Published 20 May 201418 November 2022 · Activism / Culture Writers to PM Tony Abbott: restore funding to the arts Editorial team An open letter Dear Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Treasurer Joe Hockey and Minister for Arts George Brandis We view with dismay the many proposed changes to health, education and welfare support announced in the 2014 budget, and fear that the consequences these changes are likely to have will be dire for our most vulnerable citizens: the young, the elderly, the disadvantaged and Indigenous Australians. We also strongly object to the reduction in arts funding, specifically the Australia Council’s loss of $28.2 million (not to mention the attack on Australian screen culture with cuts of $38 million to Screen Australia’s budget and a massive $120 million cut from the ABC and SBS over the coming four years). This decrease in federal support will be devastating to those who make art of any kind in this country, and many important works, works that would inform national debate and expand the horizons of Australia and its citizens, will simply never be made. Ultimately, these cuts will impoverish Australian culture and society. Cutting the support the Australia Council offers will mean the loss of libraries, galleries, museums, concerts, regional tours, writing centres, and community and regional arts centres. In 2009, 11 million people visited an art gallery. To give that number context, it’s more people than went to the AFL and NRL combined. Those numbers tell us what many already know: that art is as crucial a part of our national identity as sport. Australians are passionate about creating, attending, consuming and investing in art. The sector is ‘central to the social life of Australians’, as last year’s Creative Australia policy noted, and ‘an increasingly important part of the economic mainstream’. Following two comprehensive government reviews and a long process of consultation, the Creative Australia policy had promised to invest an additional $200 million in the sector; there is no mention of this additional funding in the current budget. Importantly, the arts sector is one of the largest employers in the country. ‘In 2011, cultural industries directly employed 531,000 people, and indirectly generated a further 3.7million jobs,’ critic and writer Alison Croggon recently observed. ‘Copyright industries were worth $93.2 billion to the Australian economy in 2007, with exports worth more than $500 million.’ The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that in 2008–9, the arts contributed $86 billion to the Australian GDP – that is, 7% – $13 billion of which flowed directly from our field, literature and print media. It is worth noting that the mining sector only provides $121 billion to the GDP, and employs fewer workers (187,400 directly, 599,680 indirectly), yet receives far more government financial support at federal and state levels. Government support of the arts is vital to civic participation, as well as employment, innovation, growth, education, health, trade and tourism. The arts, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found in 2011, help build a ‘socially inclusive society’, one that makes people feel of value, and encourages greater participation in employment, education, training and volunteering. Australia has a long history of valuing the arts and supporting its artists and writers. The Commonwealth Literary Fund was first started in 1908 and eventually became the Literature Board, before moving to the auspices of the Australia Council. The $200 million in grants the Australia Council as a whole currently bestows enables large organisations, such as the Australian Ballet, to put on annual programs, but also allows regional companies such as Back to Back Theatre or Bangarra Dance Theatre to tour internationally. It helps decades-old publications continue to foster a love of literature, finding and supporting new writers who will become tomorrow’s great Australian authors. The loss of funding indicated in the 2014 budget will devastate these smaller organisations and practitioners, robbing Australia of a whole generation of artists, writers, publishers, editors, theatre makers, actors, dancers and thinkers. Crucially, it will deprive people, particularly in rural and regional areas and in remote communities, of the opportunity to create, educate, learn and collaborate. These proposed funding cuts