Australia Council for the Arts has been running a broad consultation process – Re-imagine – with online small sessions, various ways to input ideas, and online submissions sought. The Council is calling for contributions to a “national conversation about the shared future that we can create”. The online space will be open for input until 5.00pm AEDT on Tuesday 13 October.
TNA staff have participated in a variety of the small online sessions, and we have also written a submission. Our submission focussed on short-term, practical suggestions in light of the COVID-19 context.
TNA’s Submission in Summary
We commented on the timing of the consultation process, noting that there has been so much pain and uncertainty endured by companies, artists and arts workers that some more time to heal and reflect would have been welcome.
We call on Australia Council to continue its work on ensuring the arts are accessible to all Australians as artists and audiences, regardless of gender, background, ability or age.
We note that independent artists are feeling the brunt of the COVID-19 shutdowns. TNA’s independent arts worker report (to be published later this month) shows that nearly all of them were adversely affected by the shutdowns. For example, of an average of 8 projects per person planned in 2020, 68% were cancelled or postponed. We endorse the independent artist submission: Artist Centred Arts Ecology, supporting their call for the grants processes at Council to be enhanced with suggested changes such as an EOI process and greater transparency.
We strongly support the development of a funded Youth Arts and Culture plan or strategy.
Our submission then focusses on two key issues: Australia Council Sector Engagement and Sector Advocacy and Coordination.
A. Australia Council Sector Engagement
Building on the work undertaken by Council over the past two years, there is an opportunity to further enhance its engagement with the sector. We propose a formal sector engagement strategy which is actionable and measurable. The following initiatives are partly underway, at least informally, and could be formalised:
1. Council staff participation in sector forums – proactive, staff KPIs, report-backs;
2. Meeting plan with peak bodies – continue roundtable, refine invite list, resource the meeting, communicate the key themes to the sector through a communique;
3. Communications Strategy – enhance trust by the sector in Council through a clearer communications plan that empowers different people within Council to communicate regularly; online forums; reintroduce grant assessment reports.
4. Brokering dialogue with other portfolios – multi-staged process, brokered introductions or meetings with other industries through the peak bodies; introductory webinars to learn what is happening in some of the other agencies – e.g. Tourism Australia, followed by facilitated discussion.
B. Sector Advocacy and Coordination
TNA supports the need for greater coordination of advocacy efforts, but we also believe that the pursuit of a one-size-fits-all solution to arts advocacy is misguided. The advocacy problems we are trying to solve are multi-faceted and deeply complex and as such require a multi-faceted and complex set of solutions. We support the need for coordination of messages, but we do not believe a single voice is the solution in the current environment. Council could support this through brokering stronger relationships between the different peak bodies; and considering implementing a rotating paid advisory board or group of independent artists and arts workers with which to engage on policy or other consultations.