Ozco cuts Leigh Warren & Dancers Funding

I just heard from Daniel Jaber that the Australia Council for the Arts have cut Leigh Warren and Dancers triennial funding.

Having dealt with the mendacity of ozco for years — and to be clear, I have absolutely no respect for this organisation — it doesn’t come as a surprise they would do something so utterly stupid, shortsighted, ill-informed, and useless.

If there was ever an arts organisation in Australia that is decades overdue to lose its funding, it would be ozco. They have for years single-handedly butchered the arts, promoted mediocrity, mouthed asinine middle-management slogans such as ‘innovation’, ‘excellence’, ‘international’ (apparently now the word is ‘sustainable’), taken the side of church, government, and right-wing pogroms against the very artists whom the purportedly represent, and spent much of the remaining time polishing their media image while making sure the entrance is solidly bolted against anyone unwilling or unable to play their smarmy game. Art?

It breaks my heart Adelaide could lose Leigh Warren. Though in truth, he doesn’t need to be there; he doesn’t need to struggle for years with disgraceful conditions and permanent insecurity. Neither do many of the choreographers in that city. They could all pack up, move to europe and with the same amount of effort they put in there for scant return, have proper support and be part of a huge community that respects art.

But they choose to be there. For whatever reason, they remain and devote their lives to making art in that small city. And having seen an awful lot of dance around the world, I can say — irrespective of my personal aesthetic interest — there is little as good as what comes from Adelaide.

Leigh Warren and ADT should be — should be — as acclaimed as Ultima Vez, Troubelyn, Akram Khan, Rosas, Les Ballets C de la B, names, more names … these companies that touch the firmament of dance, theatre, art. They should be there also, and should have the commensurate support, as should other companies in Australia. They should certainly not be begging for decades at the bottom of the ladder. The work they should be making remains forever half-done because of the parochial support in both dollars and culture Australia affords its artists.

There is no justification ozco can make for this funding cut. It’s a bizarre decision I can only understand if I image the panel completely intoxicated on those aforementioned buzzwords and self-importance. No one in their right mind would make such a decision, and it can certainly not be explained away by their usual dismissals of  lack of funds to support everyone, patronising the artists that they should feel sorry for them to have to make such hard decisions.

I can’t even imagine how this could be political. Leigh has done so much for Adelaide dance, for Australian dance. He should be a national treasure. Yes, Leigh Warren is to Australia what someone like Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker is to Belgium. And had he been given the support he deserved for the past twenty years, this would be self-evident.

Given the record of ozco and Australian culture over the last ten years or more, I am sceptical of a happy outcome to this. My opinion is that once a company and choreographer has established itself, it should be exempt from the humiliation of annual and triennial funding applications; there should be an expectation as an artist working in performing arts that at some point you can concentrate without distraction on making work, secure in knowing that provided one doesn’t make a complete mess of things, the bare minimum necessary to keep the company going can be depended on to be there. That it isn’t is yet another failing of the responsibilities of ozco to Australian artists.

I hope some of you will take the time to sign the petition to save Leigh Warren and Dancers.

 

good riddance

Normally I wouldn’t quote from The Age as it’s really little more than mediocre tabloid sensationalism, and if I want that, I’ll go to the Herald Sun where sensationalist flair and tabloid panache is writ large, bold and in short words. Buried in the gutter of Metro, what the once separate section of the arts has been reduced to, the announcement that Australia Council for the Arts’ Chief Executive Jennifer Bott is resigning next month.

Bott is the overseer of eight years of bludgeoning Australian art into a vegetative coma, who argued we should regard Australia Council staff members as our peers, while disemboweling the New Media Arts Board, and seems to have spent much of her time either closing down companies or putting them on notice, possibly to scavenge the necessary dollars for endless surveys, reports, and studies.

The cynical realist in me says don’t expect her replacement to be any better.

