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Is regional arts next on Labor's razor gang agenda?

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THE HON. DR SHARMAN STONE MP Shadow Minister for Environment, Heritage and the Arts Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs Federal Member for Murray


Friday, 28 March 2008

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Is Regional Arts next on Labor’s razor gang agenda?

Shadow Minister for Environment, Heritage, the Arts and Indigenous Affairs, Dr Sharman Stone, has urged Labor to support Regional Arts Australia’s push for a continuation of funding in this year’s budget.

Dr Stone said Labor must not cut funding to this valuable programme.

“Regional Arts Australia operates on just three per cent of the overall Arts budget each year, yet it represents 36 per cent of the Australian population and over 80 per cent of the total land area. Regional Arts Australia is the largest body representing rural and regional artists in Australia.

“Regional Arts Australia engages in partnerships with rural and regional groups to ensure they have access to the expertise of major companies. One such partnership with the Brewarrina Youth Circus set out to increase school attendance rates in this rural community.

“Another collaboration between Regional Arts Australia and Arts NT has enabled a central Australian poet and playwright to perform at the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne. This partnership enhanced the artist’s knowledge of the Arts community in a major city, and at the same time encouraged growth in the Arts sector in Alice Springs.

Dr Stone said Labor’s track record on Arts funding and in their cuts to rural and regional funding programmes so far did not give her too much cause for hope.

“Labor has cut almost $40 million from Arts budgets since coming to office just 120 days ago. As a result of their 2 per cent efficiency dividend, rural and regional touring programmes for the Opera, Ballet, Art Gallery and National Museum have been cut. This is combined with over $150

million in cuts to rural assistance grants and rural education assistance, especially to assist families dealing with the worst drought on record and adapting their operations to climate change.

“By cutting rural and regional touring programmes, interaction with professional performances is limited to those who have access to the major capital cities. Rural and regional Australia should not be made the scapegoat for this Government’s cost cutting obsession

“Cutting regional touring programmes will only discourage those rural and regional based Australians from a career in the Arts. Regional Arts Australia must be funded beyond this year to build on the good work it has already done in providing practical, on the ground performances and project assistance to rural and regional communities.08