Dear Minister for the Arts

Petition: Australians for Artistic Freedom

We the undersigned are shocked to see that the Abbott Government plans to target the creative sector once again in its 2015–16 Budget by massively defunding the Australia Council for the Arts, the national peer-reviewed funding body, and severely reducing the budgets of other cultural organisations.

Federal Arts Minister George Brandis has announced that he plans to remove $104.8 million from the Australia Council’s budget over the next four years and redirect it to a newly created fund, the ‘National Centre for Excellence in the Arts’. Grants from this new fund will seemingly be decided at the discretion of the Arts Minister of the day.

It is deeply disturbing for any Minister to attempt to directly control the kinds of culture produced in a democracy that values freedom of expression. We want to continue the Australian tradition of arts funding being independent of any political influence. The Minister himself has previously argued that art will always provoke debate, ‘that’s why we have an arms-length and peer-reviewed structure for the allocation for the funding’. What he now proposes is precisely the opposite.

In addition to the reallocation of crucial Australia Council funds, the Abbott Government is proposing to cut an additional $3.7 million from the underfunded Screen Australia, and almost $4 million from various national galleries and museums. The Budget will also take $5.2 million from the Australia Council for Creative Partnerships Australia, and $7.3 million in ‘efficiency dividends’. Such ‘savings’ will be met through reduced funding to ArtStart, Capacity Building and Artists-in-Residence programs: three core programs that directly contribute to the development of future arts leaders and provide crucial opportunities for arts practitioners to gain real industry skills: an investment in the ongoing vibrancy and vitality of the arts sector, helping to shape arts leaders such as Fiona Menzies (Creative Partnerships Australia), Sandra Willis (Opera Australia), Beverley Growden (Canberra Glassworks) and Loiu Oppenhiem (Circus Oz). For small-to-medium organisations and independent artists, whose work is absolutely critical to building diversity and encouraging innovation in the sector, this loss of financial support and investment will be devastating.

Australia does not need a second national arts funding organisation: the Australia Council’s mission is to ‘invest in artistic excellence’ and make art ‘accessible to all Australians’. Indeed, the Council already cultivates a national approach to arts participation, for both audiences and creators. Over its 42-year history, the Australia Council has helped to build and support the careers of artists as diverse as Richard Bell, Fiona Hall, Sonya Hartnett, Alex Miller, Les Murray, Margaret Olley, Archie Roach and Judy Watson. The Council funds a broad range of cultural projects across the country, fostering companies such as the Australian Ballet, Back to Back Theatre, Bangarra Dance Theatre, the Ironwood Chamber Ensemble, Kulcha Multicultural Arts, La Boite Theatre Company and Wodonga’s Hothouse Theatre, as well as programs such as the Creative Indigenous Leaders program, site-specific international development of major operas, regional tours and publications such as Griffith Review.

Independence is essential to diversity in Australian arts. Indeed, the reason Australian arts are as healthy as they are today is because of our ability to create freely, without intervention by any political party.

Minister Brandis seems to be under the impression that Australian culture is monolithic – that there is only one way to be a proper Australian artist. The vibrancy and diversity of Australian arts indicate that nothing could be further from the truth. The many small arts organisations across the country – galleries, libraries, theatre groups, performers and publications that are most at risk from funding cuts – are the primary cultivators of Australian culture, fostering the early work of those artists we now celebrate, such as Christos Tsiolkas and Margaret Olley. But small arts organisations are also a merit in and of themselves. They allow millions of diverse individuals to imagine, collaborate and participate in culture-making. Democracy is founded upon reflection, civic participation, and hope. Art provides space for all of this and more.

This Budget is an enormous blow to the arts community in Australia. It will impoverish Australian culture and society. It will mean loss of livelihood for many arts workers. It will mean many important artworks – works that would inform national debate, expanding the possibilities of this country and its citizens – will simply never be made. In 2011, the arts sector directly employed 531,000 people, and indirectly created another 3.7 million jobs. In 2008–9, the arts contributed $86 billion (7%) to the Australian GDP. Artists are workers and taxpayers, and a vital part of the economy. They are also consumers and lovers of art and culture. They should not be penalised for contributing so passionately to Australia’s cultural ecosystem.