A former chairwoman of the council in the Keating era, Hilary McPhee, said earlier this year that artists seemed to have been displaced from the centre of the cultural debate during Bott’s term in favour of the “comfort of output managerialism and corporate smugness”.

The Age

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free public lynching

The issue with Australia Council for the Arts eviscerating the New Media Arts Board has had a slight hiatus over the holiday season, but that doesn’t mean it’s all coming up roses, or been forgotten. The first event of the new year is an open forum to discuss their mindless decision.

Speakers include the most vocal denouncers of ozco’s decision, and also Jennifer Bott, CEO of ozco and Andrew Donovan, ‘Manager’ of the New Media Board. Ever seen a public lynching? There’s going to be a room full or really, really pissed off artists who are not going to be particularly civil. And there’s going to be two people trying to justify their indefensible actions. It’s going to be a bloody slaughter. Almost not even sporting.

NEW MEDIA ARTS and THE AUSTRALIA COUNCIL

An open forum to discuss the Australia Council for the Arts’recent announcement of a major restructure, including the abolition of both the Community Cultural Development Board and the New Media Arts Board.

When: MONDAY JANUARY 24, 2005
Where: Paddington RSL, 220-232 Oxford Street, (Opposite Paddington Town Hall), Sydney
Time: 6pm –8pm
Admission: FREE

In December 2004 the Australia Council announced it’s intention to disband the New Media Arts Board and the Community Cultural Development Board. This meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss the proposed changes with representatives of the Australia Council and to call for immediate and ongoing consultation with the new media arts sector. It will primarily focus on new media arts with members of the CCDB and broader arts community welcome to attend and provide input.

Speakers include:
Jennifer Bott, CEO, Australia Council for the Arts
Andrew Donovan, Manager, New Media Arts Board and Acting Executive Director of Arts Development
Keith Gallasch, Editor, Realtime
Anna Munster, Artist and Senior Lecturer, School of Art History and Theory, COFA
Julianne Pierce, Executive Director, Australian Network for Art and Technology
Lynnette Wallworth, Artist and New Media Arts Board Fellow 2004/05

This meeting has been convened by dLux Media Arts and ANAT in association with Realtime, Performance Space, Experimenta, BEAP and MAAP.

For further details visit www.anat.org.au or contact:
David Cranswick, dlux Media Arts, Sydney, (02) 9380 4255
Julianne Pierce, ANAT, Adelaide, (08) 8113 3103

ANAT on the murder of the new media art board

Keeping on with the news that the government has decided to destroy the new media arts board of the Australia Council for the :haha: Arts, ANAT, the Australian Network for Art and Technology sent out this to its members. Not only am I a member of this fantastic organisation, I am also in Taipei in no small part thanks to their Conference and Workshop Fund. I’m reprinting this in full, and hope that you’ll take the time to read it and protest the death of art in Australia.

Dear ANAT friends and supporters,

As many of you would be aware, the Australia Council for the Arts announced on December 8 2004 that as part of a restructure, it plans to disband the New Media Arts Board and Community Cultural Development Board. This follows an internal review at the Australia Council conducted by a ‘Future Planning Taskforce’, who have made several recommendations based on discussions with 50% of staff and members of the Australia Council itself.

ANAT as a triennial client of the New Media Arts Board is alarmed by this decision and in particular the effect it will have on artists and practitioners. The New Media Arts Board has shown unflinching commitment to the development of contemporary arts in this country. It has responded quickly and effectively to the increasing impact of technology and digital media on visual arts, sound arts, music, performance, theatre and dance. It has also recognised that some practices are ‘unnameable’in that they sit at the cutting edge of artistic endeavour and are experimental and pioneering in nature.

