Arts subsumed in re-jig
Australia will no longer have a federal arts department, with plans to roll it into a department that oversees roads and rail.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a massive public service overhaul this week.
The changes from February next year will see the current Department of Communications and the Arts rolled into a new entity called the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.
There are no details on how arts will fit into this new department or how arts funding and resources might be affected.
Still, the changes have left National Association for the Visual Arts director Esther Anatolitis “gobsmacked”.
“Deliberate choices have been made [here] - value choices, ideological choices. Someone has made the choice to devalue a $111.7 billion [a year] industry,” she told the SBS.
“We would expect government at the highest level to reflect what makes us who we are and where we see our future as Australians. That makes this step of removing the name of the arts ministry a massive backwards step culturally for Australia.”
“The arts industry over the past few years has been in absolute shock at industry disruption caused by unplanned, unannounced changes to arts policy and funding … The federal government seems intent on the disruption and contraction of the arts industry instead of its flourishing and its growth.”
Currently, the Department of Communications and the Arts aims to “provide an environment in which all Australians can access and benefit from communications services, creative experiences and culture”.
The department also handles Australia’s internet and telecommunications industries.
Arts department head Mike Mrdak is one of five secretaries to get the axe, sacked after 32 years in the public sector.
In a memo on Thursday he said, “I was told of the government's decision to abolish the department late yesterday afternoon”.
“We were not permitted any opportunity to provide advice on the machinery of government changes, nor were our views ever sought on any proposal to abolish the department or to changes to our structure and operations.”