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Speeches and Opinions
Oct 24, 2013

I am very pleased to provide an update following the third meeting of the new Board of the Australia Council, held at the Melbourne Theatre Company on Thursday 24 October.

Discussion focused on the significant levels of Council activity currently directed towards both the delivery of our existing programs and a number of substantial projects which will redefine our strategic focus and enhance the way we support the arts in Australia.

Strategic Plan development

The Board is deeply engaged in the development of the Council’s new five-year Strategic Plan. Following the Board’s establishment of a Strategy Committee to oversee the process, Bendelta Pty Ltd were engaged to work with staff and the Board to develop the plan. Bendelta facilitated a half-day strategic planning focus group for the Board following their meeting. This initial session will be consolidated by a full day of strategic planning in November and ongoing Board consultation throughout the planning process.

The planning process has a strong foundation built on the last 18 months of nationwide sector consultation, including the Australia Council Review, Mitchell Review and development of national cultural policy. Further targeted consultation is currently in progress and a draft paper will be available for public consultation during March 2014.

The strategic planning process will deliver a draft five-year Strategic Plan for Ministerial endorsement. It will be reflective of the functions of the Australia Council as prescribed in the new Act, and implemented through a rolling Corporate Plan with performance indicators against which the Council will be measured.

Sector Strategy Panels

The Board approved a further three Sector Strategy Panel Chairs – Deborah Conway (Music), Julianne Pierce (Experimental & Emerging Arts) and John Daley (Research). These Chairs join an already impressive group comprised of Ken Lloyd (Community Partnerships), Elizabeth Walsh (Dance), Sophie Cunningham (Literature), Stephen Armstrong (Theatre), Danie Mellor (Visual Arts) and Julian Knights (Major Performing Arts). The Council is currently identifying the final two Chairs to lead the ATSIA and Capacity Building Panels.

During a discussion between the Sector Strategy Panel Chairs and the Board on 23 October it was decided that membership of the art form specific Strategy Panels would be most effective if responding to the direction of Strategic Plan. Consequently the Panel Chairs will be engaged in the strategic planning process and when the direction of the Plan is confirmed those Panels will be populated accordingly.

The remit of the Sector Strategy Panels is to provide advice on sector-specific strategy and issues informed by their considerable expertise. This initial discussion between Strategy Panel Chairs and the Board was extremely fruitful, providing valuable insights which will be incorporated in the Strategic Plan development.

Arts Knowledge Leadership

The Board discussed the need to build on the success of our existing research program to strengthen the intelligence available for identifying and understanding key issues in the arts. The Australia Council is committed to providing leadership in this area, to both underpin the narrative around the creativity and excellence of the arts in Australia, and to inform initiatives responding to sector needs.

The impact of Council research was well evidenced by an impressive presentation from the Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC) following the Board meeting. MTC staff provided an overview of some innovative new initiatives aimed at diversifying the artists and audiences producing and engaging with theatre at the MTC. This included programs which support independent theatre projects with full creative freedom, and an exciting initiative designed to enhance professional opportunities for female directors. These programs reference Australia Council research projects Australian Participation in the Arts’ and Women in Theatre’ as the primary evidence base for informing their development.

The Australia Council’s Strategic Plan will identify key areas where knowledge leadership is most critical and the new Research Strategy Panel will provide expert advice and direction as the Council’s research program continues to develop. The first State of the Arts Report’ will be available in late 2014.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Australia Council Board will be held in December. I look forward to providing a further update following that meeting.

Tony Grybowski

The Australia Council board comprises Rupert Myer AM, Chair, Robyn Archer AO, Deputy- Chair, Tony Grybowski, CEO, Mr Waleed Aly, Ms Lee-Ann Buckskin, Mr Adrian Collette AM, Mr Khoa Do, Ms Mary-Ellen King, Professor Matthew Hindson AM, Ms Sophie Mitchell, Ms Samantha Mostyn and Mr Tim Orton.

The Council has three sub-committees: the Audit and Finance Committee chaired by Sophie Mitchell; the Nominations and Appointments Committee chaired by Robyn Archer; and the Strategy Committee chaired by Tim Orton.