I am very pleased to provide a special update following the meeting of the new Board of the Australia Council on Friday 23 August.
The Australia Council board comprises Rupert Myer AM, Chair, Robyn Archer, AO, Tony Grybowski, CEO, Mr Waleed Aly, Ms Lee-Ann Buckskin, Mr Adrian Collette AM, Mr Khoa Do, Ms Mary-Ellen King, Professor Matthew Hindson AM, Ms Sophie Mitchell, Ms Samantha Mostyn and Mr Tim Orton.
The Council has created three sub-committees: the Audit and Finance Committee chaired by Sophie Mitchell; The Nominations and Appointments Committee chaired by Robyn Archer and the Strategy Committee to be chaired by Tim Orton.
Discussion focussed on the priority areas for the Council and a number of decisions were made.
Strategic Plan development
The Board discussed its engagement with the development of a new five-year Strategic Plan for the Australia Council to commence from 2014/15 as a top priority matter. The meeting noted the Strategic Planning framework is in development, with preparations for planning workshops, drafting of the Strategic Plan and sector consultation being progressed. The Board agreed to a draft being released for the purpose of further sector consultation in early 2014, with final Board approval of the Strategic Plan later in 2014.
The Strategic Planning Process will deliver a Board-approved long-term vision for Council. It will be reflective of the functions of the Australia Council as prescribed in the new Act, and implemented through a rolling Corporate Plan with performance indicators against which the Council will be measured.
Excellence Funding update
The Board approved the allocation of the balance of the increased Excellence Funding for the current financial year to support high levels of previously unfunded excellence across artforms and strategic initiatives in priority policy areas. The areas of allocation included:
- Further enhancement of core program budgets across seven artform areas, Arts Development and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art (ATSIA), in line with identified demand and needs.
- Grant and program funding targeted to priority policy areas including: higher levels of artistic collaboration with Asia; more funding opportunities for artists working across artforms and practices; greater participation in the arts and funding opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds.
The Board welcomed reports of positive feedback from recipients of the initial allocation of one-third of the 2013/14 Excellence Funding increase, which also supplemented core program budgets in seven artform areas, Arts Development and (ATSIA). Since 1 July, $1.47 million in increased funding has been allocated to 45 recipients representing more than 700 artists and 152 new works. This followed Peer Assessment Panel meetings in Community Partnerships, Literature, Market Development, Music and Visual Arts.
The remainder of the increased Excellence Funding for 2013/14 will be progressively allocated as further Peer Assessment Panel meetings take place and as programs and initiatives are commenced. A Q&A providing some further background on the Excellence Funding increase is attached for your interest.
Peer Assessment Process
The Board discussed the plans to enhance the Australia Council’s peer assessment process with the aim of being more flexible and responsive. On 1 July, the Australia Council Board convened by teleconference and appointed a range of interim Peer Assessment Panels until 31 December 2013 to assess grants applications across the art form areas. In addition, an ATSIA Panel and a Major Performing Arts Panel (MPA) were established, fulfilling similar roles to the previous ATSIA and MPA Boards.
The Board noted the transitional arrangements are in place and would continue to be further developed with relevant sector expertise as appropriate. From 2014, an active pool of at least 250 peers will be developed and approved on an annual basis by the Board on recommendations of the newly formed Nominations and Appointments Committee, to be chaired by Australia Council Deputy Chair Robyn Archer AO. The selection process will ensure this pool is populated by peers with a high level of professional art-form expertise or arts management expertise, and is representative of a high level of diversity including: gender, cultural diversity, age, metropolitan, regional and remote communities, art-form and public credibility, diversity of arts practice and emerging creative areas.
The Board noted that when the review of the Australia Council’s grants program is complete in 2014, a further modification of the peer assessment process may be required to accommodate the new program’s architecture.
The Board approved the establishment of Sector Strategy Panels for Capacity Building, Community Partnerships, Dance, Emerging and Experimental Arts, Leadership, Literature, Music, Research, Theatre and Visual Arts. These Panels will provide specialist advice to the Board. It further approved the following Sector Strategy Panel Chair appointments:
- Community Partnerships Ken Lloyd
- Dance Elizabeth Walsh
- Literature Sophie Cunningham
- Theatre Stephen Armstrong
- Visual Arts Danie Mellor
The Board noted there will be requirements for Sector Strategy Panels in additional areas to meet the needs of future initiatives or specific organisational requirements.
The next meeting of the Australia Council Board will be held in October in Melbourne. I look forward to providing a further update following that meeting.
Have a great month!
EXCELLENCE FUNDING – Q&A
What is Excellence Funding?
Excellence Funding refers to the increased funding over four years from 2013/14, confirmed in the May 2013 Budget. It will enhance existing program budgets in areas where strong demand and a shortfall in funding have been identified, and funding gaps in priority policy areas.
How will the increased Excellence Funding be allocated?
Part of the increased funding in 2013/14 will enhance core program budgets in line with demonstrated demand and need across artform areas, Arts Development and ATSIA. The remainder of the funding in 2013/14 will support strategic initiatives in priority policy areas, as approved by the Board.
What type of strategic initiatives will the Board introduce?
The Board recently approved Excellence Funding allocations for strategic initiatives to support the following policy objectives: higher levels of artistic collaboration with Asia; more opportunities for artists working across artforms and practices; greater participation in the arts and funding opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds.
How will applications for the increased funding be assessed?
Grant programs will be peer assessed under the Australia Council’s reformed Peer Assessment Panel structure, which is being progressively implemented. The new structure provides the capacity to establish Panels that have diverse expertise in relevant application areas and the capacity to respond to changes in artform practice.
How much of the 2013/14 Excellence Funding increase of $15 million has been allocated to the sector?
Between July 1 and August 30, $1.5 million in increased funding has been approved for 45 grant applicants, representing support for more than 700 artists and 152 new works and presentations. This followed Peer Assessment Panel meeting in Community Partnerships, Literature, Market Development, Music and Visual Arts.
When will the remainder of the 2013/14 Excellence Funding increased be distributed to artists?
Excellence Funding allocations will be progressively made over coming months as the scheduled Peer Assessment Panel meetings take place and as strategic initiatives are initiated.
What about the Excellence Funding for the three years from July 2014 onwards?
The allocation of Excellence Funding increases for the next three years will be closely aligned with the new five-year Strategic Plan and remodelled grant program both of which are in development.
“The Board noted that when the review of the Australia Council’s grants program is complete in 2014, a further modification of the peer assessment process may be required to accommodate the new program’s architecture.”