Australia’s national collecting institutions are set to receive a significant boost in funding with a half-billion dollar package over the next four years to address the years of underfunding in the cultural sector. The announcement by Arts Minister Tony Burke and Finance Minister Katy Gallagher comes as a financial lifeline to beleaguered institutions such as the National Gallery of Australia, the National Library of Australia, and the National Museum of Australia.
The cultural sector in Australia has been facing a decade of decline, with chronic underfunding being one of the main reasons behind the disrepair and neglect experienced by the country’s most cherished cultural and historical institutions. The forthcoming federal budget is set to restore national pride in these institutions and put them back on the path to financial sustainability.
The National Library of Australia, one of the major beneficiaries of the funding package, is set to receive a $33m bailout for its endangered archives, which comprise more than 6 billion records of newspapers, journals, books, pictures, maps, and other documents. The library will also receive a further $31m for capital works over the next two financial years, $11.7m to pay for storage costs over the next four years, and $70.5m in recurrent funding from 2023 to 2027. The total funding package for the National Library of Australia will be $146.2m, with a further $31.3m in annual ongoing indexed funding after 2026/2027.
The National Gallery of Australia, facing a dire financial position in recent months, will also benefit significantly from the funding package. The gallery has said it needs around $265m over the next decade to pay for urgent repairs to make the 40-year-old building suitable. One-off government grants totalling almost $22m for repairs were scheduled to run out at the end of the financial year. However, the May budget is set to deliver an additional $42.4m for capital works between 2023 and 2025, along with $76.7m over four years to ensure the gallery’s financial sustainability.
Other institutions that will benefit from the funding package include the National Museum of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of Australian Democracy, the National Archives and the National Film and Sound Archive, the Australian National Maritime Museum Sydney and the Bundanon Trust in Shoalhaven. These institutions will share the $535m allocation, with $38m in new money from the previous budget.
The funding package addresses the decline and chronic underfunding that these institutions have experienced over the past decade under previous Coalition governments. A clear line of sight over future capital works undertaken at the country’s nine major collecting institutions will be established to prevent a recurrence of disrepair.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has emphasized the significance of these institutions, stating that they preserve, protect, and celebrate Australia’s stories and history. He added that the government is committed to preserving, protecting, and celebrating them and that strong core funding delivered by the government will place the country’s leading cultural institutions in a position to attract greater philanthropy further down the track.
Arts Minister Tony Burke has highlighted the significance of the funding, stating that people can go to places like the National Gallery of Australia and enjoy the exhibits without worrying about the physical integrity of the building that’s housing them. He added that it is a disgrace that the former Coalition government allowed these institutions to fall into such a shocking state of disrepair.
In conclusion, the funding package for Australia’s national collecting institutions is a significant step towards restoring national pride in these institutions and putting them back on the path to financial sustainability.