Half of the Federal Government’s $200million RISE funding remains unspent

The RISE initiative was first announced in June 2020 with $75million in grants

According to Tony Burke, Shadow Minister for the Arts, the Morrison Government has only delivered half of the funding it’s promised to help salvage Australia’s struggling arts and entertainment industries.

ArtsHub reports that Burke announced the figures in a statement on Tuesday (July 20), revealing that in over a year since the Government’s RISE (Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand) initiative was first announced, its rollout has been far from adequate.

“13 months ago Scott Morrison and Paul Fletcher enlisted celebrities for a photo opportunity to announce the RISE grants to help get arts and entertainment organisations through the pandemic,” Burke said. “Now – more than a year on – Minister Fletcher has confirmed only $100 million of the promised $200 million has actually been spent.”

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Burke also criticised the Government’s lag in issuing its first phase of arts recovery funding, adding: “It took more than 100 days for the Morrison government to respond to the desperate calls from the sector for help. It’s been nearly 400 days since he gave his press conference.”

Following months of formal requests, the RISE program was first announced by the Federal Government in June of 2020. It came as part of a $250million relief package for the arts industry, with $75million in grants to provide capital for new festivals, concerts, tours and events (initially exclusive to organisations in Victoria).

A rundown of guidelines for the funding was later published that August, however as ArtsHub noted in their report yesterday (July 21), the first portion of RISE funds – comprising $20million spread across 48 projects – were not issued until last November.

A further $2million was issued in December to fund two organisations – Dark Mofo and La Boite Theatre Company – with the most recent two waves landing in April (at $6.8million between 29 orgs) and May (at $25million between 66) of 2021.

The Government announced this May that RISE would receive an additional $125million over two years, however no additional news of monetary distribution has been offered.

As Burke continued in his statement earlier this week, recent lockdowns imposed by a surge in cases of COVID-19 have added to the stress faced by Australia’s arts industry. Restrictions in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia – plus hard border closures in other states – have meant a slew of tours, festivals and other events have been either put on ice or outright cancelled.

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“With 13 million Australians back in lockdown because of the government’s failures on quarantine and vaccinations, the live entertainment sector has once again been plunged into crisis,” Burke said. “Festivals, concerts and theatre shows are being cancelled by the dozen.

“The government has also ignored calls to establish a national COVID-19 insurance scheme for the arts, entertainment and events industry. That failure means many of the businesses cancelling their events will now be assessing whether or not they can survive to the other end of these lockdowns.”

Burke ended his statement with dour expectations for the Morrison Government potentially supporting the arts and entertainment industry further, stating it “clearly has no plan to give extra help despite the devastating impact of new lockdowns”.

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