Mayor slams Art Minister's pork-barrelling of passion project

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne has condemned the NSW Arts Minister for starving small arts-based projects in the Inner West of funds while pork-barrelling one of his pet projects.

Recent news reports have revealed that the NSW Minister for the Arts, Don Harwin, ignored his own Department’s expert advice and redirected $400,000 in taxpayers’ funds away from 11 arts projects only to give that sum to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra instead.

“Slashing funding from grants for small-to-medium-sized arts organisations to feather the nest of an orchestra is elitist and wrong,” said Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne.

“This is a continuation of the rorting of arts funding that George Brandis indulged in.

“Not only has the Minister rode roughshod over his Department’s expert advice, he has chosen an organisation that wasn’t even looking for funding.

“The Sydney Symphony Orchestra did not put in a grant application, and there has been zero transparency around the reasons why this money was provided to the organisation in the first place.

“Many small-to-medium-sized art enterprises have devoted a lot of time and limited resources to lodge detailed grant applications that adhere to the Government’s strict grant specifications and guidelines.

“Yet, here is the Minister who, literally with the stroke of a pen, is disregarding those guidelines and denying 11 organisations much-need funding. He using a ‘captain’s pick’, so he can divert public money to his passion project,” said Mayor Byrne.

Documents obtained by the media show Create NSW’s independent panel initially recommended that 17 arts projects share funding of $660,000. However, when the recommendation reached the Arts Minister's desk, instead of approving them, he chose to fund only six projects, at a cost of just $256,000.

At least two of the 11 organisations that missed out on funding were based in the Inner West.

  • The Sydney Fringe Festival was to receive $35,000.
  • Articulate art space in Leichhardt was to receive almost $50,000.

“This is a Minister cosying up to the top end of town. He has shown flagrant favouritism at the expense of the small-to-medium-sized arts sector and emerging artists,” said Mayor Byrne.

“More creatives live and work in the Inner West than anywhere else in Australia, so this rigging of the sector affects us disproportionally.

“Local artists have been denied fair process in the Minister’s decision-making. We demand the Minister reverses this decision, and give the money to those organisations that his independent panel says deserve it.” 
For further information, please contact John Roper on 0435 963 787 or

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Page last updated: 04 Oct 2018