The New Media Arts Board has provided leadership in the field by acknowledging and supporting emerging artforms such as computer games by artists, net.art, bio-art, hybrid performance, robotic art and more. These practices situate Australia as a leader in innovative and challenging artforms that offer new experiences for audiences and bring new industry and education partners to the artworld. Australian New Media Artists are recognised internationally as pioneers in the field and represent Australia at major international exhibitions, Biennales and conferences. The New Media Arts Board has been instrumental in ensuring that Indigenous artists have access to New Media Arts practice and that interdisciplinary practices such as Art and Science continue to flourish in this country.

In order for Australia to maintain a creative and innovative cultural life it is imperative that investment is made into emerging, contemporary and community based practices. To cut back on this investment into artists and artistic programs is to stall the growth of dynamic and visionary cultural and artistic endeavours.

By disbanding the New Media Arts Board and Community Cultural Development Boards, the Australia Council loses vital expertise in these most important artforms areas. The ‘Future Planning Taskforce’has recommended that New Media Arts and Community Cultural Development projects are distributed across other Boards of Council (eg. Visual Arts Craft and the Music Board). The establishment of an Inter-Arts Office will assess some hybrid projects as well as providing ‘triage’for New Media Arts projects to other Boards.

These recommendations indicate that vital expertise from the New Media Arts and Community Cultural Development sectors will no longer be represented at Council level. The function of an Australia Council Board is to develop policy, recommend initiatives, assess applications from organisations and artists as well as representation at Council level. The Boards are drawn from across Australia and bring together diverse and professional representation of a sector.

The recommendations made by the ‘Future Planning Taskforce’are being fast-tracked through Council in order to meet the deadline for the printing of the 2005 Australia Council Handbook. There is very little time to provide feedback and as yet the Australia Council have not announced any forums for public consultation.

With the recommended disbanding of the New Media Arts Board it is vital that the Australia Council is lobbied to retain New Media Arts representation and expertise within the Australia Council, and that a process of peer assessment is continued for New Media Arts and CCDB projects. ANAT would urge the Australia Council to reconsider its decision to disband the New Media Arts Board and the Community Cultural Development Boards.

ANAT also urges its members and the broader new media community to contact the Australia Council and voice your concern about this disturbing restructure and the future of New Media Arts within the Australia Council. Despite the announcement being made just before the holiday season it is vital to maintain actions over the coming weeks.

What can you do now to protest the restructuring of the Australia Council, in particular the proposed dissolving of the New Media Arts Board?

Write directly to Australia Council C.E.O. JENNIFER BOTT j.bott@ozco.gov.au and BEN STROUT Executive Director of Arts Development b.strout@ozco.gov.au to lodge your complaint during the staff consultation period which concludes January 30, 2005

Australia Council
PO Box 788, Strawberry Hills, NSW 2012

Attend lobbying meetings organised by the sector and attend any briefing meeting organised by the Australia Council

Write to The Hon. Helen Coonan,
Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts
Email: senator.coonan@aph.gov.au
GPO Box 3513, Sydney NSW 2001
Tel: (02) 9223 4388, Fax: (02) 9223 4399

Shadow Arts Minister Kim Carr
Email: senator.carr@aph.gov.au

Electorate Office:
62 Lygon St
CARLTON SOUTH
VIC 3053

Tel: 03 9639 2798
Fax: 03 9639 3109
Toll Free Number: 1800 673 169

Write to your State based Arts and Shadow Arts Ministers

Visit the ANAT website http://www.anat.org.au and send us your comments

Write to Realtime magazine with your responses to the proposed restructure opencity@ozemail.com.au

Join the OzCoShuffle mailing list
To join visit http://lists.culture2.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/ozcoshuffle
Or simply send email to: ozcoshuffle-subscribe@lists.culture2.org

Maintain support and solidarity with friends and colleagues from the Community Cultural Development sector. Visit the ‘lets talk’section of the http://www.ccd.net website

We will be keeping our members up to date with proposed meeting dates and will remain active on this most challenging and alarming issue over the Christmas break.

