The CALD Front: Funding for Culturally Diverse Music

By Brent Keogh Published in Music Forum magazine, Vol 19 Issue 1 (November 2012)

Multiculturalism has been conceptually important to Australian notions of identity since the term was first used by the Minister for Immigration, Al Grassby, in 1973 (Koleth, 2010). However, whilst the cultural, religious and linguistic diversity of Australia has often been lauded as some of this country’s most appealing characteristics[1], a question being asked presently by many artists is how is this value for diversity reflected in the allocation of arts funding in contemporary Australia? The following article considers this question as it pertains to the diverse musical disciplines that exist in Australia. Here, the allocation of Government funding for diverse musical disciplines is considered. These disciplines normally fall outside those of Western Art music, jazz, pop/rock - disciplines that are often associated within the discourse of ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘Culturally and Linguistically Diverse’ (hereafter referred to as CALD) at Government level, or ‘world music’ within music industry parlance.

The terms ‘multiculturalism,’ ‘world music’ and ‘CALD’ have been highly contentious in a range of discursive contexts. They have been criticised amongst other things for creating unhelpful distinctions of otherness, in which cultural essentialisms reduce diversities and complexities into singular, manageable clichés (Feld 2000; Brennan 2001). Despite these problems, terms such as ‘CALD’ continue to enjoy currency in the articulation of government policy for these musical disciplines. For example, the Supreme Court of Western Australia has defined the term CALD in the following way:

The term “culturally and linguistically diverse” is generally used to refer to groups and individuals who differ according to religion, race, language and ethnicity — except for those whose ancestry is Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Celtic, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander…For convenience, “CALD” is commonly used as an abbreviation for “culturally and linguistically diverse.”[2]

As per the above definition, this paper will cautiously use the term CALD, whilst acknowledging its limitations in order to accent the flows of Government funding for diverse musical disciplines. Whilst the history of funding policy in Australia as it relates to multicultural arts generally, has been covered elsewhere,[3] this article discusses the allocation of government funding for these disciplines in Australia using empirical data from the financial year 2010-11 as a springboard for further discussion. The data presented in this paper is a summary of a much broader and more in depth analysis of the flows of funding in the year 2011 to diverse musical disciplines in Australia. Here, however, some key statistics will be presented from the major arts funding bodies in Australia, as an indication of the kind of patronage currently provided by the Australian Government for diverse musical disciplines.

Funding Flows - An Overview

In the financial year 2010-11, Australia’s premier funding body, the Australia Council for the Arts, contributed $84.7 million in music funding. In this year, $12.3 million (14.2%) of total music funding was allocated to other music boards and organisations[4]. The Music Board awarded around $6.5 million in grants, of which $333,660 (4.66%) flowed to musicians from diverse musical disciplines[5]. At the state level, a generous[6] accounting of the funds allocated by Arts NSW directed to diverse musical disciplines equated to $739,926 (7.37%)[7], Arts Victoria provided $759,154 (2.5%)[8] and Arts SA awarded $65,465[9] to musicians from diverse musical disciplines. Whilst there was a large number of Indigenous musicians and projects that received Government funding by Arts NT in this year, there were no grants directly awarded to musicians from disciplines that might be classified in the ‘CALD’ category, nor did these musicians receive any direct funding from Arts ACT[10], the Department of Culture and the Arts in Western Australia[11], or Arts TAS[12].

In contrast, Western Art music has a tradition of enjoying significant patronage from the public purse in Australia. A brief survey of the funding received by the nations major symphony orchestras shows that in 2011, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra received $7.8 million[13], the Melbourne Symphony $13.8 million[14], the Sydney Symphony received $13.2 million[15], the Queensland Symphony $13.5 million[16], the Western Australian Symphony $8.5 million[17], and the Adelaide Symphony $7.6 million[18]. Thus in 2011, the country’s symphony orchestras received a total of $64.4 million compared to approximately $1.8 million funding for the diverse musical disciplines that often fall within the ‘CALD’ category. In other words, if we took 2011 as a general indicator, the country’s symphonies received the equivalent of approximately 36 years of total funding for CALD music disciplines.[19]

Some Initial Observations

From a brief survey of the data presented in this paper, one could possibly make the observation that while Government verbally supports the values of cultural diversity, on a practical level, Government patronage for diverse musical traditions is arguably very minimal. Though Government support for cultural diversity has been demonstrated through such actions as becoming a signatory to the UNESCO Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005)[20], the figures suggest a disparity between the overtures to cultural diversity and the levels of patronage provided to support sonically diverse cultural expressions.

The reasons behind the existing funding models for music in this country are arguably far too complex than the space of this article allows, however I would like to make a few observations. Firstly, it is worth considering the arguments made by advocates for the continued funding of Western Art music traditions in Australia. Dr Richard Mills[21] recently argued that musical traditions such as Opera and Western Art music are deserving of funding from the public purse on the following basis:

a) the level of excellence required to execute this music

b) the Western canon is a treasure of civilisation,

c) the failure of the market to provide substantial patronage,

d) Western Art music has historical significance to Australians, and

e) the removal of orchestras at the top level would have a disastrous flow on effect for musical training in the Western art canon in this country.