We call on the Federal Government and Minister for the Arts George Brandis to reverse all proposed cuts to the arts sector, and to cease political interference in the works of creative Australia.

We ask that you oppose defunding the art sector, particularly smaller organisations and practitioners – that is, a whole generation of artists, writers, publishers, editors, theatre makers, actors, dancers and thinkers across Australia. We ask that you help us to continue building a world where culture and art is possible for everyone.


Jacinda Woodhead, Overland magazine

David Ryding

Van Badham, writer

Lisa Dempster, festival director and CEO, Melbourne Writers Festival

Thomas Keneally, author

Alexis Wright, writer

Prof Dennis Altman AM

Christos Tsiolkas, writer

Kim Scott, writer

Robert Manne

Joanna Murray-Smith, playwright

Alex Miller, writer

Frank Moorhouse, author

Anna Funder, writer

JM Coetzee, writer

Neil Armfield AO, director

Kate Larsen, Writers Victoria

Peter Carey, writer

Tim Winton, writer

Emily Sexton

Sam Cooney, publisher and editor, The Lifted Brow

Richard Watts, writer and broadcaster

Michael Webster Adjunct Professor, RMIT University School of Media & Communication, Chair, Melbourne Writers Festival and Small Press Network

Rodney Hall, writer, former chair of the Australia Council

Marion Halligan AM, writer; former chair of the Literature Board

David Blumenstein, cartoonist

Alison Croggon, writer

Daniel Keene, playwright

Kate Eltham, writer

Sam Twyford Moore, writer

Stuart Glover, senior lecturer, UQ; founding chair, Queensland Literary Awards

Nick Feik, The Monthly

Shaun Tan, artist, writer, filmmaker

Jeff Sparrow, writer and broadcaster; honorary fellow, Vic Uni

Sophie Cunningham, writer

Michell de Kretser, writer

Jason Steger

Tony Birch, writer

R D Wood, poet

Alex Skutenko, Overland

Hannah Kent, writer

Rebecca Starford, Text Publishing and Kill Your Darlings

André Dao, writer

Alice Grundy, Seizure

Margo Lanagan, writer

Benjamin Law, writer

Ramona Koval, writer

David Williamson, playwright

Aviva Tuffield, publisher and co-founder of the Stella Prize

Julian Burnside AO QC, chair, fortyfivedownstairs; chair, Chamber Music Australia

Mary Lou Jelbart, artistic director, fortyfivedownstairs

Nathan Hollier, director of Monash University Publishing; chair of the OL Society Ltd, publishers of Overland

William Yang, artist

James Tierney, critic

Susan Hornbeck, associate publisher, Griffith Review

Kent MacCarter, Cordite Press Inc

Jennifer Mills, author

Justin Clemens, writer

John van Tiggelen, writer

Andrea Goldsmith, writer

Malcolm Knox, writer and journalist

Robert Skinner, Canary Press

David Carlin, writer

Roselina Press, Right Now magazine

Geordie Williamson, fiction editor, Island magazine

Kirsten Tranter, writer

Linda Jaivin, writer

Kate Callingham, Emerging Writers’ Festival

Jessica Wilkinson, RMIT University; Rabbit

Stephanie Convery, Overland

Jill Jones, poet, senior lecturer, University of Adelaide

Maria Tumarkin, writer and historian

Bec Zajac, Overland

Anwen Crawford, writer

Geoff Lemon, Going Down Swinging

Erica Sontheimer, editor

Catherine Mcinnis, writer and editor

Marcus Westbury, writer, broadcaster and founder of Renew Australia

Pippa Bainbridge, Express Media

David Stavanger, poet and co-director Queensland Poetry Festival

Anne-Marie Te Whiu, co-director Queensland Poetry Festival

Clare Wright, historian, author, screenwriter

Fiona Capp, writer

Steven Carroll, writer

Louise Swinn, publisher, Sleepers

Di Morrissey, author

Matthew Lamb, editor, Island and Review of Australian Fiction

Chad Parkhill, writer

Tom Cho, writer

Professor John Kinsella

Mel Campbell, writer and critic

Luke Davies, writer

Hilary McPhee, writer, editor, publisher, former chair of the Australia Council

Maria Takolander, writer and academic

Foong Ling Kong, managing editor, Anne Summers Reports; editor

Clare Renner, writer and editor, RMIT University

Brynn O’Brien, lawyer

Clare Strahan, writer and editor

Francesca Rendle-Short, writer and associate professor, co-director, nonfictionLab, RMIT University

