Australia/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate  

4.2.1 Conceptual issues of policies for the arts

For decades one of the major debates in Australian arts and cultural policy has been around the proportion of government funding allocated to support individual artists and new work, as opposed to that for companies and organisations.  As a result of ongoing concern, a discussion paper was put out for public debate by the Centre for Social Impact, prior to the 2010 election, proposing the establishment of a Foundationfor the Artist that would engage government, private and corporate funding in supporting artists and the development of new work.  The funds would complement, not replace, existing funding and support new creativity and innovation in ways that the existing systems find it difficult to do on a consistent and coherent basis. Some of the initiatives in Creative Australia discussed above seek to deal with this issue, albeit to a limited extent, but no Foundation as such has been forthcoming.  The original discussion paper is available under the heading New Models, New Money at

The situation of the individual artist is further highlighted by two reports published by the Australia Council in 2010:  Do you really expect to get paid? An economic study of professional artists in Australia by Professor David Throsby, and What’s your other job? A census analysis of arts employment in Australia by Professor Stuart Cunningham.  Both reports are available at

The issue of artists’ incomes is periodically raised by the industrial organisations and peak bodies representing artists across different artforms. The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance regularly campaign and advocate around rates of pay, maintaining benchmarks for freelance and self-employed workers in the performing arts and print media. The National Association of Visual Artists (NAVA) actively campaigned over 2012-13 for additional funds to be allocated to visual artists whose work was exhibited in publicly-funded institutions.

Most recently, frustration about the lack of movement towards a ‘living wage’ for artists has grown to the point that one prominent writer has advocated that artists strike, as a means of highlighting the issue.  See  Whether this call will be heeded is a moot point, with artists and ensembles having been typically reluctant to withdraw their services from the public.  But the call does indicate the high level of frustration that exists within the arts sector.

Another major debate of mid-2010 has been the draft Shape of the Australian Curriculum: The Arts that sets out the planned direction for the development of the national arts curriculum for the Australian school system. The consultation document is available at For further discussion see section 8.3.2

A further concern for the wide range of not-for-profit organisations within the arts and cultural sectors has been implications from the establishment of the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profit Commission (ACNC) by Act of Parliament in 2012.  The ACNC’s stated role is to

  • maintain, protect and enhance public trust and confidence in the sector through increased accountability and transparency
  • support and sustain a robust, vibrant, independent and innovative not-for-profit sector
  • promote the reduction of unnecessary regulatory obligations on the sector.

 While the idea of reduction of regulatory obligations has been widely welcomed, there is concern about the Commission’s statement that

Unless we tell you otherwise, the obligations your charity has to the ACNC are in addition to any other obligations it has under other laws or to other regulators. For example, if your charity is an incorporated association you will still have to report to your state or territory regulator for incorporated associations.

‘One of the ACNC's statutory objects is to promote the reduction of unnecessary regulatory obligations on the not-for-profit sector. Initially it may feel to some charities that they are required to provide additional information to a new agency, but the ACNC requires full details of each charity in order to populate the ACNC Register, for data integrity and for future work on regulating and supporting the sector. 

There has also been a degree of frustration about the establishment of a one-size -fits-all set of governance standards by the Commission, given that many organisations in the arts and cultural sectors have worked with their Commonwealth and state funders over many years to improve and enhance standards.  It remains to be seen whether the establishment of the ACNC will provide to be an enhancement to, or impediment to, the smooth administration of arts and cultural organisations in Australia.

For issues associated with broadcasting and the media see section

Chapter published: 26-12-2013