Submission to Senate Inquiry
Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee
PO Box 6100
Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600
RE: Impact of the 2014 and 2015 Commonwealth Budget decisions on the Arts and the appropriateness of the establishment of a National Programme for Excellence in the Arts
Women in Literary Arts Australia (WILAA) is deeply worried by the decisions made about Federal arts funding in the 2015 Budget.
As a recently launched initiative aimed at supporting women in all fields of literary arts, we are a fledgling organisation that has come about due to the concern that women writers face discrimination and barriers to participation within our industries. Our work is just beginning, and we are operating on the goodwill of volunteers and our own financial backing. We receive no government, philanthropic or private sector funding.
Women are paid less than their male counterparts in all areas of the creative arts, in line with the national wage gap. To further restrict funding to the sector will disproportionately impact women in our industries.
In the complex web of interconnections between small to medium arts organisations, individual artists and major arts organisations, funding cuts in one area do not occur in a vacuum. When funding is decreased for small organisations and individuals, loss of the valuable contributions they make to the broader industry will be sorely felt, not just in the short term when projects and programs are cut, but in the long term when the dearth of practitioners and innovation are felt at the major arts organisations. A focus on funding excellence at the expense of development risks not having a next generation of writers, artists and arts managers to create excellent work.
Writers, like other artists, require investments of time and labour to become good at their craft. Small to medium arts organisations are key to their development. Without writers’ groups, festivals, online magazines, workshops, literary journals, zines, development programs and projects which meet the needs of these writers, we risk losing much of the breadth and variety of work which currently exists. Not only will fewer works be created, but fewer readers will be engaged with Australian literature.
As the statistics of the Stella Count have proven, women’s literature is afforded less coverage and discussion in the public realm. Further cuts to the arts will mean a further reduction in visibility for the artistic works of women. The loss of these unique capacity-building, training, development and research initiatives could see us risk the next generations of cultural workers and Australia’s reputation for cultural ambition and excellence.
Opportunities for women, indigenous, disability and other marginalised community groups will inevitably be reduced under Brandid’s proposed cuts. With a significant wage gap for women already impacting their ability to contribute financial and social capital to the development of their art, we will see more women forced to withdraw from the sector. The changes will create an additional barrier to entry and access for diverse practitioners and organisations and move more funding to major organisations, which are already criticised for a lack of diversity (of form, story, artists, participants and audiences).
We support the Australia Council as an independent arm’s length statutory body free from political influence. The Australia Council has provided a mechanism for independent arts funding for more than 40 years, with grants being fully accountable and applicants being assessed by qualified industry peers. This rigorous process has ensured decisions are made by experts in a particular art form and independent of political and other potential pressures.
On behalf of our community, participants and audiences, we seek a reversal of the cuts to the Australia Council and an assurance that visit this federal arts funding will continue to be administered through an accountable, arms-length, peer-reviewed processes.
Lefa Singleton Norton
Founder of WILAA