Catherine Noske, editor, Westerly magazine

Chris Graham, New Matilda

Georgia Blain, author

Sandra Thibodeaux, poet

Donna Abela, playwright

Lally Katz, writer

Paddy O’Reilly, writer

Noëlle Janaczewska, writer

Hilary Bell, playwright

Hannah Fink, writer and editor

Martine Murray, writer

Kate Howarth, writer

Lachlan Philpott playwright

Jane Gleeson White, writer and editor

Aaron Orzech, theatre-maker

Chris Womersley, writer

Rachel Roberts, Applespiel

Nakkiah Lui, writer and actor

Angela Meyer, writer

Declan Greene, theatremaker

Rjurik Davidson, writer

Katherine Lyall-Watson, playwright and editor

Emma Maye Gibson (aka Betty Grumble)

Cameron Ellis

Julia Tsailis

Nicholas Higgins

Simon Clarke

Alex Desebrock

Libby Klysz

Terri-Ann White

Lefa Singleton-Norton

Simon Mitchell, author

Melissa Keil, writer

Marieke Hardy, writer

Anna Krien, writer

Paul Katsieris, architect

Patricia Cornelius, playwright

Cate Kennedy, writer

Ned Manning, writer, actor

Trudy White, artist and writer

Angela Conquet, Dancehouse

Zoe Dattner, publisher

7-ON Playwrights

Sian Prior, writer and broadcaster

Dr Dominic Redfern, School of Art, RMIT University

Omar Musa, writer and musician

Chris Connelly, actor

Nick Place, writer

Nina Bonacci, producer

Eugenia Fragos, actor

Suzie Miller, playwright

Hannie Rayson, playwright

Harry Nankin, photomedia artist

Tommy Murphy, playwright and screenwriter

Zoe Atkinson, theatre designer

Melissa Fagan, writer

Anna Taylor, artist

Dee Read

Sarah Tomasetti, artist

Maxine Beneba Clarke, writer

Adena Jacobs, theatre director

Samantha Bews, playwright

Di Websdale-Morrissey, writer

Katie Sfetkidis, lighting designer

Suzy Zail, writer

Campbell Bews

Gretchen Miller, writer and radio broadcaster

Nick Meredith, guitarist

Tiffany Raae, producer and director

Catherine Ryan, writer

Alice Pung, writer

Liz Jones AO, La Mama

Sam Cheshire, teacher

Simmone Howell, writer

Simon Wilmot, filmmaker and head of Film and Television, Deakin University

Chantal Jackson, poet, artist

Judy Watson, artist

Ros Abercrombie, festival director

Martin King, artist

Stephanie Holt, Professional Writing and Editing, RMIT

Elizabeth Day, visual artist, Creative Collaborations

Libby Angel, writer

Judith Denby, artist

Fiona Dorrell, NT Writers’ Centre

Paul O’Connor, veterinarian

Malcolm McKinnon, artist and filmmaker

Catherine Clover, artist

Noreen Grahame, director grahame galleries + editions

Melanie Lazarow, artist

Tim Bass, artist

Geoff Kleem, artist

Lindy Allen, producer; former CEO of Regional Victoria and Regional Arts Australia

