The Dramaturgy of Defunding: Developing a History of the Defunding of Australian Theatre Organisations from 1975 to 2023

Kathryn Kelly, Tessa Rixon


Compared to many other neo-liberal, OECD nations, the Australian Federal Government has a tumultuous relationship to the funding of the organisations and artists that comprise the arts and cultural sector in Australia (Bennett, Stevenson & Myers, 2020). This article will chart the political commitment to the practice of national, peer-reviewed arts and cultural funding through the decisions of the Theatre Board of the Australia Council. Rather than “picking the patterns” (Turner and Behrndt, 2007, 8) of these decisions by sifting through the tables of successful institutions who were able to ‘win’ funding, the position paper seeks to examine the arts and cultural institutions who lost funding. The ‘dramaturgy of de-funding,’ was a brutal process of dis-entanglement from resource and status that demonstrated a forensically savage pattern of “dis-remembering” (Tompkins, 2006, 23), where the rising agendas of previous decades were carelessly erased, often to the lasting damage of the overall arts and cultural ecology. In particular, the histories of the first wave of First Nations theatre companies, multi-cultural theatre companies and regional youth theatre companies are pertinent to this analysis. In this way, the ‘art of the subsidy’ in the Australian context reflects the national distinction of Australian colonial dis-possession and exclusion.


Dramaturgy; Defunding; Cultural Policy; Australian Theatre

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