Australia Promised Arts Organizations $60 Million in Relief Six Months Ago. Many Say They Haven’t Received a Cent

Arts organizations now worry they'll have to wait until 2021.

Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher speaks during a press conference following a tour of the Sydney Coliseum Theatre at West HQ on June 25, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Matt Blyth/Getty Images.

Arts organizations in Australia are still waiting to receive roughly $60 million in relief funds first promised by the government six months ago.

In June, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a $250 million support program for arts and cultural organizations called the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand, or RISE, fund. 

Last month, following numerous public inquiries into why those grants had not yet been dispersed, the minister for communications, cyber safety, and the arts, Paul Fletcher, said that the first tranche of $60 million would “begin to flow immediately.”

But a month has passed since then and many approved organizations are still awaiting that money, the Guardian Australia reports. Now, it looks as though they’ll have to wait until 2021.

“It’s all been very weird, and there’s a lack of communication,” one anonymous arts administrator told the paper. “We found out more than a month ago… but we’ve only just received the contract this week. We have to assume we won’t be seeing any money until next year.”

$34 million in RISE grant funding will go to non-profits, Fletcher announced last month, while $26 million will go to commercial enterprises. “My message to Australia’s artists and performers, to backstage crew, to everyone in the arts and entertainment sector, is—we want you back out there doing what you do best, and RISE is going to really help that happen,” he said in a statement at the time.

Since then, Fletcher’s office has identified roughly half of the 115 projects that have been approved for the RISE grants, which range from $50,000 to $2 million each. Of the representatives from those organizations that spoke to the Guardian, none had seen a cent. 

Governmental bodies are required by law to publicize all grants within 21 days of being awarded. No grants from the arts ministry currently appear on the Australian government’s official Grant Award website.

Fletcher’s office did not respond to a request for comment. A representative from the ministry told the Guardian that a full list of grant recipients would be shared this week.

In addition to the grants, the RISE fund includes $90 million in concessional loans; $35 million in funding to “significant commonwealth-funded arts and culture organizations,” such as theaters and dance companies; and $50 million to film productions.

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