The Sydney Morning Herald
June 23 1999, Lauren Martin
A ground-breaking deal between the Sydney Dance Company and AusTrade has
opened up a vast new pool of resources for local arts companies to market
Austrade has been funding manufacturers’offshore deals since the mid-‘70s,
and for more than a decade now music acts marketing their CDs and film producers
licensing their reels have been eligible for the grants.
But only lately could performing arts companies seize the funding opportunity.
The gates theoretically opened for the arts in 1997, when legislation concerning
AusTrade was changed to allow “entertainment services” to be eligible for
the grant pool of $150 million a year.
In practice, however, it was tricky for AusTrade to adapt policies that were
fashioned for companies which made widgets to suit companies which made music,
theatre and dance.
The SDC was the first to apply under the new criteria, and the dancers became
the “test case” last year. With much patience, and guidance from export consultant
and lawyer Warren Cross, the SDC won a $60,000-plus export rebate grant from
AusTrade to fund its current European tour.
Since then, Austrade has developed a new arts and culture policy ruling (which
is still in the draft stages and not yet publicly available). But Cross calls
the new ruling innovative and says the trade body already is acting on it.
Belvoir Street’s Company B has just had a favourable policy
ruling from AusTrade to help tour Cloudstreet in Europe, Cross said.
And since the SDC application, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Adelaide Symphony
and Australian Dance Theatre have won AusTrade grants. An Australian Chamber
Orchestra application is now being processed and looks promising, he said.
It’s a crucial change, according to the SDC’s general manager, Leigh Small,
because the AusTrade policy change came soon after the Department of Foreign
Affairs and trade cut a $1 million fund to help overseas tours for arts companies.
Now AusTrade is releasing a splashy brochure, “Helping
arts and cultural organizations go international”, advising companies on getting
investment on a strictly commercial basis.
The Foreign Minister, Mr Downer, is urging arts companies to break into the
export market with AusTrade aid.
“I see considerable potential for [the] burgeoning industry – particularly
in areas such as radio and television services, museums, creative arts, and
music and theatre productions – to pursue a number of lucrative export opportunities,”
Mr Downer said.
His comments come on the eve of a Government launch of new international
arts initiatives – across-the-board and directly funded – in Canberra