Press Release from the CPSU

The CPSU is demanding the Government provide financial relief to Australia’s national cultural institutions to stop more job losses and program cuts.

Staff at Australia’s key cultural institutions are warning they’re at breaking point and can’t afford to take another cut in next week’s Federal Budget.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said decades of the so-called efficiency dividend had already hit cultural institutions hard. The Government’s broken election promise not to increase the efficiency dividend has come as another blow to the organisations charged with preserving Australian history and culture.

“We are receiving reports of job losses and cuts to cultural programs, most recently at the National Gallery, and this is before the latest Government funding cuts kick in,” Ms Flood said.

“The latest cuts at the National Gallery mean that exhibitions will be reduced from 12 to five, and there will be cuts to the travelling exhibitions that keep Australians outside the capital cities in touch with their culture.

“Twenty years of budget cuts have left the gallery and other cultural institutions slashed to the bone, and they are finding it harder and harder to do their job of protecting our history and culture.”

Today, representatives from cultural institutions including the Australian War Memorial, National Archives, National Library, National Museum, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, National Gallery and the National Maritime Museum will meet at a CPSU forum to discuss how to convince Government that Australia's cultural institutions matter, and to show that funding cuts just don't work.

CPSU forum to discuss the issues

Funding pressures have led to job losses, and reduced services and programs. Announced in the last six months:

  • Approximately 8% of jobs cut at the National Gallery, exhibitions to be reduced from 12 to five, travelling exhibitions to regional, rural and remote Australia will only occur where specific funding for them is received and permanent collection rotation will be reduced
  • 5.4% of jobs cut at the National Museum
  • 3.4% of jobs cut at the National Library
  • 30% of jobs cut at Heritage (part of DEWSPAC) from July
  • A proposed 5.3% job cut and fleet vessels at risk at the National Maritime Museum
  • 30% of jobs at AIATSIS have been given a six month reprieve. For more information on AIATSIS click here
  • National Archives reading rooms at risk for regional users
  • Last minute reprieve for the War Memorial’s Anzac Day commemoration
  • Exhibition and preservation space shortages at the National Archives and Library

The compounding nature of the Government’s so-called efficiency dividend means things like exhibitions, opening hours and staff are the only things left to be cut.

The repeated cuts have meant a greater percentage of cultural institutions’ funds must go to the business of preserving their collections.

For instance in 2004/05 the Australian War Memorial spent 31.41% of its Government funding on maintaining its historical collections. In 2009/10 that figure increased to 54.79%. It is a similar story for the National Gallery of Australia which spent 38.17% to maintain its collection in 2004/05 and in 2009/10 was forced to allocate 54.87% of its Government funding on the same maintenance.

“The National Gallery is a world class venue with world class exhibitions that all Australians can be proud of. What the public needs to know is that if this funding drain continues, our ability to offer such a varied and exciting exhibition program will be compromised too. Regional audiences will see fewer NGA exhibitions. How much more of its heritage does Australia want to risk?” National Gallery of Australia union delegate Gillian Currie said.

“At National Archives Australia we are becoming concerned about our ability to identify, maintain and make accessible our nation's documentary history now that we all live in a digital world. We’re facing yet another 1.5% cut to our budget but we can’t cut 1.5% of shelving, or 1.5% of air conditioning or 1.5% of computer servers.

“The Government continues to knock back our requests to fund the ‘new’ digital capabilities we need to do our job.

“Any new cut to our funding means we have to do less of what Parliament and the people of Australia require of us,” National Archives Australia union delegate David Hearder said.

“Most cultural institutions are in the Prime Minister’s portfolio. We are calling on the Prime Minister and other Ministers responsible for cultural institutions to put an end to funding and program cuts that are affecting our national icons,” Ms Flood said.

Action on AIATSIS

If you would like to support the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies campaign for better funding for programs please send an online letter to the Minister. Even, if you are not a part of the CPSU NATSIC network you can click here to be part of the online campaign.

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