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Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee
01/09/2015
Impact of the 2014 and 2015 Commonwealth budget decisions on the arts

BEACH, Mr Aaron, Executive Director, Co3

BOTT, Ms Felicity Roma, Director, Ausdance WA

NORTON, Mr Paul Selwyn, Director, STRUT Dance

[15:08]

CHAIR: I now welcome representatives from Ausdance WA, STRUT Dance and Co3 dance company. Thank you all for coming here today and speaking with us. The committee has received a submission from Ausdance WA as submission No. 482 and from STRUT Dance as submission No. 682. Before I invite you to make an opening statement, do you wish to make any amendments or alterations to your submissions?

Ms Bott : No.

Mr Norton : No.

CHAIR: Would any of you like to make a brief opening statement of no longer than two minutes before we go to questions.

Ms Bott : Yes, please. The three of us will represent dance and the impact on dance in Western Australia and Paul will begin.

Mr Norton : Good afternoon. Firstly, I thank you senators for the invitation and opportunity to speak. 2007 saw a significant injection of funding from the Department of Culture and the Arts, Western Australia, into contemporary dance through the Ignite package. Under the title of Future Moves, $1.6 million was rolled out during the years of 2009 to 2012. I took over the organisation in 2013 and due to my significant international network and potential to align STRUT with the global best practice, we were able to consolidate continuity of about 50 per cent of this funding into a multiyear relationship with the department. STRUT is now a member-based organisation whose key objective is to facilitate the development of independent Australian choreography with the mission to make Perth a beacon of aspiration and opportunity for dance artists across Australia.

When the Australia Council for the Arts received STRUT's business model they also recognised the potential to raise not only the Western Australian but also the national profile through STRUT's benchmark program. Consequently inviting us to open our mandate and program to the whole country to the tune of $100,000 on project application annually. Suffice to say that considerable strategic investment in Western Australian contemporary dance at both a federal and a state level has brought STRUT and the sector it serves to an incredible jumping-off point. STRUT now has a minimum of 40 per cent interstate participation across all our major activities and is witnessing a record retention of WAAPA graduates, an east-coast graduate migration and a return of interstate-based artists to Western Australia—that is 2,163 artists in 2015, and we are only in September.

I have just returned from an overseas trip to build the next triennium of STRUT's international program and STRUT, Perth and Australia are indeed recognised as a beacon of opportunity and aspiration the world over. It is the world's greatest choreographers who are now saying 'yes' and aligning themselves with STRUT. However, with the potential rollout of the NPEA in its present form, this jumping-off point is at a perilous cliff. Independent Australian dance artists are finally not defaulting abroad through a lack of opportunity to the develop their practice but are choosing, but are rather remaining here and drilling down into their home soil—the result being the development of a truly authentic Australian voice. STRUT is a national facilitator in that development. There is now a very visible, palpable, fundamentally and, most importantly, an internationally recognised shift in how artists are choosing to resource, develop and platform themselves here in Australia and abroad—Australia can simply not afford to lose them.

Ms Bott : Thank you for this opportunity today. I am Felicity Bott, the director of Ausdance WA. Ausdance WA is part of the Australian Dance Council, established nationally in 1977. The national CEO spoke at the Melbourne hearing. We are part of the small-to-medium sector. Ausdance WA exists to ensure dance is an integral part of Western Australian cultural life. As I know all of us in the room appreciate, WA is geographically vast. In fact, it is the second largest country subdivision in the world. I would like to focus on how cuts to Australia Council discretionary funding will impact those Western Australians who live regionally and remotely. Specifically, the loss of programs like the Creative Communities Partnerships initiative, an initiative that has been cut in 2015. Ausdance WA has always worked in regional and remote WA, but in recent years we have become better at it. This is, in part, because over the past three years we have operated with significant Australia Council support. We have further developed our distinctive approach to ensuring dance can be accessed and developed by regional and remote communities in WA. We use contemporary dance, our projects connect artists, producers, presenters and regional communities. The driving ethos is to build layers of cultural capacity and to support individual artists who live considerable distances from arts infrastructure to practice their art with courage and rigour—and some of these, Senator Lazarus, are late bloomers, as often happens for people in the regions.

