One of the priorities of Arts Queensland is to work with the arts and cultural sector to increase the flow of Australia Council funding to Queensland. In 2012-13, Queensland applicants had almost the same success rate as other applicants (Qld 25% cf. national average 28%) but the proportion of applications from Queensland was 12% which is less than our population share of 20%. As a result, Queensland applications were only 11% of the total approved and only 14% of the total funding went to Queensland applicants.

Visual arts, Inter-Arts and Literature had the lowest Queensland application rates with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts, Community Partnerships, Key Organisations and Theatre having the best Queensland application rates. Of those, only ATSIA applications had a percentage of 20% or more but when it’s noted that Queensland has 28% of the Indigenous population, at 25%, Queensland applications are still less than our Indigenous population share.

The lowest success rate was for Inter-Arts, Dance, Arts Funding Directorate and Theatre. The highest success rate was for Key Organisations, Market and Audience Development, Community Partnerships and Literature.

Arts Queensland has undertaken a number of strategies to try and increase the application rate from Queensland. The Grant Support Officer’s resource email lists the Australia Council Grant rounds closing soon and any other Australia Council funding initiatives. Funding information sessions have referred participants to Australia Council grant programs and two sessions with an Australia Council officer were hosted by Arts Queensland were held at the Judith Wright Centre for Contemporary Arts in February and March 2014.

Although the low numbers of applications appears to be the main reason for the low success rate, the recent changes at the Australia Council may address the perception of a bias against Queensland applicants. A new Australia Council Act 2013 replaced the Council with a skills-based board which has the power to appoint peers who will assess the applications. Earlier this year, the Australia Council ran an expression of interest process and it has now appointed over 800 peers. From that pool, peers will be selected to assess grant rounds so a more diverse group of people will now be involved in determining who is funded.

Expressions of interest to be included in the pool can be made at any time so Queensland artists are encouraged to apply. While assessing grants involves a significant investment of time, it can be an invaluable professional development opportunity. Seeing a range of applications and how they are assessed gives artists insight into the assessment process and knowledge of the work being undertaken by artists all over Australia. The more people in the pool who are familiar with Queensland applicants and their work, the more likely a Queensland supportive voice will be heard in the decision making. Australia Council is also undertaking a review of its funding programs and it expects to have the new funding program in place in 2015 which aims to simplify and reduce the number of funding categories and selection criteria.

Arts Queensland is interested to know what barriers Queensland artists and arts organisations face in making applications to the Australia Council and if there any practical steps we can take to improve the number of applications. You are welcome to let us know by posting comments to this post or by emailing or telephone 07 303 44077.