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AUSTRALIA COUNCIL CHANGES FOR THE FUTURE

The governing body of the Australia Council has approved major changes to the Council’s structures and processes designed to meet the growing challenges of the arts in Australia.

The Council Chairman, Mr David Gonski AO, said the new Council structure reflected a critical change in emphasis for the Council and for the arts in Australia.

‘We’re moving away from a rigid model of grants and services towards one with far greater flexibility and more about innovative ideas and partnerships,’ Mr Gonski said.

Meeting in Hobart, the Council signed-off on what the Council CEO Ms Jennifer Bott described as one of the most significant shifts in the Council’s approach to arts funding in its 30-year history. She said the reorganisation would help to drive the innovation and excellence needed to maintain the vital role of the arts in Australian life.

‘The new funding models we’ve created will give greater scope for fresh ideas and new players, for flexibility between artforms, and encourage more Australians to participate in and enjoy the arts,’ Ms Bott said. ‘Ultimately, they will help shape a more sustainable arts sector.’

The reorganisation process began in 2004 with a six-month Council Task Force review that asked ‘How can we do it better?‘. In December 2004, the Council published its plans for change, and convened a series of workshops with arts sector leaders to seek further input to refine the models.

‘The consultations internally and externally have greatly helped us address the key issues facing the arts’ Ms Bott said.

The Hobart meeting agreed to establish two new sections – Community Partnerships, and Inter-Arts – both aimed at spreading existing expertise more widely through the Council’s activities, and agreed to plans to dissolve the Community Cultural Development (CCD) and New Media Arts (NMA) boards.

‘Community Partnerships will see a more flexible and strategic approach and better coordination of our support for CCD practice and arts in the community,’ Ms Bott said. ‘It will more effectively support the extraordinary breadth of arts and cultural practices in Australian society, including youth and seniors, education and regional arts support, and will acknowledge both the diversity and rapidly changing profile of many communities.’

The Inter-Arts office will handle true hybrid arts activities and develop strategies for supporting emerging arts practices that are outside existing artform categories. ‘The Council has long championed new media art, and the Inter-Arts model will be a unique funding platform for arts practices that break new territory,’ Ms Bott said. ‘We are creating a clearer funding path to encourage what will be an even greater source of arts innovation in the years ahead.’

The meeting also confirmed the establishment of a Key Organisations section to manage the Council’s relationships with triennially funded organisations. Designed to better understand the health of key organisations in order to support their long-term sustainability, this section will have skilled client relations staff and specialists in finance and marketing.

Peer assessment of triennially funded organisations will continue, with the Council’s artform boards making funding decisions with relevant input provided by Key Organisations.

The Council also established a new Strategy section to develop plans for the Council and support the creation of individual, integrated plans by artform boards. It will also have responsibility for developing the Council’s strategic plan, providing internal project management support, and managing research and analysis projects.

The meeting also agreed to reclassify the Council’s artform managers as artform directors, with organisation-wide responsibility for individual artforms. These new roles will retain primary authority over grant giving and key organisations, but will now be responsible for setting strategic priorities for the entire Council, in partnership with the Strategy section, and in representing their artform area across the organisation.

Although the Council expects to implement its reorganisation by July 2005, there will be no changes to the grants programs being offered in 2005, so the current (2005) Support for the Arts Handbook remains valid for all boards until the end of this year.

In May to June this year, the Council will conduct a series of public meetings around Australia to outline the new structure and discuss its implications for the sector.

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