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Boards can do better – Kate Larsen

Kate Larsen
4 Dec 2022

In the first part of my Bad, Better and Beyond Best Practice report from AICSA’s Rethinking Arts Governance event in October 2022, I identified the main reason organisations have Boards as that we’re required to do so.

While I’d dearly like our sector to imagine a radically different future for arts governance, the truth is – in the meantime – we’re stuck with what we’ve got.

As we search for urgent alternatives, there is some great emergent practice to get excited about – including different ways of governing that still technically work within the rules.

Based in Naarm, Theatre Network Australia (TNA) is the leading industry development and advocacy organisation for S2M and independent performing arts nationally. An Incorporated Association, it has a Committee of 10-14 Committee Members, some of whom receive sitting fees.

Leading by example, the TNA committee approved an Independent Artist/Producer Board Member Sitting Fee Policy in 2021 in order to budget for sitting fees for independent members not covered by ongoing salaries, who now receive an honorarium between $150-$400 for each meeting they attend (not for hours worked).

“There are many people who cannot afford the time to serve properly as a board member but would otherwise be excellent additions to an arts and cultural organisation’s board,” TNA states. “TNA advocates for a diversity of arts workers on arts boards, including First Nations people, people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds, Deaf or Disabled people and other under-represented groups. There is a higher representation of these groups working as independents in the performing arts.” 

TNA putting independent artists and producers in decision-making roles ensures the organisation’s work is guided by the full breadth and depth of the sector. Independent committee members sign a letter of agreement to confirm they’re volunteers (and cannot claim employee rights), and their sitting fees are paid from earned income (not donations or public funding). The policy has not raised any concerns with their legal advisors or funders.

TNA reports that the response has been amazing and the initiative costs the organisation surprisingly little, with those claiming the honorarium feeling deeply valued. “As an independent with irregular and strange income, this sitting fee is a real boost that makes me and my work on the board feel valued,” one said. “Thanks again for being a leader in the field and showing our industry how boards should be done!”

Read full article.

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