endanger us intellectually, artistically and severely damage our reputation internationally. Moreover, we fear the prospect of a world of culture and art that is unaffordable to the majority of Australians. You have an opportunity now to restore and increase funding to the arts. We ask you that you don’t devalue our artists or their work, and instead recognise what art offers Australia. We look forward to your response. Zora Sanders, Meanjin Jacinda Woodhead, Overland Alex Miller, author Alexis Wright, author Anna Funder, author Christos Tsiolkas, author JM Coetzee, author Sonya Hartnett, author Chloe Hooper, writer Don Watson, writer Hannah Kent, author Shaun Tan, author and illustrator Garth Nix, author Peter Temple, writer Sally Rippin, author and illustrator Andy Griffiths, author Kim Scott, author Alison Croggon, writer and critic Daniel Keene, playwright Robert Drewe, author Kirsten Tranter, author Fiona Capp, author Tony Birch, writer Michelle de Kretser, author Larissa Behrendt, writer Lisa Dempster, Melbourne Writers Festival Jennifer Mills, author, fiction editor Overland Martine Murray, author Andrea Goldsmith, author Emeritus Professor John McLaren AM, author Marion Halligan AM, author Dr Clare Wright, author and academic David Williamson, playwright Kristin Williamson, author Dr Jessica Wilkinson, poet, academic and editor Ivor Indyk, Giramondo Publishing, UWS Evelyn Juers, author Peter Rose, Australian Book Review Professor Gail Jones, author Dr Jeff Sparrow, Overland Favel Parrett, author Dr Benjamin Law, author Dr Maria Tumarkin, author Matthew Lamb, Island Sam Cooney, The Lifted Brow Rjurik Davidson, writer and editor Amy Middleton, Archer Magazine Alice Grundy, Seizure Elizabeth McMahon, Southerly Tessa Lunney, Southerly David Brooks, Southerly Geoff Lemon, Going Down Swinging Robert Skinner, The Canary Press Alex Skutenko, Overland Lesley Halm, Island Dr Peter Minter, Overland Dr Kate Fagan, author and musician Susan Hornbeck, Griffith REVIEW Geordie Williamson, Island Kent MacCarter, Cordite Poetry Review Josephine Rowe, author Richard Watts, writer and broadcaster Angela Meyer, author and literary journalist Delia Falconer, author Connor Tomas O’Brien, Tomely Van Badham, writer Melissa Keil, author and editor Professor John Kinsella, poet and writer Gideon Haigh, journalist Dr Tom Cho, author Judith Beveridge, Meanjin Kalinda Ashton, author Simon Mitchell, author Margo Lanagan, writer Lally Katz, writer Sally Heath, writer and publisher James Ley, writer and editor Luke Davies, writer and poet Omar Musa, rapper, poet and author Ben Walter, writer David Leser, writer and journalist Ben Eltham, writer and journalist Robert Macklin, author and journalist Alan Close, writer Chris Womersley, author James Bradley, author and critic Bronte Coates, Stilts Carmel Bird, writer Maxine Clarke, poet and writer Alice Pung, author Kate Larsen, writer and arts manager Craig Sherborne, author John Birmingham, writer Steve Bisley, actor and writer Candida Baker, author Hannie Rayson, playwright Di Morrissey, author Marele Day, author Rebecca Starford, Text Publishing and Kill Your Darlings Susan Johnson, author Mungo MacCallum, writer and journalist Thomas Keneally, author Melissa Cranenburgh, editor and writer Charlotte Wood, author Rachel Power, author and journalist Andrew Nette, author Sandra Symons, academic David Whish-Wilson, author Michael Rowbotham, author Paul Clifford, Westerly Delys Bird, Westerly Kerry Greenwood, author Isobelle Carmody, author Linda Jaivin, writer and translator Simone Howell, author Steven Amsterdam, author Giovanni Tiso, writer and translator Wilma Mann, historian and writer Dr Trisha Kotai-Ewers, writer Sandra Hall, writer John Harman, Author Ben Ellis, playwright Kate Richards, author Elise Jones, editor, Allen & Unwin Jon Doust, author Kathryn Heyman, author Vicki-Lee Alomes, screenwriter Honorary Associate Professor Anitra Nelson, writer and academic Andrew P Street, Time Out Emma Jones, writer Margaret Barbalet, writer Patrick Holland, writer Thomas Henning, writer Shane Jesse Christmass, author Dr Jessica White, author Dean Bryant, writer and director Marcel Dorney, playwright and director Suzanne Ingelbrecht, playwright Dr Carolyn D’Cruz, academic Mitchell Oakley Smith, editor and author Brigid Lowry, author Ben Peek, author Peter Bibby, playwright, poet and writer Ben Brooker, writer and editor Lefa Singleton Norta, Express