Foster Australian arts and culture

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Body text for: Analysis of performance against purpose - Strategic priority 04 - Foster Australian arts and culture

The arts and cultural sector is a significant contributor to the Australian economy and society. According to the Australia Council’s 2016 arts participation survey,22 98 per cent of Australians aged 15 years and over engage with the arts, reflecting the central role the arts play in Australian life.

Table 2.4 Performance criteria outcomes





We provide policy leadership to enhance the sustainability of Australia’s arts sector and artists, and to enhance access to the arts.

Provide strategic policy advice on the arts sector

Corporate Plan 2016–17, p. 12

PBSDefinition:Portfolio Budget Statements 2017–18, p. 29


We administer programs, schemes and initiatives that support Australia’s creative industries and stimulate participation in cultural life. We help foster employment and growth across the creative industries.

Provide effective delivery of programs that support Australia’s creative industries and stimulate participation in cultural life

Corporate Plan 2016–17, p. 12

PBS 2017–18, p. 29


We administer funding that supports Indigenous languages, visual arts and repatriation.

Development of, and access to high quality cultural experiences and skills development opportunities in regional and remote areas by, and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is maintained or increased

Corporate Plan 2016–17, p. 12

PBS 2017–18, p. 29


We support our portfolio agencies and arts training organisations in the efficient delivery of services to all Australians.

The portfolio of seven national elite performing arts training organisations provide access to training for performing artists and arts workers and cultural leadership in numerous forms

Corporate Plan 2016–17 p. 12

PBS 2017–18, p. 29

In progress

We undertake international engagement to build understanding and create opportunities for Australian arts and culture abroad. We work towards engaging new markets and audiences.

The best of Australia’s arts and cultures is showcased on the world stage

Corporate Plan 2016–17, p. 12

PBS 2017–18, p. 30


In 2016–17, we provided policy advice supported by extensive research, analysis and stakeholder engagement to enhance the sustainability of Australia’s arts sector and artists, and to enhance access to the arts. Our advice contributed to the following outcomes:

  • Arts portfolio funding arrangements—On 18 March 2017, the Minister for the Arts announced new portfolio funding arrangements, transferring approximately $61 million in uncommitted funding over four years from Catalyst to the Australia Council. New funding arrangements will see a total of $80.2 million over four years in committed and uncommitted funds transferred to the Australia Council from 2017–18. Revised funding arrangements allow the Australia Council to continue its focus on supporting small-to-medium arts organisations and provide scope forit to address key recommendations from the National Opera Review. The new arrangements also pave the way for the Department to focus on connecting the arts sector to the Government’s broader innovation agenda.
  • National Collecting Institutions (NCIs)—In 2016–17, the Government announced an additional $64.9 million from the Public Service Modernisation Fund to support the NCIs. In December 2016, it was announced that $16.4 million was being provided to the National Library of Australia in support of its Trove service. On 9 May 2017, the Minister for the Arts announced funding of $48.5 million to support Australia’s other NCIs. This will enable important capital works, and support the development and delivery of public programs and services for all Australians.

Program delivery

In 2016–17, we focused on the effective management of programs and grants supporting artistic and cultural endeavours. We administered grant and program funding valued at $165.4 million. Table 2.5 provides funding metrics associated with selected programs.

Table 2.5 Selected arts and cultural programs funding metrics, 2016–17


Number of funding applications

Number of funding commitments

Funding ($ million)

Festivals Australia




Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund




Catalyst—Australian Arts and Culture Fund^




Indigenous Languages and Arts




^ The Government has decided to transfer the majority of funds previously allocated to Catalyst to the Australia Council. A total of $80.2 million over four years was transferred from 2017–18. All existing Catalyst funding agreements will be honoured and those with payments scheduled in 2017–18 and beyond have been transferred to the Australia Council.

Through effective program management, significant outcomes have been achieved in the areas of Indigenous languages, arts and repatriation in 2016–17:

  • A total of 88 activities were funded under the Indigenous Languages and Arts Program, with 38 projects focusing on preserving and promoting Indigenous culture and 50 on language revival or maintenance. The program continued to support 21 Indigenous language centres across regional Australia, covering around 150 languages.
  • Through the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support Program, we administered funding for the operations of around 80 Indigenous-owned art centres, and a number of art fairs, regional hubs and industry service organisations.
  • Operational and Indigenous arts worker multi-year funding was provided to 97 organisations, mostly in remote communities. These organisations support over 8,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visual artists and around 350 arts workers. The Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support Program’s annual budget of $20.3 million was fully expended.

Indigenous repatriation

The 2016–17 year was significant for Indigenous repatriation. The Government acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the rightful custodians of ancestral remains. Returning ancestral remains back to Country helps to promote healing, justice and reconciliation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.23

The Indigenous Repatriation Program facilitates the unconditional return of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains from overseas collections and the safe return of Indigenous ancestral remains and secret sacred objects held in major Australian museums to their communities of origin.

Where Indigenous communities are known, they are closely involved in the repatriation process. When ancestral remains cannot be identified to community, it is the view of Australian Indigenous peoples that the ancestral remains should be returned to Australia to be cared for and brought closer to home.

In 2016–17 we supported two repatriation handover ceremonies—in Berlin and London—from seven institutions.

International cultural diplomacy

We create opportunities for Australian arts and culture abroad by engaging new markets and audiences through the International Cultural Diplomacy Arts Fund (ICDAF). This fund supports activities that promote the Government’s international arts and cultural engagement and cultural diplomacy priorities, and assists the Government to meet Australia’s international arts and culture commitments. Through strategic and targeted investment, we have achieved strong cultural diplomacy outcomes.

In 2016–17, funding was provided for 13 activities through ICDAF. One of these activities supported Erub Arts Centre to take an exhibition of ghost net sculptures to the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore, providing opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from the remote Erub Island community in the Torres Strait to contribute to the strong arts and cultural relationships between Australia and Singapore. In addition to these cultural diplomacy benefits, Erub’s exhibition and associated education program with Singaporean and Australian schoolchildren have had broader cross-portfolio benefits by showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture on the world stage, and highlighting the importance of protecting oceans from discarded fishing nets.


22 Australia Council for the Arts, 2017, Connecting Australians: results of the national arts participation survey.

23 Department of Communications and the Arts, 23 March 2017, Indigenous Repatriation Program—international factsheet.

24 Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, 25 March 2017, First Australians’ ancestral remains return to country.