JOINT MEDIA RELEASE
Senator the Hon Richard Alston
Minister for Communications, Information
Technology and the Arts
Senator the Hon Rod Kemp
Minister for the Arts and Sport
Review of Cultural Agencies-encouraging best practice
The Commonwealth Government's Review of Cultural Agencies has made several recommendations designed to help the national cultural agencies continue to pursue best practice across their operations.
The Review, which reported to Government in the 2003-04 Budget context, was an opportunity to reflect on current operational practices and emerging issues for the cultural agencies.
The Government has accepted the Review's recommendations, which include:
- enhanced collaboration between agencies on common services and cultural pursuits to build on existing skills and achievements;
- improved funding arrangements for the preservation of the national collections to safeguard these rich and diverse collections for future generations;
- ongoing funding for the Bundanon Trust to ensure the future of Arthur Boyd's gift to the nation as a living arts centre;
- increased funding for the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) to support the ongoing operations of its new facilities;
- continuation of current arrangements for entry fees to agencies' cultural exhibitions;
- the transfer of Questacon to the Education, Science and Training portfolio to build on excellent achievements in science communication and education; and
- integrating ScreenSound Australia and the Australian Film Commission to provide national leadership in enhancing access to and understanding of audiovisual culture and links between ScreenSound's extensive collections and the Australian audiovisual industry.
Australia's national cultural agencies are an important part of our vibrant arts and cultural sector and the Review has recognised the critical role they play in supporting Australia's cultural life.
The Review's recommendations provide a strong foundation to assist agencies to maintain existing high standards in meeting their cultural and business objectives now and into the future.
Further information on the Review's recommendations is in the attached background paper.
Media contact: Simon Troeth, Senator Alston's office 02 6277 7480 or 0439 425 373
Richard Wise, Senator Kemp's office 02 6277 7350 or 0438 204 554
13 May 2003
Agencies in scope
The Review aimed to identify opportunities for strengthening networks and partnerships between the agencies both in relation to operational and cultural activities. The agencies included:
Australia Business Arts Foundation
Australian Film Commission
Australian Film, Television and Radio School
Australian National Maritime Museum
Film Australia Ltd
Film Finance Corporation Australia
National Archives of Australia
National Gallery of Australia
National Library of Australia
National Museum of Australia
The Review also had relevance for Old Parliament House, National Portrait Gallery, Questacon and ScreenSound Australia, which are part of the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts.
In addition, the Review considered the long-term funding and governance arrangements of the Bundanon Trust and the National Institute for Dramatic Art.
Common services and activities
The Review found cultural agencies compare favourably to best practice benchmarks for both corporate and operational activities.
Following consultation with the agencies, the Review recommended a range of collaborative initiatives across the cultural agencies designed to help agencies meet potential funding pressures in the future, including:
- strategic assessment of collection storage;
- development of a digitisation policy for the collecting institutions;
- detailed assessment of the potential for sharing conservation services; and
- a procurement profiling exercise aiming to achieve economies of scale.
The agencies will report regularly on these and other collaborative activities and continuously benchmark their performance in administrative, corporate and other common services.
Improved depreciation and preservation funding arrangements for the
There will be revised funding arrangements to provide the agencies with the
flexibility they need to provide essential long term care and maintenance of
the precious, extensive and diverse collections they hold.
The national collections are significant national assets and it is vital that these collections are preserved for the benefit of future generations.
The Review determined that preservation funding should meet the following criteria:
- flexible so that the agencies can meet their diverse preservation needs;
- appropriately resourced to ensure long-term preservation needs are met;
- consistent in application across agencies;
- transparent and accountable to Government; and
- predictable from a Commonwealth Budget perspective.
The current application of the commercial concept of depreciation does not cater for the special needs of the national collections.
Unlike consumable assets, the useful life of many items in the national collections is indefinite (if they are appropriately preserved) and they are expected to be preserved and utilised for cultural purposes for countless future generations.
Furthermore, depreciation does not always provide agencies with the ability to address the specific needs of the very diverse range of cultural material in the collections or to utilise the variety of techniques available for managing and preserving them.
Under the revised arrangements, cultural and heritage assets that are considered to have indefinite lives will have changed treatment whereby funding will be adjusted to ensure that the assets can be properly preserved.