In 2013-15, we received three-year federal funding from the Australia Council's Creative Community Partnerships Initiative to assist us to do this—$400,000 in pipeline funding from the Australia Council across three years. All of that funding—all of it—has gone into the communities we have served and over the period it enabled us to leverage more money and other forms of support, community by community. We know that 85 to 90 per cent of survey respondents, both participants and audiences, felt more connected to their community as a result of projects. You are welcome to this report; it evaluates that thoroughly. Participants said: 'I could expand my networks in the community and that was important culturally and also from a business perspective;' 'I have made new friends;' 'I have been more physically active than I would normally be, having been a part of this project;' and, significantly, 'I understand contemporary dance now.'

Due to this Australia Council support, we have also been able to contribute to the national discourse from Western Australia, to have our voice heard and to contribute to the body of research available around excellence in community cultural development. We now have years of significant momentum facilitating regional work—momentum that we are poised to lose, due to the extraordinary increase in competition for the reduced funds to the Australia Council, which was unanticipated, in the Commonwealth budget decisions.

Mr Beach : I am the executive director of Co3, which is Australia's newest contemporary dance company, launching only three months ago; but after four years of extensive community consultation and work with the Western Australian arts industry and community. Co3 comes directly out of a merger of two dance companies: STEPS Youth Dance Company, which had been in the community for 25 years, and Buzz Dance Theatre, which spent 30 years in Western Australia. Felicity has been artistic director of both organisations. Co3 was formed as a direct response to an identified need to have a nationally significant contemporary dance company here in Western Australia. A company like this has not existed in Western Australia since the closure of the Chrissie Parrott company in 1996, nearly 20 years ago.

This launch of a new, vibrant contemporary dance company is an important step in Perth's cultural development. Confirmed state funding has allowed Co3 to support infrastructure and the delivery of extensive community and education programs across the state, but we seek support at a federal level from the Australia Council and other sources for multi-year organisational core funding. That will allow us to do a key thing—it really links to the theme conversation today of 'pipeline', but also to the sporting analogy—which is the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle in that there has not been a home for professional contemporary dancers here in Western Australia. We have one of the best universities through the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and those high-quality graduates spend time in all of our organisations, but then they are lost to the state and lost, in many cases, to the arts in Australia, as they seek opportunities internationally.

This aspirational new company, with leading dancers who will be staying here in the state, helps to connect the pipeline. Our companies—STEPS and Buzz—were providing incredible work in the education space and in youth participation, but now they have the opportunity to have an aspirational company and to have role models that work a bit like when the Fremantle Dockers started in 1995 or when the West Coast Eagles started in 1987. Western Australia now has a contemporary dance company for those young people to aspire to be part of. However, one thing that we really need is to be able to have those dancers employed. At the moment, we can fund all of the youth development and we can fund the community, but we cannot fund the artistic excellence.

Senator BILYK: Mr Norton, I might start with you. You mentioned in your submission that STRUT Dance is unable to plan beyond the next 12 months. What impact does that have for your organisation?

Mr Norton : All the programming that we are lining up in place for the next three to four years will actually just fall apart. We have lined up incredible international opportunities, residency exchange programs and international training over here in Western Australia. Everyone has said yes across the board. I just got off the plane two weeks ago signing all of that off. Australia Council is very much behind that and, if this goes the way it is going, then all those opportunities will fall apart.

Senator BILYK: You also said that you have had to advise your international partners that no arrangements can be confirmed beyond 2015?

Mr Norton : Yes.

Senator BILYK: All other things being equal in a nice hypothetical world, if the funding were to go the way the government centres think it will—there will not be any loss of funding and everyone will be able to apply—will that still have that same impact for your organisation, bearing in mind where you are now?

Mr Norton : The time line is just too short, because literally today, this morning, I submitted the Australia Council application for a project in 2016. The guidelines will not rollout, let alone the application procedure, before 2016, so everything will fall down. We are talking about three years of negotiation to get those incredible international benchmark organisations to align with us and now we cannot deliver the final result. It is like we have set up a party and no-one is going to come to it.

Senator BILYK: What does that say to the rest of the world?

