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Catalyst arts program replaces NPEA; $32m returned to the Australia Council

The federal government’s controversial National Program for Excellence in the Arts (NPEA) has been scrapped, with $32m in funding returned to the Australia Council—just under a third of the $110m stripped from the Australia Council over four years in the 2015-16 federal budget.

The NPEA has been has been replaced by a new program called Catalyst—Australian Arts and Culture Fund, which will distribute $12m in arts funding annually, as opposed to $20m previously allocated to the NPEA.

In a statement, Minister for the Arts Mitch Fifield said Catalyst ‘is open to small, medium and large arts organisations at a national, regional and community level’, and ‘aims to support innovative ideas from arts and cultural organisations that may find it difficult to access funding for such projects from other sources and could include library, archive, museum, arts education and infrastructure projects’.

The program will offer funding across three streams: partnerships and collaborations, where funding is conditional on organisations securing funds from other sources; innovation and participation, which is designed to widen access to the arts and encourage diversity and inclusion; and international and cultural diplomacy, which aims to increase the profile of Australian arts and culture abroad, and strengthen international exchanges. Two of the streams—partnerships and collaborations and international and cultural diplomacy—are similar to funding streams previously outlined in the NPEA draft guidelines.

The program also offers an assessment structure similar to the NPEA. Applications will be assessed by a combination of independent and Ministry for the Arts assessors, and the final decision will be determined by the Minister for the Arts or a delegate in the department.

In a statement, Australian Society of Authors (ASA) chair David Day said Fifield has ‘done little more than change the lipstick on the pig of a policy that was bequeathed to him’ by former arts minister George Brandis. ‘The costly duplication of the arts bureaucracy has continued, as has the continuation of the political interference in funding decisions,’ said Day. ‘The ASA, and the arts sector generally, was hoping for something better, and will continue to press for a full restoration of arts funding and a commitment to the principles of peer-reviewed assessment at arms-length from government.’

In an article on the Conversation, University of Queensland creative writing senior lecturer Stuart Glover wrote that the Catalyst program ‘pretends to remedy the basic problems of George Brandis’s proposed NPEA—but really just sweeps up the mess into a slightly neater pile’. ‘For literature, it seems that the proposed Catalyst fund will accept applications from writing and publishing organisations—which the NPEA wasn’t going to do—but even with some NPEA funds flowing back into the pot at the Australia Council, the literary sector will face a net reduction in funds compared to 2013-14,’ Glover wrote.

As previously reported by Books+Publishing, the federal government announced the NPEA in the 2015-16 federal budget, allocating $104.8m in funding over four years. The NPEA and cuts to the Australia Council have attracted considerable criticism from the literary community, and were the subject of a senate inquiry.

To see the full guidelines for Catalyst, click here.



Category: Local news