Considering Mills’ arguments, it is not unreasonable to suggest that these same arguments are just as transferable to many of the diverse musical disciplines in Australia, and thus they are arguably just as deserving of funding from the public purse. The excellence and training required to perform on the flamenco guitar, or the excellence required to perform a Hindustani raga with all its melodic and rhythmic complexity is arguably comparable with the excellence required to play Western Art music.[22] Secondly, while Mills quite rightly identifies the Western Art music canon as a treasure of civilisation, in the same way traditions such as the maqam heritage of those Middle and Near-Eastern musical disciplines, whose musical heritage and musical philosophies can be traced back prior to the 6th century A.D., are considered by many to be ‘treasures of civilisation,’ and have been recognised as such. [23] Thirdly, these musical disciplines suffer the same problems of market failure as their Western counterparts, perhaps to an even greater degree in Australia, where this music lies distantly on the peripheral consciousness of mainstream media – often consumed simply as a souvenir of sonic tourism or token nod to the multicultural ‘other.’ Unlike Western Art music, there is little to no funding for pedagogical flows from novice through to professional musician. Finally, while Western art music is historically significant as the classical tradition of Australia’s 18th century colonisers, arguably the diverse musical disciplines of the migrants that have settled in Australia from the early 19th century are increasingly more significant as Australian identity has shifted from that of European penal colony, through to today’s articulation of multicultural policy.

As I mentioned earlier, there are probably a myriad of reasons as to why there is so little funding for musical disciplines that tend to fall within the discourse of ‘CALD’, ‘multicultural’ or ‘world’ music in Australia. It may be worth considering whether or not language difficulties are preventing these musicians seeking out patronage from the State? It may also be worth considering whether or not a ‘talent scout’ would be beneficial, a role specifically designed to seek out excellent musicians from these disciplines? And finally, is there a need for more direct policy initiatives targeting diverse musical styles at national and state levels? The disparity between Government rhetoric concerning multiculturalism and the actual allocation of government funds for these musical disciplines is an area of funding policy that arguably requires further investigation. In addressing this disparity, it need not be to the detriment of Western Art forms, which justifiably seek government patronage. Rather, it is worth considering increasing the current levels of funding for these musical disciplines and providing intentional funding aimed at cultivating thriving and diverse musical cultures in Australia. With further discussion and practical commitment to cultural diversity at this level, Government overtures to multiculturalism can indeed be articulated sonically with the credibility one would expect of a nation espousing these values.

Brent Keogh is a PhD candidate at Macquarie University, Sydney


[1] Additional gestures to the values of multiculturalism in Australia more recently include becoming a signatory to the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in 2009, and the Government publication Economic Advantages of Cultural Diversity 2011.

[3] Grahame Smith recently presented a paper on this topic at the Policy Notes conference in Melbourne, 19th June 2012, Music Policy interventions for cosmopolitanism: Australia multicultural and diversity policies and musical outcomes.

[4] Australia Council for the Arts Annual Report, 2010-11, p22

[5] This figure was gained through information acquired from the Australia Council website. These funds were allocated primarily through the Australia Council’s Music Board but also incorporate funding from other branches of the Australia Council. The total list of grants awarded by the Australia Council in 2011 could be found at date, accessed 2 April, 2012. From May 2012, however, this information was no longer available publicly.

[6] I say generous, as the account of the ‘World Music’ project offered by Orange Regional Conservatorium is not descriptive enough to know whether the style of music they intended to create was in a CALD music style, nor whether any of the musicians were from CALD backgrounds. Additionally, the grant issued to Auburn Community Development Network Inc was not music-specific. And finally, the grant issued for Information and Cultural Exchange Inc suggests the majority of this funding went to Indigenous projects, whilst the other projects were not specifically targeted at CALD musicians and music styles.

[7] This percentage is from the total amount of $10,042,449 issued to music in that year

[8] This percentage is from the total amount of the $30,375,837 that can be accounted for at the time of writing.

[9] The total list of grants awarded by Arts South Australia in 2011 can be found at (date accessed 2 April, 2012).

[11] The total list of grants awarded by Arts WA can be found at date accessed 2 April, 2012.

[12] The total list of grants awarded by Arts Tasmania can be found at date accessed 2 April, 2012

[13] Tasmanian Symphony Annual Report 2011, p?

[14] Melbourne Symphony Annual Report 2011, p39.

[15] Sydney Symphony Annual Report 2011, p?

[16] Queensland Symphony Annual Report 2011, p37

[17] West Australian Symphony Orchestra Annual Report 2011 p35

[18] Adelaide Symphony Orchestra Annual Report 2011 p35

[19] This figure doesn’t take into account funding for Opera across the country, which to give an indication, received $21.1 million from the Australia Council in the year 2010-11 (Australia Council, Annual Report 2010-11, page 22)

[21] Mills, 2010, Some Thoughts on Heritage, Australia Council.

[22] For example, the rigour of the training schedule of a musician like flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia is arguably comparable with the training required to reach Symphony level standards.

[23] See listing of intangible cultural heritage 2008, viewed 8th October 2012.