Some A$300,000 (£168,000/€192,000/$233,000) will be set aside each year by Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) government to address “gaps” in arts services in the region.

The announcement follows the publication of a major review of the sector’s funding processes, by Create NSW, which was commissioned to “determine what services the NSW Government should support in the future and what might be the best models and options for future service delivery to the arts and cultural sector”.

Create NSW surveyed 702 artists, arts organisations, and staff and conducted interviews with the leaders of 19 service organisations it funds.

The recommended six key areas for action make arts organisations more effective, including the development of more digital resources and a greater capacity for associations to manage, produce and market their work.

It also said the state should work on improving connections to promote collaboration on career development pathways, mentoring, entrepreneurship and business development for NSW artists and arts organisations, as well as forming better engagement with First Nations artists, arts organisations and communities.

The report highlighted the need for more targeted support for organisations and practitioners in the government’s priority areas as Western Sydney and regional NSW, and urged the region to find more working and rehearsing spaces.

Despite the majority of the survey taking place in March 2020, before the devastating impact of COVID-19 took hold of the sector, 61 per cent of artists still said it was harder to earn a living from their creative practice compared to five years before, and arts organisations were finding it more difficult to operate in the same timeframe.

It found that associations, such as contemporary music groups such as APRA/Sounds Australia and Music NSW, played integral roles in building up their respective sectors by providing networking, mentoring, touring, marketing, building entrepreneurship and royalty streams, brokering partnerships and professional advice and expertise on legal, financial, marketing and technology aspects.

Penelope Benton, the acting chief executive of the National Association for Visual Arts Funding said: “Each year, NAVA responds to over 400 requests per month for advice from artists, arts organisations and others in the arts sector. Demand continues to grow for our professional development and advocacy work – most acutely in NSW, where 48 per cent of our record-high membership is based.

“I really welcome the results of this timely review and endorse the six recommendations made. The report and recommendations acknowledge the current contribution of service organisations, which is an important step to getting a better understanding of the challenges we face as a sector.”

In 2020, Create NSW funded 20 service organisations, including Band Association NSW, Theatre Network NSW, Diversity Arts Australia, WestWords and Playwriting Australia.

However, last week, several peak arts bodies spoke during a parliamentary hearing to discuss the adequacy, integrity, and lack of transparency of the government’s arts funding process. The publication of the Create NSW report was requested by the inquiry’s chairman Greens MP, David Shoebridge.

Image: David Joyce/CC BY-SA 2.0/Edited for size