Mr Norton : It shame faces Australia's artistic organisations; absolutely. People are already saying, 'You've had this conversation with us for so long. What's actually happening?' So I have had to explain it. People have been really very kind to us, but the buck will have to roll somewhere.

Senator BILYK: You also talk about the concerns you might have about transparency in decision-making. Can you talk us through your concerns?

Mr Norton : I think that the concerns have already been voiced very clearly. Basically, I represent the independent sector and there seems to be no access for independents to be able to approach the NPEA. If they are considering altering those guidelines, it would be very good.

Senator BILYK: Do you think the new guidelines leave enough room for diversity and that sort of stuff within the arts community or do you think there is a gap that we need to remedy?

Ms Bott : Reading them in the form they are now, there are words and phrases in there like 'demand driven' and 'nationally outcome driven'. They are looking for national outcomes. Certainly, when it comes to regional and remote practice, they are not particularly loud voices; their demands are not easily heard. So I concur with David Doyle and his concerns about that. It has come up today a couple of times and it has been kind of tagged 'the pipeline conversation'. But how do people or organisations who are en route to having national profiles get heard in that process? To an experienced grant writer, I would say that it does not look like it fits the profile of many of the people that we represent and want to see making art.

Senator BILYK: What are your main concerns with regard to the NPEA and the Australia Council in the way the two might meet, or not meet, or gel, regarding the administrative load?

Ms Bott : My main disappointment is that the Australia Council funding did not prevail and that the NPEA was not additional to it;. I would like to concur with my colleagues who have spoken today. A lot of us were tracking closely with the Australia Council's review and were anticipating keenly the changes to an act in the parliament with Crean three years ago, I believe. They were significant changes, they came from a long way out and we were looking forward to seeing how they would pan out. One felt highly cynical when that was cut off in May this year and we not enabled to see. A lot of time, sector time and knowledge was invested into it. That would be my key disappointment around this.

Senator BILYK: With regard to writing submissions and things, do you think that the small and medium organisations will possibly play it safe now instead of wanting to do something a bit more risky and edgy?

Mr Beach : I think there is an absolute possibility that that may take place. One of the other things is restrictions. A really good example is the current Australia Council project grant application process. You only get one bite of the cherry. If you get money, that is it. There are no other opportunities to create that finance. In the draft guidelines of the NPEA it suggests project based funding is the way forward, not organisational support. For brand-new companies like Co3 it is expensive to carry an ensemble of artists around. The level of training and expertise required—again, to draw on a sporting analogy—it would be like saying to your elite football team, 'Go and work all week in your cafe or your bar or restaurant and play the games on the weekend.'

That is the situation we are going to be in with contemporary dancers in Australia. There is no opportunity for them to have ongoing employment. To reach those levels of expertise that Paul and the companies that Strut work with internationally, if we are going to be partnering international companies, the level of excellence needs to be benchmarked, internationally, let alone nationally.

Senator BILYK: We have heard throughout the day, and in Melbourne as well, to get to a major level you have to have had that build-up and support along the way. And if you do not have the small to medium organisations, that is a bit in jeopardy.

Mr Beach : It is an important point that it is not necessarily one way. You do not track, necessarily, from being eight years old and then into tertiary and then into a project based and then into a major. Lots of us have spent time in majors. I spent five years with Bangarra Dance Theatre. Our artistic director, Raewyn Hill—you then transition. I chose to come into a small to medium company because I wanted to have the first opportunity of leading an organisation. I could have stayed in my—and now I probably should have, given what has happened—but people transition in and out.

Dancers who are now working with the Sydney dance companies and Bangarra dancers will move back into small to medium companies when they take opportunities as artistic directors, choreographers or general managers et cetera. It is not only one way. You come back out of it on the other side.

Senator REYNOLDS: Mr Norton, firstly, I would like to pick up some of the information in your submission. Having a look at your funding a bit further, I understand you have a turnover of $550,000 year—

Mr Norton : Yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: of which $100,000 is currently from the arts council. So one-fifth of your funding is arts council funding, which you still have—under the current arrangements—through until next year, to 2016.

Mr Norton : No, we applied for project funding today for that. I will not know until November whether I can continue.

Senator REYNOLDS: Are you funded through to the end of this financial year?

Mr Norton : We are funded through to the end of the calendar year.

