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What you know not what you do

7/04/2017
Some of you may have seen that the Minister for Communications has announced the demise of the Catalyst Australian Arts and Culture Fund.

‘The Government has announced that the majority of funds from Catalyst will be transferred to the Australia Council from 1 July 2017.’

First my declaration. Your scribe is an independent assessor for this program. And it’s a (tiny $) paid gig.

The background is that a previous Minister for the Arts carved out some funding for projects not typically funded by the Australia Council; the established federal government funding body for the arts.  
 
The Arts sector  hated it, as evidenced by unending media comment. It was a slush fund the sector said. Existing funded arts bodies could miss out on funding and go to the wall, they said. It seems they shouted loudly enough to get the money returned to the Australia Council. Or perhaps the additional administrative effort for the department was too great.
 
The process for Catalyst is:
  • Department of Communications (Arts area) runs the process using smartygrants.com.au
  • There are 2 independent assessors plus a departmental assessor for each application
  • Divergence of assessor scores results in a discussion amongst assessors, facilitated by departmental staff
  • Recommendations made to the Minister and recipients announced - - https://www.arts.gov.au/funding-and-support/catalyst-australian-arts-and-culture-fund
Competition for funding is intense. Applications range from ‘are you having a lend of me’ to exceptional proposals. There is not a lot of money available relative to demand so that those projects that get funded (in my experience) involve an excellent application, have a good business plan, have an innovative/worthy aim with skilled and experienced personnel involved, financial and artistic partners lined up and the ability to implement. 
 
Why did I apply to become an assessor when it was advertised on the WOB website? Here are some reasons why I might have applied:
  • I am an art lover – pictures mainly
  • The WOB / TAP IWD Art prize was an example of my involvement in the arts sector
  • It’s something I have not specifically done before
  • I am sceptical of establishments and support alternate sources of supply
  • I have some appropriate attributes to be a good assessor
I must have written a convincing story of my non arts abilities given my arts credentials are a bit thin!   Not for me, ten years as the arts critic for a major media outlet; or many years on the board of a struggling / successful arts body.  
 
It’s been an interesting exercise being an assessor.  I have gained enlightenment about what goes on in the arts sector. I am a better informed and wiser person.
 
But for you dear reader I hope it suggests that it’s possible to craft a good application if you think more laterally about what you have to offer.
 
As we say at the Getting Started workshop - ‘It’s what you understand not what you know’ 
 
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