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Issue #1586      March 20, 2013

Creative Australia: “We should all be singing from the same song sheet”

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has welcomed the boost in funding to arts training organisations (announced on March 13) by Arts Minister Simon Crean, but argues that Creative Australia’s ambitions will be undermined by short-sighted cuts to the creative arts by universities and TAFE.

“While the federal government is putting in $20.8 million into the National Institute of Dramatic Art, the National Institute of Circus Arts and some other high level training organisations, universities and TAFE are busy cutting creative arts programs,” NTEU national president, Jeannie Rea said.

“The creative arts are an easy target when university and TAFE funds are being squeezed.”

The six training organisations to attract the increased funding have around 1,200 students between them while many thousands of others have already been disadvantaged or excluded by course cuts at universities and TAFEs.

“It is a sad but familiar story – one hand giveth while the other taketh away.”

Rea said that major cuts to the arts had already occurred at a number of institutions across Australia including the Australian National University, the University of Ballarat, Swinburne University of Technology and the Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts, Perth’s “star factory”.

“Last year James Cook University decided to refocus its creative arts school on digital arts, while dropping theatre and performance majors. Meanwhile, the New South Wales government has removed all subsidies to fine arts courses as part of its $80 million cuts to TAFE with some 4,000 students losing out and now paying a small fortune to study. More recently, Monash has cut fine arts at its Churchill campus,” she said.

In terms of graduates being employed in the arts industry, Swinburne University is one of the most successful organisations in the country, but the $35 million cut to its budget last year, as part of a general Victorian government cut of $290 million to TAFE, means it will have to close its Prahran campus, home to its creative arts program and the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA).

“It’s all very well to increase funding to elite training organisations, but if universities and TAFEs are slashing creative arts programs at the same time, where will Australia get its future camera operators, directors, set and lighting designers, choreographers and makeup artists for television, film and stage?

“We need a cultural policy which has agreement from all states, from all levels of government and from our different institutions and organisations.”

Rea said that the NTEU supported Creative Australia’s goal of every Australian student gaining a universal arts education with the implementation of the Australian Curriculum.

“But, again, where will we get enough skilled and inspired teachers if we’re axing so many creative arts courses at our universities and TAFEs? We should all be singing from the same song sheet.”  

Next article – Coal seam gas restrictions welcome, but much too late

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