Senator REYNOLDS: One-fifth of your funding comes from the federal government. You said, here, that the state government funds you $260,000.

Mr Norton : Yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: Where does the just over $200,000 come from?

Mr Norton : It comes from the income we get from classes and the various sponsorship deals that we have brokered. Some of our other operations bring in other forms of money, like our showings and performances. We get income that way.

Senator REYNOLDS: So around 17 or 18 per cent of your funding currently comes from the arts council.

Mr Norton : Yes. Our whole program, international and national, is funded by the Australia Council for the Arts. Pretty much, the department funds our core operations.

Senator REYNOLDS: You have now put in an application to extend that funding, through the Australia Council for the Arts. Is that correct?

Mr Norton : For our 2016 program, yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: That has not been rejected yet. You have funding through to the end of this year, for one discrete program; it is not your entire organisation.

Mr Norton : It is not our entire organisational program for 2016. All our international programs, all our national collaborative partnerships, are funded under the Australia Council for the Arts.

Senator REYNOLDS: That $100,000, 16 or 17 per cent of your funding, funds all of your international and national projects.

Mr Norton : Yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: So there is no capacity within your other income—you quarantine the rest of your income away from your national and international activities; is that right?

Mr Norton : Yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: You are saying you have no other capacity to—

Mr Norton : Because we are an art form development program. We not a bums-on-seats organisation. We are not building our income through large performance outcomes. We really are a developmental organisation. If you think of me—if I may, Senator Lazarus, move away from the football analogy—as a gardener. I grow my own food. We live in Perth. Perth is on a sand dune. There is porosity of the soil. Extrapolate that to the arts sector. We lose everybody who is coming out of WAAPA and all the great arts institutions. I am literally mulching the sector with opportunity. That is what STRUT does. I fold fantastic benchmark programs.

Senator REYNOLDS: To take that analogy further, you are a bit like our productive grain sector. Most of the grains we grow go to feeding the rest of the country and the world.

Mr Norton : Exactly; and that is a great shame.

Senator REYNOLDS: It is a great shame we share our abundant talent with the rest of the world?

Mr Norton : The return should come our way. In that way, with grain, that is going to feed other countries. What we are doing is mulching the opportunities that we grow back into the sector. It grows and becomes more fertile and fecund to support the whole pipeline.

Senator REYNOLDS: I have the analogy, thank you.

CHAIR: Is that on your business card?

Mr Norton : It should be our tag line, I know!

Senator REYNOLDS: It should be. At the moment, you have put in another application, for this $100,000, which is 17 or 18 per cent or whatever it is, of your current, and you have not had that rejected yet.

Mr Norton : No, that will come; in November that will be published. We have to start the program rolling out in January. That is how cut-throat this whole thing is.

Senator REYNOLDS: Yes. But at the moment you still have your funding.

Mr Norton : Yes, until 2015.

Senator REYNOLDS: In terms of your commentary in relation to the NPEA—the money has come from the Australia Council for the Arts and has not disappeared; it has gone into the NPEA—are you assuming you will not be able to apply for money through the NPEA?

Mr Norton : At the moment, the NPEA draft guidelines do not seem to support the concept of our form, development. It is very much registered around capacity of audience development. That is not what we do.

Senator REYNOLDS: If we took it back to the minister—they are drafts. I think we have listed about 19 suggestions to him to make improvements to the draft for the final guidelines. If I added that as the 20th, that they need more clarity, in terms of what you have just said, would that make you more reassured that there is another funding avenue?

Mr Norton : It is fantastic that this opportunity exists. But I agree with all my colleagues—and I would like it to go on the record—that this money should not be at the expense of the Australia Council for the Arts. It should be in addition to it. I would be happy if the draft guidelines did open up the opportunity for both small to mediums who are from development programs—I am not alone in doing this—and the independent sector; at least there would be access to it. But it should not be in respect of removing any more funding from the Australia Council for the Arts.

