Australia Council For The Arts announces details of their New Grants Model at AWME in Melbourne

“A culturally ambitious nation” is the phrase that the Australia Council for the Arts are using to encapsulate the biggest changes to the way the Council issues grants in some 40 years. From structural changes to a new skill based board, the Council went through the finer details of their plans at a special panel during AWME (The Australiasian Worldwide Music Expo) in Melbourne over the weekend.

Presented by Paul Mason, Director of Music at the Australia Council for the Arts, alongside Program Officer Matt Hawkes, the changes to the grant system were underpinned by a new strategic plan, with new priorities – all of which has developed from the Council’s ever diversifying financial support, in terms of the sorts of arts it supports, over the least five years. Mason particularly pointed out the Council’s support of record labels in the last two years.

With such growth in their target markets, came an incredibly complex grant system, which in its current form has 153 grant categories with long applications closing every three days. From 2015, there will be just five grant programs with just four closing dates a year. But as Mason went on to discuss through their four key goals, by no means does this suggest they will be lessening their financial support in terms of its financial value nor diversity.

The first goal of the new grant system is to enable artists to discover, develop and collaborate across borders, both domestically and internationally. They want to grow the profile of Australian arts and captivate global audiences, particularly in the music sector. The second is to build the capacity of the artists who are making excellent work by supporting organisations to lead in innovation, fostering experimentation with collaboration and development of original work and fuel the diversity of projects.

Thirdly, with a goal to enrich the daily life of all Australians through the arts, the Council are seeking to ensure there is more inclusion for all age groups and locations, while increasing public and private investment in the arts. And finally, they want to ensure that all Australians cherish our Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander arts and culture.

These goals will be fed into all five of the new grant system, which includes Development Grants for individuals and groups (e.g. bands), which provide funding for up to two years and $25k. Here, peers access the “potential” and “viability” of the artist, as well as the the impact of the proposed activity will be on your career. These grants are set in place to give artists the opportunity to pursue a career without the requirement of a resulting product. Arts Project Grants for individuals, groups and organisations will be in place for specific projects that have an expected outcome. These grants will be issues four times a year.

A new six year funding grant has also been introduced for organisations, which doubles their original three year commitment. This will not be an annual application, though the first will be offered from March next year. The Council will be “looking for organisations that represent the arts infrastructure and show organisational capacity and contribution to the Australia Council Strategic Goals”.

And finally, there is the $100,000 fellowship, provided to senior artists of merit over a two year period. Nicky Bomba, who was in the room and was a previous Fellowship recipient, said it “allowed the freedom of creation”, and what became his world renowned projects Melbourne Ska Orchestra and Bustamento.

In addition to the Council’s five grant programs are five government programs that they will continue to deliver, such as Artstart, their contemporary music touring program and the regional festivals project fund.

New eligibility criteria has also been set in place to help supply funding in more realistic scenarios. For instance, a band will no longer need to already have dates booked to receive funding for a tour. In addition, International Organisations can now apply for projects that actively benefit practicing Australian artists or their work.

Mason also noted that as it’s peers – not the Council – who make the decision on grants – applicants can choose which peer label they want to access their application, or they can defer this choice to the Australia council. He also reminded us all that it’s important to remember that because we’re talking to our peers when we apply, it’s OK to say what you “don’t know”…

For more details on the new grant system, head to:

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.