Last week the Albanese Labor Government announced funding of more than $3.42 million for performing arts education programs in schools.
This investment is divided between four projects designed to increase arts education and participation, and ‘inspire the next generation of performers and creatives’.
Significantly, all four projects and the organisations that run them, are established and ongoing. All four have a track record of reaching students and teachers, not only in urban areas, but with a special focus on regional and remote learners. Professional development of teachers and mentors is at the centre of all four programs.
The funded projects include:
- Bell Shakespeare – receives $1.5 million over four years to continue its National Education Program, which reaches more than 80,000 students and teachers across the country annually. The program includes live theatre performances, professional development opportunities for teachers – including a regional teacher mentorship program – and resources for classrooms.
- Australian Youth Orchestra – $1.1 million over four years to support the Orchestra’s National Music Teachers Mentoring Program, enabling experienced music teachers to share their expertise with generalist classroom teachers, and thereby ensure students have access to quality music teaching in Australian schools.
- The Song Room – $500,000 to provide disadvantaged schools with more teaching artists, resources and materials, to inspire learning across art forms, with a particular focus on music, and fostering personal and creative development in students.
- Poetry in Action – $320,000 to bring poetry, theatre and spoken word productions to schools across every state and territory – including in regional and remote locations – building young people’s confidence with language.
In the official announcement on 13 July, Minister for the Arts, Tony Burke, said the funding opens the door for thousands of Australian kids to engage with a range of art forms.
‘Arts and culture belong to everyone – no matter where you live, where you go to school or your background,’ Burke said.
‘By providing access to quality teaching, materials and experiences, this funding will give more young Australians the opportunity to develop a love for the arts.
‘That’s absolutely central to Revive – Australia’s new National Cultural Policy – ensuring there’s a place for every story and a story for every place.’
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Ongoing investment and new boosts
For an organisation like the Australian Youth Orchestra (AYO), the funding is an ongoing investment in its National Music Teacher Mentoring Program, ensuring a further four years of the program.
Kimbali Harding, CEO of the Australian Youth Orchestra, said (on the AYO website), ‘The Federal Government has supported the program since it was established in 2015 through the vision of founder and inspirational musician and educator, the late Richard Gill AO. We are grateful for this continued support, as we strive to ensure all Australian children have access to high-quality music education.’
Joanna Erskine, Head of Education at Bell Shakespeare, wrote to ArtsHub:
‘We are thrilled to have this funding reinstated, allowing us to continue to support students and teachers across Australia in a variety of ways. Our national education program includes live performances, professional development for teachers – including our renowned Regional Teacher Mentorship – workshops, scholarships, Artist in Residence programs and digital resources, all of which ensure Australian students have arts-rich learning embedded in their school experience.’
For a smaller and less well-known organisation like Poetry in Action (PIA) – an innovative theatre company that creates performances based on poetry to communicate with audiences – the funding is more of a surprising and extremely welcome boost.
Writing to ArtsHub, Agnes Ored, senior associate producer with Poetry in Action, said the company had not previously had any recurrent state or federal funding.
‘The recent $320,000 received from the Federal Government will allow Poetry In Action to bolster and expand its vital education program – a diverse program which, pre-COVID, reached more than 85,000 young people a year, improving their self-expression and giving them access to the arts. This reach is essential in remote and rural areas where our education shows could be the only piece of theatre they’ll gain access to in any given year. Our program is specifically designed to improve students’ understanding of content within the English curriculum, along with resources for teachers to support them in teaching poetry.
‘With this new funding, PIA will not only be able to rebuild to pre-COVID audience levels, but also expand into new horizons including exciting mainstage works, continuing to help more people in Australia gain access to the wonderful art of poetry and theatre.’
The Song Room is an educational organisation that works with kids and teachers across music, drama, visual arts, media arts and dance. It claims that, since its inception 24 years ago, it has benefited more than 450,000 young Australians, especially those in remote and disadvantaged schools.
When asked about the funding, Alice Gerlach, CEO of The Song Room, said to ArtsHub:
‘The Song Room is pleased to receive this significant boost from the Federal Government. This investment will be used with great impact to ensure that young people benefit from more than just the opportunity to participate in music and the arts at school – it will help them to grow their confidence, connect with their peers and develop as life-long learners.’