Senator REYNOLDS: I am sure all my colleagues, up here, would welcome more money, like we have heard from every other sector. There is never enough money for health, education and disability, particularly in the current budgetary environment. It would be ideal. The Attorney-General, as you would be aware, might not get any bouquets from people in this room but he has preserved the funding from the Australia Council for the Arts—whereas other ministers have had their portfolios significantly reduced. He has managed to keep it. Yes, he has made changes to some of the funding arrangements for 15 per cent of it. On the basis that the money is not going to come from a magic pot of money elsewhere, either the sector itself has to find some efficiencies—to do exactly what you are saying—or we have to make the NPEA work.

Senator LUDLAM: Or not have it at all.

Senator REYNOLDS: Or not have it at all.

Senator LUDLAM: Let's certainly put the option out there to them.

Senator REYNOLDS: Do you have any suggestions to improve the NPEA—you have just given us one—or, as participants in the sector, do you have ideas on where the money can come from to fund it, given the budget is not going to be increased?

Mr Beach : That has been raised over and over again. When the guidelines shift from being a draft to a guideline that we can engage with, at a deeper level, the opportunity to have ongoing funding through the NPEA will be a really significant step. Funding things to have one-off project outcomes, certainly in Western Australia, will create all this excitement; a brand new company will launch and debut and then there will be silence for the next year while you get your next opportunity to achieve project support.

Senator REYNOLDS: It is the operational-funding issue that others have raised.

Mr Beach : Yes; exactly.

Senator LUDLAM: Since we are flirting with this idea—of a noble sacrifice of the arts minister preserving all of the funding, which is wonderful—if the amount of funding were to stay the same, would we be better off with this new thing or without it?

Mr Norton : Like I said earlier, Senator, we have 2,163 artists moving through an organisation that has 2.4 full-time capacity of administration. Making a supply of yet another very onerous, very long-term, short-visioned application procedure at the moment, as it stands, is something that I would not be very happy about putting myself, my board, under the pressures of.

Senator LUDLAM: Okay. So you either have to do without that 20 per cent of the funding or write a whole pile of separate applications and hope for the best, provided you have not been formally excluded by the guidelines in the first place?

Mr Norton : Indeed.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes, it does not sound like a great deal of fun.

Mr Norton : We are not in it for the fun, of course. There should be clear guidelines for organisations of our capacity to be able to approach this large, new funding body.

Senator LUDLAM: Indeed. Given that it is a national funding pool that we are talking about and it is a national inquiry, what would you say are the specific challenges that apply to you folks? I am happy for anybody to take this coming from WA.

Mr Beach : I think that for WA and, importantly, contemporary dance, there is quite a specific skillset of knowledge. When we gather with our national colleagues, there are a handful of people who really would be able to speak as experts in the field. With the Australia Council process, they really put a lot of work into putting an appropriate peer panel together. One of the biggest challenges is that often there is a conflict of interest because it is such a small group. When we look at how the NPEA will assess dance, specifically, but then you add the specifics of working in the Western Australian environment, we are looking, potentially, at members who will be asked to sit on the Australia Council panel and then, if the NPEA guideline decided that peer assessment was something that they wanted to do, you are running down a very small list of names that would be appropriate candidates to review.

Senator LUDLAM: Senator Macdonald, right at the very outset, raised the issue that the funding carve-up, at least per capita, appears to be skewed. I do not know if we identified over what period of time those numbers were being sourced from. In your understanding of the way that either the Australia Council or this new body assesses funding, would there be any formal weighting for particular states or territories?

Ms Bott : Any weighting?

Senator LUDLAM: Yes, any weighting.

Mr Norton : With STRUT's negotiations with the Australia Council—the arrival of the new contemporary dance company and STRUT being asked by the Australia Council—I got phoned by the Australia Council. Normally you have to phone them. They actually phoned me and said, 'Please, Paul, we love what is going on. Will you open your program and mandate to serve the nation?' It was an incredible honour for a small- to medium arts organisation to do that. There is definitely that point of an imbalance nationally being addressed at the Australia Council for the arts.

Mr Beach : I would echo that. Co3 are not currently funded by the Australia Council, but we have been invited to significant sector meetings, development opportunities, to ensure that the company was in the best possible position to receive funds over the last 18 months.

Ms Bott : From a Western Australian perspective, across my career as an artist, not just as a director of a peak body, the Australia Council has served me and others through its very rigorous benchmarking of excellence. Monique Douglas from Propel arts earlier today, when asked about her application—she was unsuccessful—said, 'I didn't write a competitive enough application.' That is extraordinarily healthy. I think there is a lot of respect from Western Australian artists regarding that element of the way the Australia Council plays in the field, the space it operates and how it operates.

