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Sector Letter Ahead of Australia Council Notifications

Dear Members,

As we approach the mid July notification of the Australia Council’s EOI stage for Four-Year Funding for Organisations, TNA offers some support and advice in the (long) email below – for those for whom the outcome is a definite no, and those who will be successful at this stage but be in a state of flux until the next full application stage in November.

For independents and others who haven’t applied for this funding, be aware that the impact will be felt across the sector, as we are such an interconnected sector.

 

BACKGROUND 

In 2015, the Australia Council’s budget was reduced by then Arts Minister Brandis’ decision to take $105mil from the Australia Council for the Ministry’s own use (through Catalyst). In 2016, TNA wrote to the sector to provide some advice and support ahead of the notifications of Four-Year Funding, whether the application was successful or not. We feel that it is necessary to do that once again, as the results of the current EOI Four-Year Funding process become public around mid-July. Feel free to share this letter with others who are not members.

At that time in 2016, while the Australia Council used reserves to ensure that 124 organisations could receive funding, there were still 65 organisations who had previously been funded who were not successful, and more than 100 other hopeful new entrants who were not successful. There was a lot of pain as a result. And as we know, the grant rounds became even more competitive, with independents now competing with companies who still had to find a way to make work.

 

THE CURRENT SITUATION 

The situation is still very difficult now. Despite Catalyst finally being closed by the Government in 2017, largely due to the sector’s strong collective advocacy, the money has not all been returned to the Australia Council, and some of the returned money was earmarked for uses other than Four-Year Funding or arts grants.

We are all aware that the recent Federal Election returned the Coalition Government, which unfortunately has not yet committed to returning the remaining funding.

So this dire financial situation, combined with the increase of the funding cap from $300k p/a to $500k p/a means that there will be fewer organisations funded for the next four-year period. (TNA advocated for and supported the cap raise – we need an ecosystem of all size organisations, without an unhelpful and artificial divide between the MPA companies and the rest of the sector).

Theatre Network Australia wants to acknowledge the despair many organisations and individuals will feel as the results of the EOI process become known. This period will be very difficult as people face the possibilities of job losses and company closures, and many are likely to feel grief, anger and fear.

 

HOW YOU MIGHT PREPARE 

TNA wants to support our members to be as strong and resilient as possible, and believes that some future thinking and mental preparation may assist. For those who are not waiting on notification, being supportive and respectful of those who are is helpful – many people might not be ready to share their news immediately.

If you are waiting on notification, we have some suggestions that may help to not be blindsided by immediate decisions to be made (however small or large).

 

IF YOU ARE UNSUCCESSFUL AT EOI STAGE 

Mentally walking yourself through the notification process might be handy and it may go something like this:

  1. An email will be sent from the Australia Council to your organisation’s Key Contact Person (KCP). We understand this will be no earlier than mid July.
  2. Prepare yourself for what this might feel like to read that email.
  3. We suggest you then contact the Chair of your Board, and staff as appropriate.
  4. Notify other Board members (perhaps divided up by KCP and Chair), with reminder of next Board meeting / planning session – try to have this meeting scheduled in before notification – what will plan B look like? How might your organisation’s role shift now? What’s important to adapt, what do you need to keep the same? Many organisations have radically changed their focus when they have lost funding, and have continued to thrive.
  5. Contact representatives of other key stakeholders such as State Government (who will have had a heads up by Australia Council, but this is may be an opportunity for some valuable messaging, regardless of the outcome), Local Government and other key partners.
  6. Think about your media strategy – perhaps draft a media release or a news bulletin, and delegate a media spokesperson now (GM, Chair, AD).

We urge you to remember that an unsuccessful outcome is not a personal failure but a situation that has arisen because of political circumstance. Don’t be defined by it, and be angry in a gracious way. Use social media constructively.

 

IF YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL AT EOI STAGE 

We know that some organisations will receive good news from this announcement and that there are complex emotions with celebrating your success at this stage while knowing others are having a tough time. Remember to be kind and support each other through this period – grace and generosity of spirit will go a long way.

Adapt the steps above, with a stronger focus on short-term planning with your board. You should also think about a Plan B for after the next stage of the application process. At that stage, many organisations will still be unsuccessful, and will have less time for planning alternatives.

As the word comes out this month, we urge everyone to be kind and generous and to support your colleagues, including your colleagues at the Australia Council – they will also be feeling mixed emotions about the outcomes, it can’t be an easy job dealing with the fallout.

As members, please feel free to get in contact with us if you need support or advice from us.

From the Board and Staff at Theatre Network Australia 

Also appears on Artshub Monday 8 July 2019.

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