Julie Ewington, critic, curator and broadcaster

Ivor Indyk, Giramondo Publishing

Iola Mathews, writer

Angelo Loukakis, writer

Rebecca Hilton, choreographer

Dee Martin

Nicole Newton, AHPRA and National Boards

Caroline Lee, performer

Michele Helmrich, curator

Georgina Russell, Melbourne Writers Festival

Anthony Pelchen, artist

Cameron Robbins, visual art and sound

Karen Casey, artist

Lisa Barmby, artist

Tom Alberts, artist

Julie Beveridge, director and CEO, Brisbane Writers Festival

Gina Schien, playwright

Lyn Hovey, artist

Mandy Martin, artist, writer adjunct professor Australian National University

Rachael Maza, artistic director, ILBIJERRI Theatre Company

Alison Clouston, artist

Maryanne Lynch, theatre and audio artist

Simon Wilmont, editor

Michael Simon

Nicole Ellis, visual artist and educator

Cr Don Chapman, City of Onkaparinga

John Romeril, playwright

Gideon Obarzanek, director and choreographer

Adam Rish, artist

Wayne Macauley, writer

Susie Dee, theatre director

Louise Martin-Chew, freelance writer

Jared Thomas, author

Simon Binns, performer

Joseph Parro, performer

Elisa Argenzio, film and TV producer

Phillip Johnston, composer

Esther Barneveld

Danny Furlong, writer

Kate Mulvany, actor and writer

Eleanor Jackson, editor-in-chief, Peril

Lia Incognita

Nikki Lam

Raina Peterson

Hoa Pham

Sam Low

Nerissa Lea, artist

Melissa Reeves, playwright

Erik Jensen, The Saturday Paper

Judith Rodriguez, poet

Nick Earls, writer

Tara Wynne, literary agent

Koraly Dimitriadis, writer

Pippa Masson, literary agent

Stephanie Guest, literary agent

Reg Cribb, writer

Philip Neilsen, former member of the Literature Board of the Australia Council

Emeritus Professor John McLaren AM, Victoria University; Overland patron

Anne Layton-Bennett

Angela Gardner, artist

Dr Rae Luckie, writer and editor

Emma Rooksby, artist and poet

Karina Quinn, writer and editor, La Trobe University

Kim Hellard

Paloma Concierta

John Leonard, poet and publisher

Martin Kinnane, Lighting Designer

Meredith Curnow, publisher, Knopf, Vintage

John Leonard, poet and publisher

Zane Trow sound artist, director, animateur

Tim Richards, writer

Toby Fitch, poet

Nathan Curnow, writer

Nicki Bloom, writer

Caroline Fry, painting conservator

Evelyn Juers, writer and publisher

Sarah Armstrong, writer

Ailsa Piper, writer

Benjamin Solah, director of Melbourne Spoken Word

Lian Low, writer, spoken word artist; and editor-at-large Peril

Jonathan Jones, Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist and curator

Daniel Twomey, teacher and musician

Sue Pedley, artist

Alice Evans, violinist

Michael Smetanin, composer

Emma McManus, theatre-maker, Applespiel

Delia Falconer, writer

Irma Gold, writer and editor

Solway Sager-Nutting, musician

Briony Pemberton, paper conservator

Tessa Lunney, Southerly

Alexandra Roginski, writer

Peter Mitchelson, paper conservator

Van T Rudd, artist and campus coordinator for VCA Student Association

Vanessa Kowalski, artist

Irine Vela, composer and director

Libby Gleeson, children’s author

Garth Nix, writer

Charles Parkinson, director

Jane McCredie, writer

Damian Moss

Artist/sessional academic UNSW Art&Design

Clayton Tremlett Artist and Arts Educator

Ruark Lewis, artist, writer & curator

Tristan Coelho, Sydney-based composer and teacher

Hayley Stockall, Stilts

Gideon Haigh, writer

Edwina Wren, actor

Linda Funnell, editor

Daniel Schlusser, theatre director

Jon Butt, Director c3 Contemporary Art Space

Anne-Louise Sarks, director, Belvoir Theatre

Rosalind Price, Jump Leads Productions

Claire Edwardes, musician

David Kolieb, lover of the Arts

Ben Laycock, writer, Trouble Magazine

Carrie McGrath, artist

Sandy Evans OAM, composer

Peter McNamara, composer

Andy Griffiths, writer

Sally Rippin, writer and illustrator

Erica Wagner, publisher

Mike Ladd, writer

Margaret Snowdon, visual artist, art and design book buyer

Peggy Frew, writer

Carl Vine AO, composer

Dr Ursula Caporali, composer

Jessica White, writer

Geoff Goodfellow, writer

Scott Westerfeld, author

Zoe Amor, Sculptor

Eve Sullivan, writer and editor of Artlink Magazine

James Bradley, writer

Clayton Tremlett, artist and arts educator

Jacinta Le Plastrier, writer and publisher




If you are an artist or arts organisation and would like to add your name to this list of signatories, please email

If you would to like to sign the general petition, you can do so at the Australians for Artistic Freedom page.

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.

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