After two Australia Council funding applications for our 2018 program were unsuccessful last year, the MJC was informed that a third application for 12 month funding (from May onwards) was also unsuccessful. This means that for the first time in 36 years the MJC will have no Federal funding support for our program (while our sister organisation, S.I.M.A. (Sydney Improvised Music Association) received $50,000 in the December round, when the success rate was 13.8%).
Obviously this overall funding situation is clearly a direct result of the significant shortfall in the A.C. budget after the $103.8 million cuts made by ex-Senator George Brandis (then-Minister for the Arts) in the 2015 Budget were only partially restored by his successor, Senator Mitch Fifield, with a promise of $80.2 million to be returned over 4 years from 2017-2018 (leaving a shortfall of at least $24 million).
There are numerous consequences of this result. Clearly, the most obvious one is that Melbourne’s contemporary jazz community will be receiving $50,000 less of Federal funding, and the only form of Federal funding support that benefits a very large proportion of that group of artists. Secondly, it will reduce the already part-time staffing infrastructure that the MJC provides in an under-resourced sector. Thirdly, this will adversely affect both national touring by jazz artists, and the development of a national jazz scene and style (all priorities of past A.C. Music Boards). The MJC’s support for large ensembles, new projects, emerging artists, and international and interstate artists will also be severely curtailed due to this result.
Over the past 35 years, the MJC has – alongside the Wangaratta Festival – consistently done much to foster and support the development of a national style of jazz (and a touring circuit) through the on-going presentation of more interstate groups and collaborations than any other presenter organisation in this country.
We have also presented international artists such as Wadada Leo Smith, Steve Lacy, Greg Osby and Stan Tracey in invaluable collaborations with Australian artists, as well as numerous expatriates.
The MJC has provided incredible value for each Federal funding dollar because of the commitment, voluntary work and in-kind support that we receive from both artists, staff and assistants.
Considering the large percentage of the Arts Council budget that goes to European heritage art forms (such as classical music, opera and ballet), it is perplexing that $50,000 cannot be found towards the support of so many presentations of original Australian music. The MJC will persevere through 2018 and beyond with State support, but this is a very sad indictment of how contemporary Australian jazz music (and Melbourne’s jazz scene) is currently valued by our Federal funding body.
If you wish to register your dissatisfaction with the Australia Council’s current funding levels, you can email Senator Mitch Fifleld, Minister for the Arts, via his website, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to 42 Florence Street, Mentone, 3194