Julianne Pierce
Executive Director
Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT)

new media arts wasted

Part two of the news that Australia Council is trashing the New Media Arts Board. I’m posting this email in full because… well, this is the state of contemporary arts in Australia today, please read it.

Australia Council restructures: New media arts wasted

Keith Gallasch

In a devastatingly serious failure of nerve, shocking ignorance of the state of the arts, let alone total absence of the marketplace verve for which it has lately come to pride itself, the Australia Council for the Arts has “dissolved” its New Media Arts Board (NMAB), distributing its charges to the Visual Arts/Craft and Music Boards respectively. The responsibility for the hybrid arts component of the NMAB will now be in the hands of a newly invented “Inter-Arts Office” (not a Board, and apparently therefore without continuous peer assessor presence) which will “triage” funding applicants to appropriate traditional artform boards. Triage? Are we now “patients”? It’s only a step on from the perverse misnomer of “clients” and it complements the ill state of the many badly under-funded arts companies across the country. But who exactly is sick? Could it be the Australia Council itself?

BAD-MOUTHED?

What did new media arts do to warrant such disgraceful treatment in the Australia Council’s desperate bid to reinvent itself in the long-term absence of new funding? Did someone badmouth new media arts? Was it Ruddock and Kemp’s fury over the Council-funded interactive Woomera detention centre game or violinist Jon Rose playing the fences of Australia? Or did the artform empire within Council strike back, fearful of new media and hybrid arts’ incursions into its territories and funds, frightened of loosening its traditional boundaries? Or is this massive misjudgment the work of the charmingly titled, whiff-of-wartime “Future Planning Taskforce” chaired by Council’s Deputy Chair, Terrey Arcus, a specialist in company restructuring, applying an arts-blind business model?

The job of the New Media Arts Board was to support digital media art practices, many of them not fitting into old artform categories, together with hybrid arts – a remarkable range of emerging forms often entailing new technologies, but not always. The future handling of hybrid practices gets some explanatory treatment in the press release, but new media art is simply dealt with thus: “Digital media arts would be handled by an enhanced Visual Arts/Craft Board, and by the Music Board.” And that’s it.

Council’s December 8 announcement represents a pre-emptive strike, in line with the secretiveness of contemporary governments and bureaucracies – not an iota of consultation with the field, but only with itself, to be followed by a wasteful “national briefing tour.” We want to see these plans in writing, and soon, not in some Power Point demo of the kind in which the Australia Council CEO Jennifer Bott is only too smoothly accomplished. Cancel the briefings.

Together digital media and hybrid practices make important partners in their interplay and overlap. They are the future. Having one board in the NMAB that was no longer artform based and alert to developments in this burgeoning area made a lot of sense, but splitting attention to its concerns does not. Why isn’t the Inter-Arts Office charged with new media arts management and “triaging” as well? The expertise required to understand new media arts is enormous – technology, biology, physics, ethics, law, communications: adding a new member or two to the Visual Arts/Craft and Music Boards will just not do.

MORE THAN VISUAL ART

The assumption is that new media art is either visual art or sound art. It is both of these of course but much, much more as revealed by the recent BEAP (Biennial of Electronic Arts Perth), the ongoing exhibitions at ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne) that survey two decades of evolution of new forms, the peak new media arts organisation ANAT (Australian Network of Art and Technology), the Synapse program which brings together artists and scientists, Sydney’s dLux Media Arts, and many artists and companies. There are also the major events that celebrate new media and hybrid arts – MAAP (Multimedia Arts Asia Pacific, this year held in Singapore), SOOB (Straight Out of Brisbane), Electrofringe (Newcastle), the Time_Place_Space hybrid performance laboratory, and unsound (Wagga Wagga). The work of Australian new media artists is widely distributed and internationally admired and reflects a broader Australian curiosity about innovation and new technologies. As the latest edition of RealTime#64 reveals, new media and hybrid practices have been emerging strongly in regional areas across Australia. And for a decade RealTime the national arts magazine has documented in 27,000 copies distributed to a 1000 locations across the country every 2 months just how important new media and hybrid arts have been for a new generation of artists and audiences. This field is a critical area for young artists as reflected in SOOB and Electrofringe. Its forms cannot be relegated to the gallery and the concert hall. Will the Music Board become the Sound/Music Board. Yes, there are overlaps in sound and music cultures, but they are not the same thing. How will the Visual Arts/Craft Board handle the revolution in mobile phone art about to be embraced by the 2005 Adelaide International Film Festival with the collaboration of ANAT? Short film is the model here, not painting, sculpture or installation. Will the Visual Arts/Craft Board have an ethicist on hand to deal with bio-art issues?

