Last Dancer’s last blast at Fed arts funding: Strain made me sick

As he nears the end of his tenure Queensland Ballet’s outgoing artistic director Li Cunxin has fired a broadside at Federal arts funding calling for parity for Queensland’s vibrant arts sector and suggesting the lack of it has literally made him sick.

Nov 06, 2023, updated Feb 29, 2024

Queensland Ballet’s Artistic Director Li Cunxin has used a recent company tour to Canberra to highlight the lack of Federal Government Funding for Queensland arts companies.

Just back from Canberra where the company staged the ballet A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mr Li labelled the current system outdated.

He even went so far as to suggest the lack of Federal support despite years of advocacy for funding parity between States and Territories, and his relentless pursuit of a sustainable world class ballet company in Queensland, had contributed to his ill health. He is retiring at the end of the year due to his health problems.

His parting shot is a call for a fair distribution of Federal funding for the Arts in general, in particular for  Queensland arts and arts training organisations.

“Queenslanders, particularly young Queenslanders, should not be disadvantaged because of old funding model or lack of transparency regarding how to access Federal funding opportunities,” Mr Li says.

“There are five dance companies in Australia.  Despite growing to being the second largest of the five, Queensland Ballet receives the least funding from the Federal Government, even though Queenslanders make up 20% of the population.

“Over the years, this disparity has placed the company at a huge financial disadvantage compared to our peers in other States. We are fortunate that our philanthropic and corporate partners have leapt to the challenge, sharing our vision for Queensland.

“That’s come at a cost, and for me personally, I have no doubt it has contributed to the decline in my health as I have been single-mindedly stubborn in my belief that Queenslanders should not be disadvantaged.

“The Queensland Ballet Academy also receives no funding from Federal government which funds similar elite training organisations in New South Wales and Victoria annually.

Recently, the Federal Government announced additional support for these organisations in NSW and VIC due to the impact of the global pandemic which is certainly deserved, but no funding was provided to Queensland organisations.

”Over the years, this lack of parity disadvantages over our company, academy and Queenslanders. It means we work harder to sustain jobs and opportunities for artists and arts workers, especially young people seeking pathways, because we believe Queensland deserves the same vibrancy that other States enjoy”.

Mr Li has lifted Queensland Ballet to new heights during his tenure, delivering unprecedented growth that could stand the Company in strong stead for years to come.

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“I feel a deep sense of responsibility to protect the legacy of the last 11 years of incredible impact and progress this company has achieved, and most importantly to ensure these programs, performances and talented people can continue to survive and thrive well into the future,” Mr Li says.

“The QB team and I have worked hard, hoping our achievements would be recognised and the Federal funding parity would follow, but in fact I think it has had the opposite effect, and this has ultimately taken a toll. If we had cut our cloth to fit our Federal funding grant, we would not be the Company we are today.

“In the absence of parity, we have asked our philanthropic community to carry more than its share and this is neither fair nor sustainable. In 2022, 2.8% of QB’s income is attributable to our Federal funding with 42% of our revenue generated from philanthropic sources.  Whilst inspirational, this buffering from donors and partners is not a sustainable approach to secure the long-term future of the company.”

He said the matter needs urgent consideration to ensure the arts in Queensland can continue to thrive and excel for generations to come.

 “Queensland Ballet has successfully supported jobs for artists, arts workers and ancillary functions including hospitality, against all the odds.  We have inspired over $135 million in private and public funding for significant infrastructure including QB Academy at Kelvin Grove, Thomas Dixon Centre at West End and our Roy and Nola Thompson Production Centre in Yatala.

 “We have contributed to the growth of the culture of philanthropy and corporate sponsorship in Queensland, and we have developed ballet not only as an artform and a viable career for young dancers, but also as a vehicle for wellbeing through our Health and Community Programs. We are much loved and respected by Queensland’s taxpayers and our peers around the world.

 A letter outlining these concerns has been sent to the Federal Government.

This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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