External Analysis: Political

In early 2016, arts organisations around Victoria will be working on their submissions to the 2016 Creative Victoria Organisation Investment Program. This is the next in a series of posts in which Regional Arts Victoria will be sharing some of the work we’ve done to prepare us for our own submission, published in the hope that it will of use to others in the sector.

Arts organisations don’t exist in isolation, and neither should your Strategic Plan. A useful exercise in scanning your environment is to brainstorm with your team on what Political, Economic, Social and Technical developments or trends might impact on you in the life of your Strategic Plan.

These terms don’t need to be organised too rigidly; they can be used simply to guide your thinking when considering the big wide world outside. At Regional Arts Victoria, we wrote a short post under each heading for our team to read through before our Strategic Planning brainstorm sessions. Below is the first of these, under the heading ‘Political’


Flickr_Simon Cunningham



Putting it mildly, 2015 was a disruptive year for the arts politically. The federal arts funding environment spent the entire year in upheaval, after starting so promisingly with the Australia Council for the Arts six-year operational funding program Expression-of-Interest process.

This program, developed after extensive consultation with arts sector (through the Creative Australia Policy development process – a Labor initiative buried following the change of Federal government in 2013) would have provided increased certainty for hundreds of small-to-medium arts organisations but was skittled to create what is now called the Ministry for the Arts ‘Catalyst’ funding program.

2016 is the year in which the impact of these changes will be felt, with announcements of successful recipients of the revised four-year Australia Council operational funding expected mid-year. On some estimates, up to half of the currently supported Australia Council 145 Key Organisations will be left without this funding from 2017.

In Victoria, 2015 saw the announcement of a new Creative Industries Strategy, with the launch of this strategy expected sometime in early 2016. Already confirmed is the revision of the Organisation Investment Program, with categories such as Emerging, Established and Lead organisation shelved in favour of a single, four-year funding application process. Applications are due in mid-2016.

All of which is to say that the arts were heavily politicised in 2015. In 2016, with a Federal Election on the horizon, it is likely to remain so. Current polling suggests a change of government unlikely, though whether or not the election is called early as a double dissolution or not will impact on what continuing role Senate cross-benchers have on the ability of new legislation to be passed.

Federal Labor, along with a Senate Committee, demanded funds be returned to the Australia Council. Coalition policy is to retain the Catalyst program (though nothing is certain; the May 2016 budget will ultimately reveal future plans the incumbent government holds for the arts after the mid-year review cut further funding from the portfolio).

The sector’s response to band together in response to the proposed changes was seen as a positive by many, and the #freethearts campaign is likely to lead to a more formal national advocacy body.

The Victorian Labor government, meanwhile, enters its second year of governing the state. The 2016 state government budget will reveal what funding will be provided to support the Creative Industries strategy. Some promises announced in 2015, such as the Regional Centre of Culture Program, will also take shape in the next few years.

Creative Victoria, the state government body charged with delivering arts policy in Victoria, now shares offices with Regional Development Victoria, which may present opportunities for Regional Arts Victoria to encourage new cooperation for regional arts across government.

Further Reading:

Letts, R., 2015, ‘A Creeping Funding Disaster for Ozco in the Wings?’, Daily Review.

Potts, J., 2015, ‘The Creative Victoria Taskforce is not the worst idea, and here’s why’, The Conversation.

Stone, D, 2015, ‘Timeline 2015: a step by step guide to the year in arts and politics’, ArtsHub.

Westwood, M, 2016, ‘Government reworking a new Catalyst for creative arts funding’, The Australian.

Image: Simon Cunningham


We don’t pretend to be the sole authorities on arts organisation governance. This post should help start discussions, not end them. Disagree with what we’ve said? Want to add some wisdom of your own? Great! Please post your contributions in the comments section below.