of Culture and the Arts, through
its Arts Grants Program, supports a range of mechanisms to support artists and
organisations, including project funding, annual and multi-year funding. The
Department of Industry and Resources, through the Aboriginal Economic
Development program, provides support for the establishment and maintenance of
arts centres, staffing and system management.
In NSW, Arts NSW through its state-government funded Visual Arts and
Craft (VAC) program funds a variety of initiatives relating to Indigenous
visual arts, including program costs, projects, artists and strategic
initiatives. In 2006, the VAC program funded seven Indigenous visual arts
applications, totalling $163 000.
Arts NSW provides some funding to Indigenous arts centres.
In Victoria, Indigenous art and craft is identified in Building the
Economic Base – the Victorian Government's Indigenous Business Development
Strategy 2005-07 as an integral element of a broader Indigenous
industry development framework. Under this strategy, Arts Victoria in
partnership with the Koori Business Network operates the Deadly Arts
Business program. The program aims at strengthening the business, marketing
and artistic capability of the sector. It promotes exhibitions of Indigenous
visual arts, provides skills development and professional development
opportunities and provides commissioning and retailing opportunities for
Indigenous artists. Arts Victoria does not provide funding to Indigenous arts
Aboriginal Affairs Victoria operates the Aboriginal Land and Economic
Development Program. In 2005-06 the government committed $9.6 million over
three years to establish the program. One project is the establishment of an
art gallery featuring Indigenous artists.
The committee had some difficulty in establishing the value of, or
trends in expenditure on Indigenous arts in some jurisdictions. It wants to
emphasise that the additional funding for Indigenous visual arts and craft
recommended in this report should be an opportunity for other jurisdictions to
continue to build their programs in this important area.
Government funding – issues
The most frequently recommended action in submissions is increasing
funding to art centres, either through increasing their recurrent funding,
infrastructure improvement grants, housing assistance or all three. This
recommendation did not just appear in the submissions of art centres and their
affiliates, but individuals, collectors, dealers, gallery associations and
governments. One submission described the art centre program, in comparison to
other industry assistance programs, as 'miniscule'.
Desart, as with many other submissions, noted that the sector is
artistically and culturally sustainable but requires increased funding support.
In order to nurture new talent continued investment in the sector is needed
through training; exposure to contemporary art practices; quality representation;
access to markets; solid sales of art product; and strong industry
associations. Desart stated that these factors are reasons the government needs
to 'sustain and increase its support for the sector'.
The committee has in chapter 4 already recommended expansion of the existing
NACIS scheme in part to address this.
Some submissions argued for the consolidation of funding sources. The
Northern Territory Government noted, for example, that many art centres are
required to approach up to ten different agencies in pursuit of a single
project, at substantial cost in terms of time and effort.
Some submissions suggested that there should be greater coordination
and/or consolidation of DCITA and the Australia Council funding programs.
Other evidence pointed, however, to the benefits of maintaining multiple
funding sources. Professor Morphy stated that:
I do not think you can contain art within one particular
portfolio, because art is something that can be to do with Australian export
industries and education, both for Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people.
Art is something that clearly is part of the cultural industry as such. Art
can be associated with community morale and national, local and regional
identity. I think it is wrong to see art as something that is disconnected from
society as a whole. There should be multiple funding sources.
Submissions also argued for the introduction of triennial funding given
that many art centres have a proven history of appropriate financial
management. This would ease the administrative burden on art centres and
provide a more secure funding stream.
Triennial funding is also mooted under the bilateral agreement between the
Commonwealth and the Northern Territory regarding the Indigenous arts sector.
The committee recommends that DCITA implement triennial operational
funding for art centres as an option for projects seeking support under the
Submissions argued for a whole of government approach
to address policy direction, capacity building and future sustainability
through partnerships and inter-agency cooperation.
This is to some extent already implemented, through the existence of Indigenous
Coordination Centres and whole-of-government arrangements within the
Commonwealth at the ministerial and departmental secretary level.
Several governments, such as NSW, have advocated strongly for further
efforts to be made in this sector. Not all jurisdictions have supplied
financial data about their programs that fund Indigenous art, but the NSW
program at least appears small compared to the Commonwealth's ($500 000
over five years versus around $20 million within NACIS/VACS alone over
that same period). Other jurisdictions, particularly the Northern Territory,
appear to have more substantial programs.
The committee believes that there is substantial funding pressure on art
centres. As noted in this chapter and chapter 4, the current level of funding
is inadequate to meet the current and future demands of the sector. The visual
arts sector is an important success story that should be properly resourced as
it generates economic, social and cultural benefits to Indigenous artists and
wider spin-offs to other sectors and the nation generally. The strengthening of
the financial position of art centres will ensure that the sector continues to
The NACIS budget has not managed to keep pace with the expansion in the
number of art centres.
One submission noted that:
The current DCITA funding program that offers core operational
funding to the great majority of art centres (NACISS) has national funding of
$4 million, unchanged since the mid 1990s and despite a more-than-doubling
of art centres operating.
This situation has created an environment where program funding has been
clawed back from some more successful centres creating a situation where
incentives to succeed have been undermined. Art centres need to be recognised
as mixed commercial and cultural/social enterprises that will require ongoing
support for the foreseeable future and that therefore need to be adequately
Funding pressure on art centres has resulted in difficulties in relation
to the recruitment and retention of staff. Staff 'burnout' and a high turnover
of staff positions impacts on the efficient operation of art centres. A
significant injection of funds would provide support for staff to receive
training and skills development which will in turn improve governance
arrangements within art centres.
The committee believes that art centres are, in the main,
efficient enterprises – for a small level of government investment they return
enormous social, cultural and economic benefits. However, the costs and
challenges of running an art centre, especially in remote areas, are substantial.
The committee considers that triennial funding would provide for greater
stability in funding arrangements and enable art centres to better plan for the
future. As noted previously, most art centres have a history of effective
financial management. The committee also believes that improvements in
governance arrangements will be assisted where centres have more certainty in
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