In a letter dated February 22nd 2008 the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council informed its clients of imminent changes to Key Organisations grant program. As a result ATSIAB key organisations funding will operate across three sub categories:

ATSIAB will choose 6 Key Organisations with Leader status, from an existing number of 13. Those selected will have to compete to demonstrate their outstanding achievements on national and/or international level for Indigenous arts and artists.

They will further have to demonstrate that they have the capacity to generate career pathways for Indigenous artists and arts workers (among other things) as part of the assessment criteria.

In short, these 6 organisations will be the pre-eminent Indigenous arts organisations in Australia.

As a reward for this achievement the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board will offer these organisations 6 years of decreasing funding, with funding cut off at the end of the sixth year. They will then be ineligible to re apply to ATSIAB for any recurrent core funding. This funding arrangement will commence in 2009.

According to the letter sent to ATSIAB’s current Key Organisations, the logic for cutting funding to their leading national agencies is that they should find ongoing funding for core recurrent costs from somewhere other than ATSIAB.

It is our understanding that as this is a restructure of an existing program, this decision does not have to be endorsed by Council, and is going ahead as a discrete initiative of the ATSIA Board, who believe this is a positive and pro-active initiative.

Anyone who has had any experience working in the subsidised arts sector in Australia will know that it is a big ask to attract recurrent funding / sponsorship for core operational expenditure. Even all the efforts of ABAF and many high profile arts organisations haven’t been able to find alternative sources of income for recurrent core operating costs. This has been and still is the core business for state and federal government arts funding agencies.

It defies any logic to disable the national key leading organisations serving Indigenous arts and artists by progressively diminishing their core operational funding over a six year period, and then cutting funding altogether.

These organisations will be faced with either having their state or territory government picking up the shortfall, cutting their operations drastically or closing down depending on the nature of their state or territory funding arrangements. Those organisations affected will be Australia’s leading Indigenous arts organisations serving some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised artists and arts communities in Australia.

We are deeply concerned about this direction being taken by the ATSIA Board, both for its impact on the arts infrastructure for Indigenous artists and arts communities, but also for the precedent that it may set for other art form Boards of the Council.

Those key organisations in receipt of ATSIAB funding have been unofficially advised not to write or lobby or otherwise object to these changes as it may directly affect the future of their funding.

In the face of this situation, we urge you to write (on behalf of your Indigenous colleagues) to the Chair of the Australia Council, the Australia Council CEO, The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts and the Shadow Minister for the Environment, Heritage, the Arts and Indigenous Affairs to register your concern over ATSIAB’s decision to cut core operational funding to their leading Key Organisations. (see contact details below)

In your letter you may wish to repeat any of the above points or make any of the following points:

Guidelines for the restructured ATSIAB Key Organisations Funding Program are here. Please take a moment to make your voice heard on behalf of ATSIAB’s Key Organisations.

James Strong
Australia Council for the Arts
Fax 02 9215 9062

Kathy Keele
Chief Executive Officer
Australia Council for the Arts
Fax 02 9215 9062

Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts
PO Box 6022 Hose of Representatives
Parliament House
Fax 02 6273 6101

Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Shadow Minister for Environment, Heritage, the Arts and Indigenous Affairs
PO Box 6022 Hose of Representatives
Parliament House
Fax 03 5821 8420

You may want to add your state or territory Arts Minister
Hon Mike Rann MP
Premier, Minister for Economic Development, Social Inclusion, the Arts, and Minister for Sustainability and Climate Change
GPO Box 2343

The current ATSIAB Key Organisations listed on the Australia Council web site are:
Ananguku Arts and Cultural Aboriginal Corporation SA
Association of Northern Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists NT
Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative Ltd NSW
Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association NT
East Gippsland Aboriginal Arts Corporation Vic
Gadigal Information Service NSW
IAD Press (Institute for Aboriginal Development Inc) NT
Ilbijerri Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre Co-op Vic
Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre Aboriginal Corporation WA
Kurruru Indigenous Youth Performing Arts Inc SA
Magabala Books Aboriginal Corporation WA
Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council NT
Woomera Aboriginal Corporation Qld
Yothu Yindi Foundation Aboriginal Corporation