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Invisible Arts: Scrapping of a Dedicated Federal Arts Department

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced last week that there will be a major restructure of the public service, and a reduction in the number of departments from 18 to 14 as of 1 February 2020.

This will include the amalgamation of the Department of Communication and Arts with the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development, with the new super-department to be renamed Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. Glaringly absent from the new title is any acknowledgement of ‘Arts’.

Making the announcement on Thursday 5 December, in the last sitting week of Federal Parliament, the Prime Minister said that “having fewer departments will allow us to bust bureaucratic congestion, improve decision-making and ultimately deliver better services for the Australian people.”

In a memo to staff, outgoing head of the department, Mike Mrdak, states that he was only told of the Government’s decision late the previous afternoon.

“We were not permitted any opportunity to provide advice on the Machinery of Government changes, nor were our views ever sought on any proposal …”

The omission of the Arts from the new department title has not gone unnoticed by writers, artists and other arts workers, who quickly took to social media to express their shock and dismay.

Esther Anatolitis, Executive Director of the National Association for the Visual Arts, and a guest speaker at this year’s Writing WA’s Writing and Publishing Forum, told SBS News: “We would expect government at the highest level to reflect what makes us who we are and where we see our future as Australians. That makes this step of removing the name of the arts ministry a massive backwards step culturally for Australia.”

Writing WA shares these concerns and joins with NAVA in encouraging our members and stakeholders to participate in the discussion using #invisiblearts and let your local members know what the national visibility of the arts means to you.

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