Media Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, writer and academic Anthony Panegyres, writer Emily Laidlaw, Kill Your Darlings Emily Stewart, writer and editor Hon Professor G R E Phillips, writer and academic Mandy Beaumont, writer and academic Martin Harrison, poet and academic Pam Brown, poet, editor and reviewer Oliver Mol, writer Dr Mireille Juchau, writer Tiffany Barton, playwright, actor and theatre producer Robyn Cadwallader, writer Tim Richards, journalist, author and critic Jocelyn Richardson, writer and Chart editor Adam Curley, writer Dan Hogan, writer Bec Zajac, Overland Aden Rolfe, writer Anwyn Crawford, writer Dr Patrick Allington, writer, critic and editor Jason Childs, writer Netta Fitzgerald, writer Karen Pickering, presenter and writer Kate Blackwood, editor Ness Demaine, writer Lou Heinrich, writer Max Cooper, writer Eliza Sarlos, writer and creative producer Jason Nahrung, editor, journalist and writer Nick Parsons, playwright and screenwriter, Chairman and Screen Studies Editor Currency Press Claire Nashar, writer Simon Collinson, The Lifted Brow Inga Simpson, writer Susie Conte, playwright Dmetri Kakmi, author Can Yalcinkaya, academic, writer and editor Daniel Best, non-fiction writer, publisher and journalist Jane Abbott, writer Dan Bledwich, author Vince Ruston, poet, editor and artist Vivienne Glance, playwright and poet James Robert Douglas, writer Kyla Lee Ward, author and poet Clare Strahan, writer and play-maker Sara Wiseman, actor Christine Bongers, author Hannah Mae Cartmel, The Rag and Bone Man Press Melissa Archer, writer and journalist Cameron Rogers, author and screenwriter Andrew Bovell, playwright and screenwriter Patrick Lenton, writer and marketer Diana Jenkins, writer David M. Green, comedian and writer Toby Fitch, poet P.M. Newton, writer Gillian Polack, writer Belinda Lopez, writer and radio producer Lex Hirst, editor & co-director of the National Young Writers’ Festival Chad Parkhill, writer and editor Bert Goldsmith, writer and comedian Jane Bodie, playwright, Playwriting Australia, former Head of Playwriting at NIDA Lyndal Beer, artist Nina Smith, author Justine Indigo-Rose, artist and musician Cat Sparks, author and editor Florence Forrest, writer, poet, artist Peter Matheson, dramaturg Lana Schwarcz, playwright, puppeteer and performer Lana Rosenbaum, writer Mark Calderwood, artist, writer Ellena Savage, writer and editor Kate Hennessy, writer Katherine Lyall-Watson, playwright and editor Nathan Curnow, poet Stuart Barnes, writer and editor Jodi McAlister, writer and academic Ned Manning writer, actor, teacher Rachel Leary, writer and performer Craig Hildebrand-Burke, writer & teacher S. G. Larner, writer Vanessa Page, poet Elena Gomez, poet and editor JYL Koh, writer Abigail King, performer Joshua Allen, writer and editor Stephen Sewell, writer Meredith Curnow, publisher Jill Jones, poet and academic Rebecca Hawkings, writer and academic Darryl Emmerson, writer and singer Jessica Jones, author Anita Bell, author and producer at Tarampa Studios Laurie Ormond, researcher, writer and editor Russell Fletcher William McBride, writer and performance maker David Follett, comics creator and illustrator Kristy De Camps, author, writer, editor AH Cayley, writer and broadcaster Marty Hiatt, poet and translator Dan Goronszy, theatre maker, interactive arts Meera Atkinson, writer Tara Cartland, writer Tom Holloway, playwright Deborah Parsons, writer Luke Carson, actor and writer Judith Ridge, writer, editor and arts program manager Robert Reid, playwright Terri-Ann White Emma Ashmere, writer Meredith Forrester, editor Bronwyn Mehan, Spineless Wonders Amanda Langlois puppeteer, musician, teacher L Phillip Lucas, writer and editor Patti Miller, writer Henrietta Zeffert, writer, Right Now Rihana Ries, writer and editor Mark Roberts, editor, Rochford Street Review Krissy Kneen, writer Sarah Armstrong, writer Denise Lines, writer Eli Glasman, author Telia Nevile, writer Margaret Hamilton AM, The Children’s Book Council of Australia Margaret Hamilton writes: ‘The CBCA is a national, voluntary organisation which promotes and encourages Australia’s children’s authors and illustrators. It will suffer from budget cuts to the Australia Council. The CBCA national conference in Canberra on 16-18 May secured funding which enabled us to pay speakers ASA rates. Without this kind of support the 2016 national conference in Sydney would be in jeopardy and the creators of children’s books would be severely disadvantaged. As a CBCA National Board member I urge the government to continue its support for this vital work in raising literacy standards and promoting reading.’ Anna Solding, author, editor and publisher at MidnightSun Hila Shachar, writer and lecturer Jeni Thornley, writer, filmmaker and lecturer Gillian Dooley, editor, librarian, writer, musician Briony Kidd, writer and filmmaker Tim Littlemore Amanda Webster, writer Juan Garrido Salgado Michael Sharkey, editor, Australian Poetry Journal Klare Lanson, Writer, Poet, Performance Maker, Sound Artist Belinda Jeffrey, author and illustrator John Hamilton, Screenwriter AS, writer Sharon Kernot, writer Graham Parks, writer and military historian Jim Hearn, writer Lou Pollard, performer and writer Elizabeth Little, librarian and writer Cherie Grant Philip Salom, Poet, Novelist, Reviewer and Opinion-artist! Jacky T, Poet, MC, Producer (Slamalamadingdong) Rebekah Clarkson, writer Zoe Dattner, Sleepers Publishing Emma Rooksby, writer Julie Check Emilie Collyer, writer Bel Schenk, poet Katherine E Seppings, artist, writer, photographer, poet and editor Dr Kate Richards, writer Toby Tremayne, writer Duncan Graham, playwright Pip Newling, writer Perry Gretton, writer and editor Amelia Groom, writer Amy Maynard, writer and academic Stefanie Bennett, poet, author and editor Kristin Martin, poet and writer of children’s fiction Valerie Parv, writer, editor and scriptwriter Geraldine Burrowes, writer and artist Deb Kelly, writer Trent Jamieson, writer Craig Behenna, writer and director Claire Aman, writer Noel Mengel, journalist, author Nicki Bloom, writer Liana Brenner, Artist Ella Roby, writer and editor Bridget Haylock, writer Steph Harmon, editor Laurie Duggan, poet and critic Lucy Treloar, writer John Connell, author Carmen Cara Don Smith comedian and writer Geoff Orton, Writers Bloc, Younger Young Writers’ Program Claire Thomas, writer Daniel Young, Tincture Journal Lauren Strickland, writer and editor Alison Miles, librarian and writer Liz Horne, writer and printmaker Somaya Langley, sound & media artist, producer & digital curator Bessie Byrne, journalist Autumn Royal, poet Andrew Keen, writer and filmmaker Donna Ward, publisher, Inkerman & Blunt Jessica Bellamy, playwright Kim Haworth, writer, editor Peta Murray, playwright Felicity Nicol, Director & Artistic Director of Ashfield Youth Theatre Aashish Kaul, author Marek Platek, comedian & writer Eluned Lloyd, poet and library worker Kathryn Ledson author Melissa Lucashenko, writer Tegan Lang, arts worker Koraly Dimitriadis, writer and performer Rachel Hennessy, writer Mark Langham, playwright Demet Divaroren, writer Mia Wotherspoon, writer Phillip A Ellis, author Phillip Kavanagh, playwright Michelle Cahill, Mascara, editor, poet Gabrielle Bryden, poet and writer Fiona McGregor, writer Les Wicks, poet Juliette Zavarce, producer, AJZ Productions Alirio Zavarce, artistic director, AJZ Productions Tobias Manderson-Galvin, MKA: Theatre of New Writing Emeritus Professor Dennis Haskell, Westerly Centre, UWA William Lyons, author and playwright Virginia Duigan, author and screenwriter Dean Watson Judith Hamann, cellist Elise Jones, editor Sophie Splatt, editor Sally McInerney, writer and photographer Stephanie McCann Joanne Burns, writer Elena Carapetis, actor and writer Zoe Pollock, historian and arts administrator David Blumenstein, writer Franz Docherty, writer Belinda Bradley, writer Loma Bridge, writer, editor Petrina Meldrum, writer Rohan Shearn, Australian Arts Review John Bryson AM, author Byron Bache, writer and theatre critic Phil Spencer, playwright, performer, artistic director Andy Kissane, writer Rebecca Slater, Seizure Geoff Setty, writer, reviewer and comedian Stephanie Van Schilt, writer and editor Jenni Nixon, poet Joyce Morgan, arts journalist and author Seizure Kaiser, writer, comedian, producer and director Avi Bernshaw, comedian and producer Martin Hammond, poet and storywriter Lynette Washington, writer Danelle Dobinson, poet and writer Ashley Capes, poet, novelist and editor Hugo Gleeson Jessica Sykes, writer and editor Tess Williams, author and writer Carrie McCarthy, writer Matt Turner, writer Dean Richard Peter Edwards, writer and editor Lachlan Philpott, playwright Colleen Brown, citizen, blogger and voter Aidan Jones, comedian and writer Dionne Lister, author and editor Cat Hope, composer, musician and academic James WF Roberts, author