Imagine a scene in the Inter-Arts Office. “What is it?” “Looks like an installation.” “Send it down to Visual Arts.” “But it says sound-work.” “Try Music.” “But it’s created by a visual artist.” “Visual arts 60/music 40. Send it to Vis Arts. Let them work it out.” “But it’s attached to an online thingy. And it’s a community project with a performance art component. Gawd, can we refer it to a peer?” “Maybe, but we’re not a board, we’re just an office.” “Should we send it to the Office for Too Hard Basket Cases, Herr Director?” “Don’t call me that. I’m not a director and I’m not on Council.”

BAD LANGUAGE

The bad signs about this restructuring of the Australia Council can be read in the language of the press release, bland but inherently dictatorial, managerial and barely masking guilt and panic, shockingly revealed when the veneer is punctured by that one telling word, ‘triage’, with its commonest connotation of dealing with the wounded. (Who snuck it in? A too-true believer or a subversive in the OzCo ranks? One way or another they’ll have to be shown the door.) Just as telling are the grandiose re-titlings, transformations and brand new labels: “In the Council’s Arts Development Division, the current role of Artform Managers would be elevated to Artform Directors, to drive artform overview across all areas of Council – and to give a stronger external focus, engaging with Australian artists, companies and interest groups, and representing the artform in the public arena.” From Managers to Directors in single corporate leap. Will these new directors be easily identifiable? Will they wear an Australia Council blazer and epaulettes? After all, it is claimed that “they will engage with artists, companies and interest groups, attending exhibitions and performances, and representing the artform in the public sphere.” A new breed? How many of these wunderkind will be glimpsed at a theatre or artspace near you? This has to be a bad joke. This is not the 1970s or the early 80s when there was some chance of a conscientious project officer (and some mighty good ones whose praises have rarely been sung, who travelled thousands of kilometres) sighting an artist’s work or meeting an audience. There are to be only seven Board Directors on Council: how much of an artform from the works of thousands can they represent? Perhaps they could become media personalities. Maybe they already are. Why not follow the ABC’s example and take on a stable of comedians?

But these are more than casual signifier shifts: the Board Managers are to “provide leadership.” Who are they to lead? Artists? All Australians? Do we want leadership or do we want an Australia Council responsive to what is happening in the arts and the rights of Australians to have access to it? We don’t want directors, we want collaborators. We don’t want more corporate lingo to cover up the Council’s failures. The press release has CEO Bott saying that the Council “will take a greater leadership role in the sector.” Just how this is to manifest is not explained. Recently, in defence of Council’s failure to win promises of new funding from either of the major political parties in the run-up to the election, Bott argued that Council’s role is not that of a lobbyist and that the arts community itself was lacking in this respect. If that’s the case what can the Australia Council possibly do to improve its “leadership” and “to ensure we are a catalyst for greater impact”? How can it lead if it can no longer nurture? How can it be a catalyst if it doesn’t have the ingredients to spark? Recent detailed reports on the dance sector, the triennially funded theatre companies and the major organisations all indicate imminent financial disaster which no amount of business planning, sponsorship, partnerships, national or international marketing, or networking are going to seriously alleviate. Leadership won’t solve anything unless it can convince government of the Council’s importance to the arts. Nor is the following scheme likely to help: “The Council also plans to create a separate section – Key Organisations – to handle its relations with 120 small-to-medium arts organisations receiving triennial grants, led by the new role of Director of Key Organisations.” Only 120? How Dickensian, how intimate, how efficient. How meaningless. And another new job. The Council’s “strategic focus over the next 5+ years [will be] to ensure maximum positive impact in the sector.” This is compensatory language, an admission of long term failure.

