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Dec 14, 2007

Australia Council axes The Program

The Australia Council is axing its innovative youth arts website and email newsletter,, in a move to “streamline” its resourcing of youth arts, writes Ben Eltham.

The Australia Council is axing its innovative youth arts website and email newsletter,, in a move to “streamline” its resourcing of youth arts.

The move is being described as an opportunity to free up funding for other youth arts initiatives within the Australia Council. Youth media website Noise emerges with its funding intact, and will partner with some of the existing components of The Program including its “J Arts Crew” project for young arts reporters on the ABC’s youth radio network triple j. was set up 6 years ago by the Australia Council as a strategic initiative to address the arts funding and advisory body’s anaemic commitment to youth arts and emerging culture. The website employs young and emerging arts journalists and critics to write about emerging youth culture. In an email, The Program’s Executive Producer, Anne-Marie Szlazko, wrote that The Program’s role is “promoting young people as creative participants, contributors and audiences.” During its time in operation, the website attracted over 1.5 million hits with an average of 59,000 unique visitors each month.

A spokesman for the Australia Council said that with Noise moving towards a more consolidated online presence, The Program was a “duplication” of the service Noise offered.

The decision to axe the initiative calls into question the Australia Council’s commitment to youth arts outside of the Noise initiative. is an explicit component of the Council’s Young People and the Arts strategy dating from 2003. As part of that strategy, the Australia Council abolished its youth panel – comprised of actual young people – and replaced it with a committee of Australia Council bureaucrats.

The decision is also likely to reignite questions about the lucrative relationship between the Australia Council and Noise. Since 2002, the Australia Council has paid more than $3 million to Noise’s parent company Reamont Pty Ltd in a murky outsourcing arrangement that has previously drawn the scrutiny of the ALP in opposition.

The Noise “festival” effectively ceased holding actual events in 2003. Since that time it has morphed into what the Noise website describes as a “global creative community, offering emerging artists their own online galleries to showcase their talents, as well as opportunities to have their work viewed by industry leaders across many disciplines.”

However despite this change in mission, in 2004 the Australia Council announced “a new investment of $5 million over four years for NOISE 2005 to 2008.”

Crikey sought comment from both Noise and the Department of Environment, Heritage and the Arts about the decision, but at the time of writing had received no reply.

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One thought on “Australia Council axes The Program

  1. Judith

    TheProgram has been funded about 3 cents to do the massive good thing they do, I know this because a friend of mine was one of their reporters – they got $150 to write 10 stories a week. (but they said it was worth it for the training they got,). What does Noise do with 3 mill$$$? They used to make “youth content” the youth didn’teven like so they stopped bothering, and they use artists work for their own marketing without paying. I don’t know who they are but I know (from friends who’ve worked there) that they are not the kind of people who will do something for nothing. I’m going to miss TheProgram for its sincerity as much as anything else. I hope Mr Rudd does something about this.