Senator LUDLAM: Okay. So people are not—and I have not really heard this at all today—feeling particularly hard done by about coming from WA or that we are necessarily looking for more than we are getting?

Mr Beach : I think there was a point raised earlier today about getting more applications, which will then mean more excellent applications come through, and the support that has come through. Perhaps the $5 figure has at certain stages been fair, because the quality of the applications has not been there. But certainly that has shifted drastically in Western Australia, where, with the quality of arts leaders, as we have seen all day today, you can be sure that as the process moves forward that figure will change because the quality has improved.

Ms Bott : Across my career as an arts leader I have very provocatively, on at least four occasions, asked the Australia Council for a couple of staff in WA. I think that there is a tyranny of distance that operates, and I think we do see that reflected in that per capita amount. I think that would be a truism.

Senator LUDLAM: That sounds like an excellent recommendation for us to make. Thanks for everything today.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Just to help the witnesses, the $5 figure that Senator Ludlam talked about is from the submission by the Chamber of Arts and Culture Western Australia for 2012-13, which I had never seen before. I notice that Queensland only gets $3.40. Are you people competitors? How do your three dance groups fit together?

Mr Norton : We are not dance groups. Aaron is launching a dance company. I am pretty much a service provider for the whole of the nation of independent dance practitioners. I would like Felicity to talk for herself.

Ms Bott : Ausdance WA is a peak body. Even though my example today is contemporary dance based, we are actually what we call in our organisation genre-blind. We represent all forms of dance, whether it is Columbian, Chinese association, Chung Wah—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: In Western Australia or in Australia?

Ms Bott : In Western Australia, but we are part of a national network that does something similar in most states.

Mr Norton : We do look for strategic alignments and possible program partnerships. We have very regular meetings about that where we can look to strategically advantage the sector that we serve.

Ms Bott : Both of these organisations are my organisation's members.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Sorry, I did not quite understand what you said, Mr Norton. What do you do?

Mr Norton : We meet very regularly, to look at potential partnerships and program alignments to build capacity generally within the dance sector. We do not operate in a silo; we operate in partnership with each other.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: So, in North Queensland, would you be supporting Dancenorth? Do you know Dancenorth?

Mr Norton : Four of their dancers have already worked with us.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I was a bit worried when you said you were attracting them over here.

Mr Norton : But that is my job, Senator.

Ms Beach : Also, they spend most of the year unemployed—that is the key thing. The reason those Dancenorth dancers can come to STRUT is that they are under contract for 25 or 30 weeks a year, and then what do they do? We are part of a national network so that Co3 dancers will be going to Dancenorth, to Expressions in Brisbane, to Force Majeure—some of them are dancing this week with Force Majeure. Of the leading contemporary dance companies in Australia, I think there are 13 funded by the Australia Council, but there are probably another five or six that are not currently funded. The work is shared so that those dancers can have a national level of excellence.

Mr Norton : The only contemporary dance companies in this country that are actually funded for full-time dancers are—please correct me if I am wrong—Bangarra and Sydney Dance Company. Even Australian Dance Theatre and Chunky Move, which have a big key organisational relationship with the Australia Council, do not employ full-time dancers. That is why there is this sharing.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I am aware Dancenorth have other sponsors, including the city council and the state government, and they have some successful shows and they get their money—I am no expert on them. Mr Beach, did you say your organisation had just commenced?

Ms Beach : Yes. I describe us as a 54-year-old start-up, because we came out of the merger of two smaller contemporary dance companies. The Western Australian government supported the idea. The boards of STEPS Youth Dance Company and Buzz Dance Theatre got together to form a strategic alliance to give Western Australia the opportunity to have a state based dance company that could be a company that is aspirational about excellence and that provides a pathway that allows independents, youth and WAAPA graduates to have employment and to live here in Western Australia.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I understand what you do. But, again, I cannot quite understand what the other two do.

Mr Norton : I am, in essence, an art form development program, as I said. If you look at me as a gardener, I literally fold in incredible training opportunities across art forms.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Are there other dance groups similar to yours in Perth?

