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Craft Australia defunded

This letter was sent to the Chairperson of the Visual Arts Board, Professor Ted Snell. It follows the notification received by Craft Australia that it would no longer receive program funding from the Visual Arts Board beyond the end of December 2011. The letter outlines the concerns of the Craft Australia Board for the ongoing sustainability of the craft and design sector.

Robert Reason

 

26 October 2011

Dear Ted

This letter follows up from the Craft Australia Board meeting with Kon Gouriotis, Atul Joshi and Laura McLeod on Friday 21 October regarding the VABs decision to defund Craft Australia at the end of 2011. We thank the Board for the opportunity to address them through this letter, which will be further elaborated in the discussions with the ACDC delegation on Thursday 27 October. There are several issues we would like to speak to in response to this decision and appreciate the opportunity to present our position in response to the defunding notice.

We understand that a limited review process of all triennially funded agencies was taking place with this recent round of triennial grant applications. We also appreciate the changing nature of practice and the need for the Board to be responsive to these changes through their support of the key organisations program. In order to ensure a sustainable craft and design sector we seek that the VAB consider Craft Australia as an 'on notice' agency, giving us a year to review our operations in light of their feedback. Craft Australia could then be involved in the full review process of the portfolio as scheduled by the Australia Council in the next four year period and could be better aligned to the pending National Cultural Policy.

The following points outline our position for your consideration.

1. Due process

At no point in the past 8 years has Craft Australia been informed that it has been underperforming against its KPIs or against Australia Council Visual Arts Bard sector plan objectives.

  • Positive feedback has been demonstrated by regular increases to our triennial agreements
  • We have been receiving positive feedback from the Australia Council in regards to our operations.
  • Craft Australia is included in the Visual Arts Board Sector plan 2011 -13 as a national service agency funded by the VAB.

In reference to the 'Fair Notice Protocol'defined by the Australia Council's 2011 Governance Manual we note the Australia Council's direction to boards in Part 8 concerning triennially funded organisations and I quote:
'The Fair Notice Protocol, as this direction is known, requires boards to give a warning of significant concerns which could lead to the possible reduction or cessation of funding for the future to triennially funded organisations'

It is of concern that in breach of this requirement no such warning has ever been received from the staff or the board of the Australia Council. In'fact, from the dot points listed above, the opposite has been the case.

2. Due governance

In addition there has been no consultation with the arts community about defunding the national peak organisation that represents the craft and design sector. According to the community consultation processes defined in section 8.8 of the Governance Manual none of described methods of consulting the sector about defunding Craft Australia were undertaken prior to the decision taken by the VAB.

  • The last restructure of Craft Australia in 2002 was informed by the Freeland Report, funded by the VAB. This was a national consultation process that engaged all members of the ACDC network, their membership and associated stakeholders.
  • As Craft Australia has been servicing the needs of Australian cultural producers for over 40 years, any decision to eliminate the agency from the cultural landscape requires a process of discussion with the sector.
  • The decision by the VAB to defund a national peak body without such due process creates a significant precedent nationally and internationally. All OECD countries around the world have a dedicated craft and design agency to represent the dynamic changes that are happening in this field of practice. Craft Australia is considered by its wide constituency as being vital in presenting the Australian position in the national and international dialogue of practice.
3. Decreasing support for craft and design by VAB

With the restructure to Craft Australia in 2002 and the current defunding proposed in 2011, the overall loss of support to the craft and design sector by the VAB has been significant.

  • Since the restructure of Craft Australia in 2002, it can be calculated that $940,000.00 of ongoing support to the craft and design sector has been lost.
  • The current restructure in 2011 with the defunding of Craft Australia sees a further loss of ongoing funding to craft and design by the visual arts board.
  • Of the money saved by defunding Craft Australia, $400,000.00 goes in to a strategic initiative that has a life of 4 years. The remaining $800,000.00 is not going back to craft and design and has gone in to funding 2 new visual arts agencies.
  • The proposed 4 year strategic initiative does not appear to introduce any ongoing support for craft and design. Craft Australia, in concert with the ACDC network believe that this decision will further disadvantage the craft and design sector as they will not have the resources to take advantage of potential opportunities. The implications of such perceived underperformance in the sector could result in further cuts to craft and design dedicated funding creating unsustainable infrastructure support for this industry.
  • This overall loss of funding to the craft and design sector draws in to question the VAB's commitment to ongoing support for craft and design programs.
4. Cannot wind up in less than 2 months

It is physically not possible to wind up an organisation with a 40 year history and active continuing programs in less than 2 months. The organisation needs to appropriately preserve its heritage, assets and programs without impacting negatively on the sector overall.

What we propose
We propose that the VAB consider funding Craft Australia for a further year as an 'on notice' organisation. This will enable Craft Australia to

  • Undergo a planned restructure in consultation with the Australia Council, ACDC network and the sector
  • Responsibly devolve the assets developed¬† by the organisation over the past 40 years in order to better meet the needs of the sector and the Australia Council's changed key organisation landscape of funding
  • Given the opportunity to restructure, Craft Australia would be a constructive supporter of the changes that the VAB is proposing. During that time we would also have the opportunity to secure new funding sources and partnerships.

Over the twelve months Craft Australia will, in a collaborative exercise with the Australia Council and the sector, review its existing programs and identify appropriate transition strategies in consultation.

We seek the VAB's in principle agreement with this proposal and will as a next step develop the appropriate budget for approval.

What is the risk?
The risk of not funding Craft Australia for a further year is that the goodwill established with the craft and design sector will be adversely affected with potential repercussions across the arts sector. Any significant change to the support for craft and design without the relevant consultative or compliance with your due process undertaken would be met with suspicion, an outcry and would adversely affect the position of the VAB in the sector.

If the VAB cannot fund Craft Australia beyond the end of December 2011 the organisation will be forced wind up as soon as possible with the expectation that actual operations will cease by end of November and the company cease to exist by end of the calendar year.

A more responsible option would be for Craft Australia to receive funding to the end of June 2012 in order for the organisation to wind up over 40 years of operation responsibly and to devolve its assets with the best possible outcome for the sector.

We look forward to meeting with you to discuss this further and to work with you to arrive at a responsible outcome as described in this letter.


Yours sincerely

Robert Reason
President
Craft Australia

Related links
  • Sign the petition
  • Review Committee letter
  • Read the Editorial
  • LIBPRP20111108RR

     
     

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    Updated: 19 April 2014