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How further funding cuts to the arts could affect you

Australian arts and dance funding cuts

The federal government has made further funding cuts to the arts, recently announcing that arts diplomas, including diplomas and advanced diplomas in dance, will no longer be eligible for government subsidies from the beginning of 2017.

A total of 478 vocational courses will no longer receive funding assistance, and of the 70 creative arts courses, only 13 will receive subsidies. Additionally, funding for these 13 courses are capped at $10,000, whereas non-creative courses receive up to $15,000.

The remaining eligible courses are:

Diploma of Live Production and Technical Services
Diploma of Graphic Design
Diploma of Music Industry
Diploma of Photography and Photo Imaging
Diploma of Screen and Media
Diploma of Visual Arts
Advanced Diploma of Live Production and Management Services
Advanced Diploma of Graphic Design
Advanced Diploma of Creative Product Development
Advanced Diploma of Music Industry
Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media
Advanced Diploma of Visual Arts
Diploma of Furniture Design and Technology

The ineligible courses are:

Diploma of Dance (Elite Performance)
Diploma of Musical Theatre
Diploma of Live Production Design
Diploma of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Visual Arts Industry Work
Diploma of Ceramics
Advanced Diploma of Dance (Elite Performance)
Diploma of Floristry Design
Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design
Advanced Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design
Diploma of Broadcast Technology
Advanced Diploma of Performance
Graduate Diploma of Classical Ballet
Diploma of Performing Arts
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts
Diploma of Fashion Styling
Diploma of Screen Acting
Diploma of Screen Performance
Advanced Diploma of Acting
Diploma of Circus Arts
Diploma of Social Media Marketing
Advanced Diploma of Acting for Contemporary Screen Media
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts
Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship for Creatives
Diploma of  Stage and Screen Performance
Diploma of Arts (Acting)
Advanced Diploma of Arts (Acting)
Advanced Diploma of Professional Screenwriting
Graduate Diploma of Elite Dance Instruction
Advanced Diploma of Stage and Screen Acting
Diploma of Visual Communication (Design Communication / Photo Communication)
Advanced Diploma of Visual Communication (Design Communication / Photo Communication)
Advanced Diploma of Music Theatre
Diploma of Cinemagraphic Makeup
Diploma of Styling (Fashion, Image and Media)
Advanced Diploma of Commercial Song and Dance Performance
Diploma of Journalism
Advanced Diploma of Art (Musical Theatre and Commercial Dance)
Advanced Diploma of Film, Television and Theatre Acting
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts (Acting)
Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing
Advanced Diploma of Photography
Diploma of Theatre Arts
Diploma of Product Design
Advanced Diploma of Screen and Stage Acting
Diploma of Creative Arts in Christian Ministry
Advanced Diploma of Creative Arts in Christian Ministry
Advanced Diploma of Arts (Professional Writing)
Diploma of Arts (Professional Writing)
Diploma of Mass Communication
Advanced Diploma of Photography
Diploma of Performing Arts
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts
Graduate Diploma of Photography
Diploma of Fashion Products and Markets
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts (Musical Theatre) (Commercial Dance)
Advanced Diploma of Animation

According to Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham, these changes reflect a move to focus on courses that benefit Australia economically rather than supporting what he termed “lifestyle-related” courses. “Currently, there are far too many courses that are being subsidised that are used simply to boost enrolments, or provide ‘lifestyle’ choices, but don’t lead to work,” he said.

If you aren’t furious at those comments from the Minister, how about these:

“VET (Vocational Education and Training) Student Loans will only support legitimate students to undertake worthwhile and value-for-money courses at quality training providers. We want to ensure that the courses that Australian taxpayers are subsidising, and that we are encouraging students to study, will optimise employment outcomes.”

Legitimate students? Worthwhile courses? Are you suggesting, Birmingham, that creative arts students are not legitimate and that the creative arts are not worthwhile? To argue that the arts doesn’t matter is an argument founded in fallacy. In 2014, the Australia Council released a report finding that 95 percent of Australians engaged in the arts in some way in the 12 months prior and almost half of the country created art themselves. In 2015, the cultural sector contributed $50 billion to Australia’s GDP in 2012-2013. By saying that the arts is a lifestyle choice and not a valuable contributor to the economy is to ignore the facts. More than just a financial contributor, the arts is an essential part of the social fabric of the country.

Unlike many other vocations, the careers of creative artists – particularly dancers – evolve over time, and most paid work is freelance or project-based. Formal training by coursework at either a specialist or tertiary institution is essential for any prospective practising professional artist in Australia. We cannot assert that the arts are worth supporting if we are not producing good art.

Denise Roberts, founder of acting school Screenwise is concerned that cuts to student loans will leave talented students, many of whom may be experiencing hardship or are disadvantaged, with no options to study in their chosen profession, putting a stop to the pursuit of a career in line with their skills and passions. “What saddens me the most is that whilst our industry has thrived and maintained a passion for nurturing the truly talented individuals of our society, we should not be forced to abandon our values in favour of those who are able to afford courses. Where does this leave the real talent at the end of the day?” Roberts asked.

Ausdance WA’s Director Gabrielle Sullivan shares similar concerns. “Enrolment in the courses will be based on a students’ ability to pay, not, as it has always been, on a students’ ability,” she explained. “And, by logical extension, the pathway to professional employment for those who are genuinely talented but who cannot afford training becomes much more difficult. Research has demonstrated that by far the most important training for professional artists in Australia today is through formal specialist training at an institution.”

In order to have the best performers, you must first have the best training. By limiting access to training to only the wealthy instantly negates the necessity of merit and of talent. The government’s new funding cuts suggest that the arts are worth nothing unless the artists themselves can quantify their economic worth and provide fiscally-based evidence for their right to train and earn a living in their chosen field. What about the value of art for its own sake? Art has intrinsic value far beyond the mighty dollar, and without art, the earth is just eh.

You can voice your concerns to the Minister here: minister@education.gov.au.

By Rebecca Martin of Dance Informa.

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