As the landscape of arts funding changes in Australia, who’s looking after the breeding grounds?

In his statement for the Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategy, one of our country’s great arts leaders, director Neil Armfield, made a very telling observation. He said, “We’re rather good at destinations, at monuments. But who’s looking after the breeding grounds, the grasses at the end of the creek, where you find the little fish feeding, the place from which a culture can grow with safety and with strength. This is what needs our attention now.“

Armfield’s words have a particularly strong significance at the moment in light of the changes to the administering of funding for the arts, announced in last week’s Federal Budget. For over eight years, I have applied, both successfully and unsuccessfully, for funds from the Australia Council to support individual, small and mid-sized projects, and so I felt compelled to dig deeper into the implications of the arts funding reforms. Specifically I wanted to uncover what the key differences between the Australia Council and Senator Brandis’ new National Programme for Excellence in the Arts really are.

There are some key discrepancies in the ethoea of both funding bodies. As outlined in...