What do we know about Creative Young Stars?

by Alex Masso, March 2013

In the Creative Australia policy released in mid-March, then Arts Minister Simon Crean announced the new “Creative Young Stars” initiative to support young people in the arts. We now have some more information about this initiative, and some suggestions for maximising the benefits.

Creative Australia logoThis initiative is mentioned in two parts of Creative Australia: Creative expression and the role of the artist, and Regional development and social dividends through community-based arts and cultural programs. To simply the context a little, these two sections effectively deal with artists the intrinsic value of the arts, and the instrumental benefits of the arts, respectively. It is promising that the government sees this as an ‘art for art’s sake’ program as well as seeing the dividend for the community.

The guidelines for this program, and its structure, are very important. The Music in Communities Network offers to discuss them with the government before implementing the program, to ensure maximum benefit and appropriateness.

We know a little about how the sporting version of this program – Local Sporting Champions – operates. From that we can assume how it might work, but also see room for changing the program to suit the arts. For example, the sporting program offers $500 grants to individuals and $3000 to sporting teams, with a proportionately higher amount available to individuals.

This presents an opportunity to monitor and evaluate the program to see national patterns in the requests for funding, identify areas of greatest need, and highlight exemplars. Our recent School-Community Links initiative does just this, and could be extended to highlight some of the Creative Young Stars funding recipients. Including a question about school-community links in the application form, for example, could provide useful data and case studies that would support our efforts to advocate for these important connections.

Despite reports that MPs may start holding talent quests, we understand that the funding is targeted and should ‘help participate in training, cultural, artistic, academic or community-based activities and competitive events’, with clear limits of $500 for individuals and $3000 for groups. They will not spend $23,500 ‘as they see fit’ as some earlier reports suggested, but will follow a process along the lines of the Local Sporting Champions program.

According to the government’s announcement, “the program could support the local rock band in Mildura to travel to a battle of the bands in Melbourne, or a young flautist to go to a competition in Perth. Or a dance troupe to compete in an eisteddfod in Sydney, or even a ballerina to go to Paris”. While a $500 grant will only make a small contribution to a trip to Paris (perhaps there could be one or two larger grants for outstanding artists in each electorate?), this does suggest that the program will support diverse activities.

There are several crucial questions about the program, particularly relating to the differences between it and the sporting equivalent Local Sporting Champions.

Will school groups have access to funding under the scheme?

Early indications say yes. Education Minister Peter Garrett said “Schools will be able to seek assistance to support their orchestras, bands, science and arts prize winners to attend national competitions just as sports teams can already represent their schools.” This partially answers the question but we hope to get some certainty on the guidelines to ensure that schools have access to funding for what they need.

Will community groups have access to funding under the scheme?

Early indications suggest that community-based music groups specifically for young people would be eligible, it is less clear whether community groups with some but not exclusively young people would have access to this funding. Possibly not. However, the sporting program allows students to get funding for participation in community-based groups and it sounds like Creative Young Stars would do the same.

How can this program strengthen links for the arts in local communities?

This has not been identified as a feature of the program but has the potential to be one of its great benefits. We know from such substantial documents as the Sound Links research, National Review of School Music Education, and from our own activities, that there is great value in community involvement in schools and links within local communities. Central to our agenda is strengthening links within local communities, for the benefit of music makers in schools and the wider community.

The Creative Young Stars program offers two particular opportunities for strengthening school-community links, and links within local arts communities. The first has already been suggested by the government: having community groups endorse applications, and allowing community-based groups or schools to apply for funding.

Another is using community advisory councils to assess grants. This offers a chance for members of the arts community in each local area to come together several times a year under the auspice of a local MP. Their role would be to assess the applications to the Creative Young Stars scheme but offer a chance to strengthen the awareness of arts activity in a local area and build important links within the arts community.

What can this do for arts advocacy?

One of the great advantages of having local MPs involved in the process is that they will a) see first-hand what activity is happening in their area, b) strengthen (or form) links within the local arts community, and c) publicly advocate for young musicians in the area. Local MPs already celebrate the efforts of young sportspeople and promote their achievements in the local area, this program promises to do the same for the arts.

Summary of key points:

  • The Federal Government will invest $8.1 million of new funding over two years to establish the Creative Young Stars program. The funding will be available in 2013/14 and 2014/15.
  • The program will provide Federal Members of Parliament, supported by school principals, with grants of $500 for individuals $3000 for groups to provide young Australians with financial help to participate in training, cultural artistic, academic or community based activities and competitive events.
  • This program will help thousands of young people – in either primary or secondary school, or under 25 years of age – pursue their dreams each year, with each MP able to provide up to $23,500 of grants each year.
  • Young people will make applications for grants, which will need to be endorsed by the relevant school, training or community organisation.
  • The program could support the local rock band in Mildura to travel to a battle of the bands in Melbourne, or a young flautist to go to a competition in Perth. Or a dance troupe to compete in an eisteddfod in Sydney, or even a ballerina to go to Paris.
  • Federal MPs will play a significant role promoting the program locally, announcing winners and holding presentation ceremonies in their community.
  • Creative Young Stars will complement the Local Sporting Champions program currently operating in every community across Australia. The programs reflect that most young people are into arts, or sports, or both, when they’re growing up.
  • MPs across Australia get swamped with letters from young people excelling in the arts who want the same help young sport stars receive to train and compete with the world’s best.
  • Creative Young Stars will help young people develop their talents, build connections and open up pathways to further training and employment.
  • Creative Young Stars will be administered by a third-party administrator appointed by the Department of Education, Employment and Work Place Relations and jointly funded by DEEWR and the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport

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