The Federal Government has axed the Catalyst Fund for arts and culture after just two years, handing the allocation of investment in arts back to the Australia Council, but the media union has warned the move may have come too late to save small arts projects and organisations.
Arts minister Mitch Fifield has scrapped the Catalyst fund but the MEAA still has concerns.
Over the weekend arts minister Mitch Fifield announced the transfer of $61m in uncommitted arts and culture funding for the next four years would be handed to the Australia Council, bringing an end to the Catalyst Fund set up under Tony Abbott and run from the office of the arts minister.
The creation of the fund in 2015 under then arts minister George Brandis saw $105m stripped from the Australia Council leading to a campaign by the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance to have the Catalyst Fund scrapped and funding returned to the council.
In a statement Fifield’s office said the Catalyst Fund had been successful supporting small and medium arts and culture organisations but there had also been concerns from the community about the operation of the fund.
“While Catalyst has been successful in supporting a broad range of arts projects, especially those by small to medium arts organisations, the Government has listened and responded to feedback from the department, the Australia Council and the arts sector regarding the ongoing arrangements for the Australian Government’s funding for the arts portfolio, the statement said.
It said the funding transfer back to the Australia Council would allow it to focus on supporting small and medium arts organisations as well as creating an opportunity for the council to look at recommendations from the recent Opera Review in relation to the Victorian Opera and Queensland Opera “as well as address funding sustainability for Queensland Ballet and the Brandenburg Orchestra”.
The MEAA said the move had been “long overdue” but that the government should now allocate extra cash to implement the recommendations of the Opera Review or risk having to raid funding that should be allocated to small and medium-sized organisations.
“We are pleased that Minister Fifield has finally seen the light and decided to shut down the Catalyst fund once and for all,” Murphy said.
“This will return almost $30 million back to the independent and widely-respected Australia Council, but it is too late for many organisations and projects that were defunded at the end of 2015.
“Funding for the arts should always be free of any political interference, but Catalyst run directly from the arts minister’s office was the complete opposite.