The Government's Review of Cultural Agencies recommended that agencies review their accounting treatment of cultural and heritage assets in 2003-04. This is expected to result in decreased funding for depreciation of cultural and heritage assets. However any decrease in depreciation funding as a result of this review will be made available to agencies to expand preservation and conservation activities. As the new arrangements will improve expenditure flexibility for several collecting agencies and provide modest savings without affecting operations and service delivery there will be minor reductions to a small number of agencies. Overall, these reductions are $1.3 million in 2003-04 increasing to $2.2 million in 2006-07 and the out-years. This will fully offset the funding needs of the Bundanon Trust and NIDA, so that the overall financial implications of the Review are Budget neutral.
The reductions apply to those agencies that currently depreciate cultural and heritage assets with indefinite lives and reflect the relative benefits of the improved preservation arrangements.
Agencies affected by the reduction are:
National Archives of Australia
$605,000 in 2003-04 rising to $1,063,000 in 2006-07 and ongoing
National Gallery of Australia
$218,000 in 2003-04 rising to $383,000 in 2006-07 and ongoing
National Museum of Australia
$55,000 in 2003-04 rising to $97,000 in 2006-07 and ongoing
Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, specifically related to the operations of ScreenSound Australia and Old Parliament House
$371,000 in 2003-04 rising to $652,000 in 2006-07 and ongoing
Budget funding for Bundanon
The introduction of ongoing budget funding for the Bundanon Trust will overcome the financial difficulties the Trust has experienced in recent years.
As part of the Review, an independent report concluded that Bundanon would never be a self-sustaining enterprise. Funding of $2.4 million over four years for Bundanon in this Budget, together with draw-downs from the remainder of the Trust's investment fund, will cover operational and asset management costs of around $0.95 million each year.
This funding will ensure the future of this significant national cultural organisation-providing a living arts centre for the creation and presentation of visual arts, writing, music and other performing arts, and the promotion of education and research in the arts.
Increased funding for National Institute for Dramatic Art (NIDA)
The Government has increased funding for NIDA by $4.6 million over four years. This increase builds on the significant investment in NIDA's future made by the Government through a Major Federation Fund grant of $25 million for new facilities (Stage II).
The facilities provide opportunities for all students of acting, technical production, design and directing to train and work at a level and scale appropriate to the performing arts industry.
The additional funding will cover not only support for the building but also the associated programme enhancements made possible by the Stage II works.
This funding ensures the financial sustainability of NIDA as a national centre of excellence which provides elite training for young people to work in theatre, film and television.
Entry fees arrangements for cultural exhibitions
The Review endorsed the continuation of current arrangements which allow each agency to determine the entry fees for its exhibitions and related activities. There is a continuing international debate about the impact of entry fees on cultural objectives and it is important that Australia's cultural institutions are equipped to engage and inform this debate.
The Review found a significant lack of research into the impact of entry fees in Australia and recommended the national cultural institutions address this matter. The agencies will initiate a programme of visitor research and measurement of the cultural and commercial impacts of entry fee alternatives.
The research will enable the agencies to measure the impact of entry fee issues on delivery of their unique cultural objectives and will enable the development of an overall framework to inform agencies' future decisions on entry fee issues.
Questacon moves to Education, Science and Training portfolio
The Review concluded that there are significant synergies available from locating Questacon, the National Science and Technology Centre, within the Education, Science and Training portfolio.
Questacon has been a part of the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and its predecessors since the establishment of the National Science and Technology Centre in 1988. It has benefited from close links with the national collecting institutions which share a focus on education and access. The existing networks and links between Questacon and the other national cultural institutions will continue to be nurtured and maximised.
However, as Questacon's focus is on science education and communication, transfer to the Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) will further enhance linkages with the science and education sectors and increase opportunities for DEST and Questacon to work towards shared objectives.
ScreenSound Australia and Australian Film Commission integrated
The Review concluded that there would be significant advantages in integrating ScreenSound Australia and the Australian Film Commission (AFC).
The AFC is the Commonwealth's primary agency for supporting the development of film, television and interactive media projects and their creators. One of the AFC's key objectives is to support activities and events that provide the wider Australian community, including regional Australia, with access to Australian audiovisual product.
ScreenSound Australia, the National Screen and Sound Archive, is the national institution responsible for preserving, documenting and interpreting the Australian experience in audiovisual media.
The influence of audiovisual content on our culture is immense and growing. The synergies created by combining the resources of the AFC and ScreenSound Australia will provide national leadership in enhancing access to and understanding of audiovisual culture and also enhance their current educational and exhibition activities.
Combining ScreenSound Australia's extensive collection in both sound and screen material with the AFC's ability to support national exhibition programmes will ensure that more Australians than ever are able to enjoy and learn from ScreenSound's unique resource.