The 550 or so local or regional governments in Australia are often referred to as ‘City’ or ‘Shire’ Councils and are the third tier of Government below State and Federal. They vary in size from Metropolitan councils covering an entire city such as in Brisbane (1.2 Million people) and the Australian Capital Territory to the smallest rural local government authorities with many serving populations of less than 3,000 people.
Local Government in Australia is legislated by the various state governments which prescribe responsibilities which vary from state to state. Typically they include administration of local services, planning and building issues management and provision of community services including cultural services such as libraries. Many, but not all LGAs in Australia choose to provide services in the performing arts including music, and these vary enormously in scope. They can include building and operating facilities, offering grants programs, supporting local community and professional groups, producing performing arts events and more. Some LGAs are very proactive, while others do not engage at all.
The primary way that LGAs impact on musical activity, however, is the regulation of noise and of licensed venues, most commonly affecting the live performance of contemporary music. Some LGAs such as the City of Sydney have a deliberate strategy to address some of the issues commonly encountered in this area ://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/vision/towards-2030/communities-and-culture/culture-and-creativity/live-music-performance-strategy.
- Diversity with a wide range of activities suited to different areas
- Closer to communities than other arms of government, enabling more nimble and locally focused activities
- Able to partner with and empower local stakeholders
- Financially equipped to provide grants, commissions and infrastructure, pays professional performers adequately
- Focus on non-commercial interests such as community music, local orchestras, multicultural music reflecting local communities which increases variety of activity
- Effective programs address local issues and increase local identity and pride
- Ability to provide support for groups such as access to business skills, insurance and more
- Powerful marketing, promotional and information networks
- Inconsistency of services, approaches, expertise and support with some LGAs offering no support for music in any form
- Services often provided with no strategic direction or intent
- Funding programs often fixed with no discretionary funding or ability to support new applicants
- Regular changes of political agenda impacting on operations
- Lack of internal coordination leading to Councils having one program supporting a particular activity and another hindering it
- Council owned venues are expensive to utilize and not viable for many activities
- Support of activities often contingent on intended social outcomes rather than for the sake of the artistic outcome
- Limited funds availability compared to other levels of government
- Many facilities created with strategic and operational weaknesses, lack of financial support for programming, staffing and so on
- Development of targeted solutions to local issues
- Partnerships with initiatives such as the Live Music Office to stimulate activity
- Ability to use planning controls to encourage desired activity
- Update and expand infrastructure to encourage increased activity
- Statewide initiatives through Local Government Authority Associations and partnerships with State Government
- Increasing demands on financial resources mean Music activities are at risk of being seen as optional luxury activities rather than core business, leading to their being discontinued
- Commercialisation imperatives seeing infrastructure privatized
- Planning and other responsibilities can be, and sometimes are, overridden by State Government
Scott O’Hara Submitted 16 October 2017.