Worse, the claim that “With this reorganisation the Council bolsters its commitment to supporting arts practice that goes beyond conventional single artform practice” is utterly unconvincing when new forms are shunted back into traditional artform categories. Given the provocative character of these works perhaps they’re better safely tucked away?

Council Chairman David Gonski is quoted as saying, “The reorganisation will more effectively bring artform, sector and other stakeholder issues to the Council table.” The key artforms for Australia’s future won’t get near the Council table in this restructure. They won’t have a voice.

There’s also to be a new Strategy Department. It is announced that the CEO will now “champion strategies” – what was she doing before? What will the new department be about, how to get more funds or to live on less? Clearly the latter. One sad sentence says it all, about an organisation that is in fact trying to preserve itself and in the proud tradition of the “narrowing the gate” era of the sainted McPhee-Lynch partnership: “The objective is to concentrate the Council’s limited resources on a smaller number of critical initiatives, and demonstrate substantial impact in these areas.”

Australians should be enjoying increased opportunities to celebrate the explosion of new media and hybrid arts. Instead, like the arts on the ABC, they’re here being disguised or buried by stealth with the promise that they’ll get greater attention in traditional artform Boards. That’s hard to believe. Will those boards commit to using the money they get from NMAB specifically for new media arts? Will they promote them with vigour?

New media and hybrid arts have been with us for well over a decade and they represent an important transformation in the arts, one to be addressed, not absorbed into generalities or single artform practices. The New Media Arts Board has been a success story, even with the limited funds at its disposal. As Danny Butt writes on the fibreculture list: the NMAB has produced “per capita a pretty well-resourced Australian new media arts scene. Compare it to New Zealand, for example, which didn’t see any need to address new media arts as a special case, and Creative NZ are now trying to develop a ‘new media strategy’ to address NZ’s under-participation in this field compared to other art forms where it is active internationally.” (December 9.)

SICKNESS & CURE

The language of this restructure suggests that it the Australia Council itself is sick, the symptoms an hysterical and inconsistent flurry of mixed metaphors, re-labellings, new jobs, strategies and role-playing – recasting itself ambiguously in terms of arts leadership. The Australia Council has become an ungainly example of a hybrid: funding body, promotional agency (Audience & Market Development), coach (fuel4arts), socio-cultural manager (CCD now absorbed into Audience & Market Development; youth and multicultural programs), and now, curiously, ersatz lobbyist. What appals in this restructure is that in a body with an enormous amount of accumulated knowledge and expertise that it’s Taskforce could underestimated the distinctiveness of new media art and its enormous potential. By not treating it with distinction it will squander an astonishing resource.

The Australia Council’s failure has been turned away from itself and onto a significant sector of the arts community in new media and hybrid arts. It is time to look at ways of supporting new media arts now that the Australia Council has clearly abdicated clear-cut responsibility and transparency. In the short-term the New Media Arts Board must be immediately reconstituted so that artists working through it have security of support. If that is not to happen, then there must be a period of consultation with the field before the restructure goes ahead.

If Council is not amenable to such considerations, then it must be reviewed on much larger and far-reaching scale than in its current narcissistic exercise. A new review would ask if a model that has been functioning for over 30 years is still appropriate, even workable, given the shifts in funding towards the states and local government and various federal government agencies, and substantial growth in and changes to artform practices. In respect of new media and hybrid art, no office or traditional artform board of the Australia Council can be sufficiently in touch with this field. Funds should be devolved directly to key organisations dealing with these practices. They will be responsible for funding artists and companies. There is constant pressure from the Australia Council to achieve new levels of maturity in arts self-management, but key decisions are still made top-down by Council, now more than ever and by an ever-decreasing number of participants and, doubtless, fewer peers. It is time to let go and unleash a greater arts maturity.

