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AUSTRALIA COUNCIL ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER ARTS KEY ORGANISATIONS ANNOUNCED

This follows a major two year review of the Indigenous arts sector, and focuses on Indigenous arts sector development with an increased strategic investment to Indigenous organisations.

Five leading organisations will be supported for six years and five building organisations for three years. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board’s commitment totals $1,350,000.

The Australia Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board assessed the applications at their October 2009 meeting, on completion of their Making Solid Ground review.

Making Solid Ground review

The Making Solid Ground review was a nation-wide consultation program to inform the review of the key organisations funding program. The need for the review directly related to:

Changes in the Indigenous funding landscape

Barriers to entry of new organisations into the funding program

Budget lockup of funding and frustration of organisations outside the program

Lack of mechanisms for organisations to successfully exit from the program

Continuing financial pressure on Indigenous arts organisations.

As a result of Making Solid Ground, the board established two categories of funding: leading organisations and building organisations. Leading organisations are established Indigenous arts organisations leading their field. Building organisations arerecently established Indigenous arts organisations working towards strategically contributing to a national networked infrastructure.

The board is supporting leading and building organisations whose primary activity is either cultural maintenance or artistic vibrancy.

Cultural maintenance was identified as essential by the sector to the conservation and protection of art and culture, and central to this was the support required for the continuity of art and culture intergenerational practices.  Artistic vibrancy was identified as essential by the sector to achieve new, innovative artistic works and develop audiences in their respective artform to achieve a dynamic contemporary artistic practice.

Meeting processes and outcomes

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board Chair Dr Mark Bin Bakar noted that in the assessment of these applications at the October 2009 meeting, all board members undertook this work with the utmost seriousness and attention. He noted that board members know very well how important this round has been to not only the thirty five applicants but to hundreds and thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people involved with them.

Mark noted that this was perhaps the most competitive round in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board’s history. The board had the difficult task of deciding between many worthwhile proposals in order to allocate very limited funds. The total request for 2010 was $4,470,235 with a budget of only $1,350,000.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board noted that the demand from the field demonstrates an extraordinary level of excellence in artistic vibrancy and cultural maintenance and that the board could have made a larger investment in this field if resources were available to do so.

Mark added ‘We agree with the (Federal Minister for the Arts’ 27/10/09) view that in all of Australia’s cultural landscape the art that is most significant and with the greatest potential is Indigenous art, of all kinds.’

Statistical summary

This new National Indigenous Arts Infrastructure Program has 10 companies who will receive Key Organisation funding of a total $1.350m in 2010, representing 46.5 per cent of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board annual budget.  Seven  organisations are receiving funding for the first time, representing 70 per cent new organisations in the program.  The program has an inclusion of all artforms (music, dance, theatre, literature, visual arts and multi-arts) and a wide geographic spread.  It supports organisations whose activity is either cultural maintenance or artistic vibrancy.

Except for Tasmania and the Torres Strait islands, each jurisdiction has at least one infrastructure organisation. Western Australia has three organisations and the Northern Territory has two organisations.

There is a balance of artforms in the program – performing arts (music, dance and theatre), literature, and visual arts. Music is well represented with the presence of three organisations followed by two visual arts organisations, two multi arts organisations, one theatre, one dance and one literature.

Approximately 30 per cent of applications received to the program were funded.

Participating board members and peers

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts board members: Dr Mark Bin Bakar (WA), Ms Tara June Winch (NSW), Mr Desmond ‘Kootji’ Raymond (NT), Ms Jeanette James (Tas.), Ms Lynette Narkle (WA), Mr Leo Akee (TSI).

The board meeting included three participating peers (i.e. additional assessors without decision making powers): Ms Sonya Rankine (SA), Ms Karen Mills (NT), and Mr Sani Townson (TSI).

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Brianna Roberts

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