Mr Norton : We are unique in Australia in what we do. There are other art form development programs, but what we do is unique and specific to Western Australia, but we serve the nation. We work with national and international benchmark training programs, cross-art-form development programs, international residency exchange programs, and performance and production opportunities nationally, but we bring it all here to Perth. We are brining it home to Western Australia.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I think you have said this. How many full-time equivalents do you employ?

Mr Norton : Two point four.

Ms Bott : Three point eight.

Mr Beach : It is brand new, but we have four admin staff and we have eight dancers, but they are currently on only a 12-week contract this year.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Anyone else in the Perth region would not be in your league—is that right—in what you do?

Mr Norton : Anyone nationally is not in STRUT's league, with what we do.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Apart from Dancenorth.

Mr Norton : Dancenorth do not do the same kinds of programs that we do. I just want to make that clear for the record. Thank you.

Mr Beach : Dancenorth is more similar to Co3 in terms of structure.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Bearing in mind that there are limited funds in the arts sector generally, you are happy that there is the critical mass here? Your organisation has just started, but you say you are a combination of two previous ones.

Mr Beach : Yes. The existence of Co3 comes from, as I said earlier, extensive stakeholder and community consultation to give Western Australia this company. The research has shown there is a growing audience for contemporary dance works here in Western Australia.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You are principally funded by the state government?

Mr Beach : Yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Which is a Ministry for the Arts funding arrangement?

Mr Beach : Yes. The funding levels that the previous companies had have been brought forward to encourage an efficiency. We are a result of good budget use. Rather than having to smaller companies, we have one big one.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I am sure that is very important. Do you get Australia Council funding?

Mr Beach : Not yet. This is the first year that we would have had an opportunity to seek Australia Council funding.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Did any of your previous iterations—

Mr Beach : Buzz enjoyed—Felicity was the artistic director—Australia Council funding until 2011.

Ms Bott : Key organisation funding.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: What happened in 2011 to cause it to miss out?

Mr Beach : It is a competitive process.

Ms Bott : It is a competitive process. I left the company in 2009, but for part of the benchmarking, the rigor that we were discussing earlier, Buzz Dance Theatre unfortunately failed to pass the test.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: What happened to the organisation that it missed out in funding in 2011?

Mr Beach : It shrunk down to only working in the state; no national touring. The length of the dancer contracts would probably have halved. I am not sure of the exact figure.

Ms Bott : Yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Mr Norton, you go overseas. Dare I raise this at this moment: when politicians travel overseas, the world can see where they have stayed, how they flew and what they did. Is any international travel that you do available for anyone to see?

Mr Norton : Absolutely. I can see where this is heading. We apply for—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: It is heading nowhere; it is finished!

Mr Norton : We applied for a certain amount of money from the Department of Culture and the Arts to prepare STRUT for the next triennium. The department was very excited about the program that we were putting in place and said, 'We can see what's going to happen between 2014 to 2016. Mr Norton, will you please put in your budget what you are going to be doing in 2017 to 2019 and how you are going to take care of that process?' So we allocated a certain amount of funding to that and I spent it doing what I said: bringing back incredible international organisations; world's best practice.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I am sure you spent it. My question was: can I see how you spent it?

Mr Norton : Yes, you can, Senator.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Not that I want to. You are aware of the new program. One of its focuses is to export Australian art and look at new areas that will fit in with what you are already doing.

Mr Norton : As you said: export. We are really importing at the moment. At the moment we are bringing in those international methodologies and trainings and alignments of programs to Australia with the hope of a return. Internationally, export wise, we are setting up an arrangement with six international choreographic centres around the world, in New York, Canada, Tel Aviv, Singapore and the Netherlands, with an international exchange program which will be a consortium, and that will be something that we might approach the NPEA for.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: That is the point I was getting to. I do not have in front of me, but I know the NPEA is about exporting Australian art, but I suspect it is also about importing. Perhaps you should be applying to that for a grant.

Mr Norton : If there were clarity around that in the new guidelines, we will certainly be looking at that.

CHAIR: Thank you very much for your time today and your contribution to the arts sector of Australia.

Proceedi ngs suspended from 15:49 to 15:59