Arts Alliance calls for equity as new report reveals stark cultural funding divide

Compelling data released in the State of the Arts in Western Sydney 2023 report spotlights what many in Western Sydney’s creative communities already know: that despite the diversity, talent, richness and depth of impact our cultural activity demonstrates, it remains vastly under-resourced when compared with other parts of Sydney.

Western Sydney Arts Alliance, representing 33 arts and cultural organisations across the region, welcomes the report and its priorities. The Alliance urges whoever forms the next NSW Government to increase support and establish a dedicated Western Sydney investment strategy. The Federal Government and local Councils also have a critical role to play in addressing this inequity.

Despite Western Sydney being home to 50% of Sydney residents, and 10% of Australians, the region received less than 3.5% of state cultural infrastructure funding (excluding funding for Powerhouse Parramatta), less than 10% of funding awarded across various Create NSW programs; and only 3.4% of federal arts funding between 2015 and 2023. Despite being hit hardest by COVID-19 lockdowns, Western Sydney only received 1.7% of federal RISE funding for post-pandemic economic recovery.

These figures are brutal, yet there are opportunities. The Western Sydney arts ecology is vibrant and dynamic. We are home to a young, highly educated and rapidly growing population; and over 51,000 indigenous Australians.

Alicia Talbot, Blacktown Arts:

Western Sydney has a palpable creative energy and deep cultural knowledge. Its communities of artists and audiences are passionate and dedicated, part of a creative economy that is intergenerational, multifaith and fluent across many languages. Blacktown is home to almost 400,000 people and yet received less than 1% of arts and culture funding.

Craig Donarski, Director, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre:

Casula Powerhouse celebrates the arts and cultural expression of people from over 150 countries speaking over 140 different languages. People here deserve to have access to high-quality experiences and facilities that awaken their interest in the arts and develop their talents and audiences. Equitable funding will expand access for all to arts that reflect their diverse experiences, and our role as incubator and launchpad for Western Sydney artists, who create some of the most interesting, exciting and important work in Australia today.

With equitable per capita cultural funding Western Sydney has the potential to flourish. It’s already a place people choose to live, work, learn, create and participate – but equitable funding guarantees greater opportunities, stronger pathways to employment, education, participation, enjoyment, wellbeing and creative practice.

The report, produced by Western Sydney University, outlines a series of key priorities for the future of arts and culture in Western Sydney. The first, fundamentally, is a commitment to minimum per capita funding across three tiers of government.

Krissie Scudds, CEO Penrith Performing & Visual Arts:

Penrith Performing & Visual Arts sits at the heart of a growing city, making meaning and enriching the lives of our community and – like so many small to medium arts organisations doing lots with very little, and rapidly outgrowing facilities. We create pathways and opportunities for artists and work incredibly hard to build our programs to keep offering the community transformative cultural experiences (and sometimes just great fun). We would welcome an investment strategy that enables us to build on the work that’s already being done across the Western Sydney arts ecology, with artist employment, audience experiences and community (and industry) wellbeing at its core.

Per capita cultural investment has the potential to accelerate growth in the sector and to scaffold local skills development and education, helping to redress the imbalances in availability of tertiary training in arts and culture.

Mayor of Campbelltown’s, George Greiss:

Facilitating access to arts and cultural programs is key to building the social cohesion and economic growth enabling our communities to flourish and succeed.

Campbelltown is part of one of the fastest growing regions in Australia, and Campbelltown Arts Centre has played a leadership role for decades in delivering arts and cultural programs that give voice to our community. Equitable funding particularly for arts programming will ensure our region continues to thrive as a cultural hub, nurturing the talents of Western Sydney artists and sharing our stories.

I welcome this report and commend Western Sydney University for highlighting the priorities for the future of arts and culture in Western Sydney.

This study follows on from the 2015 Deloitte report – Building Western Sydney’s Cultural Arts Economy, which also identified funding and infrastructure inequities, making a series of recommendations, most which have not been implemented.

The Western Sydney Arts Alliance supports the State of the Arts in Western Sydney 2023 Report, its findings, priorities and recommendations and welcomes the opportunity to work with partners and government to achieve positive outcomes to secure the future for arts and culture in Western Sydney.

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