MEDIA RELEASE: For immediate release: Wednesday 13 July 2016

Arts campaigning impacts on Hindmarsh result

The Arts Industry Council of South Australia (AICSA) today welcomed the election of the ALP’s Steve Georganas as the new member for the marginal seat of Hindmarsh, citing the concerns of voters about the Federal Government’s treatment of the arts as one of the issues that saw Mr Georganas get over the line in a very tight contest.

AICSA targeted the seat of Hindmarsh with a campaign asking voters to consider the arts policies, track records and commitments of all parties running in the seat. The campaign included distributing thousand of fliers in the electorate, direct conversations with residents, and circulation of all parties’ arts policies through targeted emails to arts supporters and audiences.

Notably the Liberal Party released no arts policy in advance of the election and voters could only go by their track record of cutting $300m from arts funding in three years and forming a pork-barreling fund under Ministerial control called Catalyst. The significant funds diverted from the Australia Council have resulted in the defunding of over 60 small to medium arts organisations, a 70% reduction of support to independent artists and their projects, and an estimated loss of 16,000 jobs in arts and recreation.

AICSA executive committee member Emma Webb, who coordinated the campaign on behalf of AICSA, said “Liberal incumbent Matt Williams, like numerous other LNP back benchers, failed to influence his party to even simply launch an arts policy in the lead-up to the election let alone return funds and restore some confidence in the arts sector. In 2015 Williams held a meeting with then Arts Minister, Senator George Brandis and representatives of the arts sector in Adelaide. We were told we would feel foolish in a years time for not believing that Brandis’ plan would benefit small arts organisations. Yet a year later, five organisations in South Australia had lost multi-year funding from the Australia Council.”

Well-known local writer and actor Elena Carapetis, who lives in Henley Beach, featured in the campaign. Elena’s career exemplifies the ecology that underpins the arts in Australia and the importance of supporting independent artists and small-to-medium arts organisations. She works with independent groups of artists, small to medium sized theatre companies and has recently been appointed State Theatre Company of South Australia’s Resident Artist for 2017.

Her message to Hindmarsh voters was “My career in the arts has been nurtured by the small organisations affected by these cuts. They are the backbone of the arts, generating new ideas and the next generation of talent. I want to see a Government that shows its support for telling Australian stories, showcasing exceptional art, and involving our communities in cultural expression. Not only as an artist but as a citizen I believe that the arts are essential to health, education and community life.” AICSA’s targeted campaign in Hindmarsh has had an impact and is likely to have been a meaningful contributing factor in the demise of Matt Williams.

AICSA Chairperson, Gail Kovatseff said: “Federal cuts to the arts have heralded an unparalleled period of chaos in the sector. They have been fundamentally purposeless – they have made no savings, nor have they diverted funds to deliver a policy aimed at growing the sector. AICSA ‘s role, in the interests of our members, includes campaigning for political representation which respects and supports artists and arts organisations. We are pleased to have had an impact with the election of a parliamentary member from a party with an arts policy that promised increased funds to the Australia Council and to agencies such as the ABC.”

Following last week’s State Budget, AICSA announced that its foray into the federal election was just the beginning. While it acknowledged that the South Australian Government pulled back from foreshadowed cuts to the arts, and included some positive announcements, funding for the small to medium sector, community engagement and independent artists remains at an all-time low and needs urgent investment.

“We are also looking forward to visionary policy proposals that secure the future of South Australian artists, the small and medium sized organisations that program and employ them, and contemporary South Australian arts practice. Arts and cultural industries have huge potential to contribute to innovation and economic development in South Australia. We will be speaking with all parties about initiatives that can support the local arts ecology in the lead-up to the State Election over the next 18 months.” Ms Kovatseff concluded.