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Austrade Dances To A New Tune


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 themselves overseas.

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 today.