and poet Christina Ballico, academic Rachel Ford, writer and publisher Julia Wakefield, writer, artist and community radio broadcaster Ross Mueller, playwright, columnist and children’s author Robbie Coburn, poet Meg Travers, archivist and musician Zoe Blain, writer Catherine Fargher, playwright and digital scriptwriter Glenn Saunders, writer and theatre-blogger Hamish Danks Brown, poet Samantha Brown, editor and journalist Katie Lavers, director and writer Vanessa Bates, playwright and writer Drusilla Modjeska writer Mary Masters, arts manager Alice Bishop, writer and editor Belinda Rule, writer Susan Hawthorne, poet and publisher, Spinifex Press Ivy Ireland, poet, academic Brenda Walker, writer Sue Abbey, editor and mentor Rita Kalnejais, playwright and screenwriter Kim Lock, author Michelle Offen, screenwriter Foong Ling Kong, editor Larissa Bricis, editor Luke Beesley, poet Francesca Sasnaitis, writer and artist Brad Coleman, painter, musician, filmmaker and digital artist Libbie Chellew, writer Willa McDonald, writer and academic Clayton Lin, aspiring writer Natalie Andrews, publishing Matthew Bryson, academic author Elizabeth Lhuede, blogger and writer Leigh Redhead, writer Duncan Felton, editor and writer Noëlle Janaczewska, writer Ron Pretty, poet and editor Bernard Cohen, writer Jessica Knight Irma Gold, author and editor Graham Houghton Heather Gammage, writer and co-director, Clarion South Writer’s Workshop Anthony Uhlmann, director, writer and Society Research Centre Kerryanne Farrer, producer, performer and regional arts development officer Sophie Allan, writer and editor Belinda Locke, director, performer and researcher Rebecca Haley Caroline Reid, writer and advocate for the arts and artists Craig Munro, editor and writer Dr Rachel Morley, academic and writer, UWS Katrina Torenbeek, producer Jane Camens, writer, founder of The Asia Pacific Writers and Translators Association Jack Tandy, comedian and writer Tom Flood, writer, songwriter and editor Julie Maclean, writer Carody Culver, writer and editor Heather Ewings, writer Adam Ouston, writer Kristy Bushnell, editor Susie Greenhill, writer Dr Jessica White, writer Dolores Lorette, comedian and writer Bronwyn Parry, novelist Wendy J Dunn, author and academic Kirsty-Lee Workman, editor Natalie Day, writer and academic Dharmavanam Daws, poet and musician Andrew Burke Jon Perring, musician, sound artist and live music venue owner Fiona Wood, writer Laura Scrivano, screenwriter and director Dr Nathanael O’Reilly, poet, academic and editor James Dryburgh, writer and council worker Mischana Dellora-Cornish, Actor Dr Lainie Jones, writer Hayley Stockall, Stilts Phillipa Fioretti, writer Joe Nuttall, musician and writer Ros Bandt Andrew Stuckgold, writer and photographer Penny Barraclough Kelli Lonergan, writer Tegan Jane Schetrumpf, poet Dimitra Harvey, poet Kate Forsyth, writer Theodore Ell, writer, translator and co-editor, Contrappasso Magazine S Way, journalist and storyteller Nat Pree, writer Natalie Scerra, writer and researcher Frances Buring-Pichler Aidan Coleman, writer Katherine Howell, author Karen Chisholm Alan Carter, author Adrian Deans, author Dr Tansy Rayner Roberts, author Angela Savage, author Lindy Cameron, author and publisher Bethany Clark, editor and arts marketer Tania Chandler, editor Paula Duggan, writer Jacqui Horwood, Sisters in Crime Australia Geoff Brown, author and publisher Ava Hubble, writer and journalist Martin Ed Chatterton, author Antony Mann, writer Kim Magnussen Janice Simpson, author Ilsa Evans Victoria Heywood, author Léa Antigny Frances Johnson, writer Mandy Oldham, author (We are still collecting signatures for this letter. If you are a writer, editor or publishing worker, please leave your name in the comments section of the letter over at Meanjin, or email Jacinda Woodhead at firstname.lastname@example.org) Editorial team More by Editorial team Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 1 June 20231 June 2023 · Politics Turning peaceful protesters into criminals—again Evan Smith So the Summary Offences (Obstruction of Public Places) Bill 2023 has been passed by South Australia’s Legislative Assembly and will become law. Fifteen hours of debate in the upper house, led by the Greens and SA Best, could not overturn the bill that was reportedly rushed through the lower house in just twenty-two minutes a fortnight ago. 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