What can you do now to protest the restructuring of the Australia Council, in particular the dissolving of the New Media Arts Board? Write directly to CEO Jennifer Bott (mail@ozco.gov.au; or Australia Council PO Box 788, Strawberry Hills, NSW 2012) to lodge your complaint during the staff consultation period which concludes January 30, 2005. After that, attend the briefings and demand transparent treatment of new media and hybrid arts by Council. Alternatively, let us know your feelings about the restructure by writing to RealTime at opencity@ozemail.com.au

Keith Gallasch, Managing Editor, RealTime

editorrealtime@ihug.com.au
www.realtimearts.net

australia council dumps new media arts board

This morning, the Fibreculture mailing-list was dealing with what will rank as one of the worst decisions made in Australian art funding’s history. On top of the endless funding cuts, a vitriolic government who sees any art that isn’t landscapes and portraits of dead generals as ‘elitist’, the siphoning off of any money that does get through to the bottomless pit of administration, public edifices, and the corpulence of the ‘major, debt-addicted performing arts companies, the next stroke of genius from the intellectually-unendowed Australia Council for the Arts is to cut the New Media Arts Board.

This ‘restructuring’ will take time and cost a large fortune. Ozco, like all government arts bodies under the Howard government has become embedded in endless commissioning of reports, reviews, and mindless restructuring which disregards the obvious: 12 years of government funding cuts to the arts have almost succeeded in destroying a generation of art.

What is more offensive, is this restructuring is being performed under the guise of propping up the Dance Board and the independent and small company dance scene, which has long been in severe crisis due to lack of funding. Cutting one board to fund another eviscerated art form is like a hospital killing one patient so there are not so many sick people lying around.

It is not hard to see this decision as another attack on the wider contemporary arts scene in Australia by a government that sees art which doesn’t fit its narrow and conservative agenda as promoting unlawful behaviour, which was Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock’s response to the New Media Art Board funding Escape From Woomera.

In what is going to be the storm in the arts for the rest of the year, The Australian is first in with the story.

THE federal Government’s main arts funding body, the Australia Council, is to be significantly restructured in a move designed to make it more effective and less bureaucratic.

The restructure, to be announced today, will cut across the entire organisation and will involve some staff having to reapply for their jobs.

On the chopping block are the council’s new media and community cultural development boards, which give grants respectively to artists working in new media, and with communities such as disadvantaged youth, prison inmates and the homeless. It is believed some of the operations of those boards will be handled elsewhere in the organisation.

The restructure is the outcome of a six-month review of the council’s operations led by its deputy chair Terrey Arcus, whose management consultancy Port Jackson Partners has handled major company restructures. It was signed off yesterday by the council board, which met at its premises in Surry Hills, Sydney.

It comes at the end of a year in which the council’s base triennial funding of $398million has remained relatively static. Following the May budget, chief executive Jennifer Bott flagged that the council would have to reorganise its priorities in light of its static funding.

Reports into the dance and small to medium theatre sectors, commissioned by the council over the past couple of years, warned that companies in those areas were in dire need of extra funding and would begin to collapse if it were not forthcoming.

A report about the health of the major performing arts companies, released last week, similarly warned that without extra funding the large companies such as Opera Australia, the Australian Ballet and the state theatres, symphony and dance companies would begin to hit financial troubles.

People working in the community cultural development area yesterday expressed alarm at the thought that the board that funds community projects could be killed off.

They argued that Australia was a leader in the use of arts to build self-esteem among disadvantaged groups, and that the ability to apply for separate funding of such projects was critical to their success.