This month’s First Friday Club was host to a lively discussion between our Executive Director, Jane McCredie, and Jill Eddington and lina Kastoumis from the Australia Council for the Arts. Jill is the Director of Literature and lina works as a Grants Officer in the Artists Services section. With the next round of Australia Council grants closing on 4 October 2016, this timely First Friday Club discussion was full of insider tips and information on how to apply for an Australia Council grant. Our Membership Intern, Reilly Keir, sat in on the session to catch these tips for you.
The Australia Council grants are open to arts workers across all platforms and sectors. For writers, there are two main types of grants available: development grants and art project grants. As both grant streams have different assessment criteria attached to them, deciding which grant best suits you is the first step to applying. The Development Grants for Individuals and Groups offers funding between $5,000 and $25,000 to support a range of activities that benefit the career of an individual or group. The Arts Projects for Individuals and Groups Grants are specifically aimed at supporting activities that benefit the arts sector and wider public, such as development of a new work or project. Funding ranges from $10,000 to $50,000.
Key tips for applicants
Here are five key tips offered by Jill and lina for those applying for the first time.
1. Ask yourself whether you deserve public funding. Jill reminded audience members that as they are asking for government funding, the benefit their work will have on the community should be a primary consideration. The questions ‘Why me?’, ‘Why this project?’ and ‘Why now?’ are also important points to address in your application.
2. Engage the assessors. lina emphasised the importance of engaging the assessors, warning that it’s possible to lose the peers in the first paragraph of your project description if you’re not careful. ‘Write from yourself and show your passion!’, she argued, advising that there’s no need for the application to read like an academic thesis. While the formality of applying for government funding can be intimidating, be careful not to omit your personality when talking about your work. Get to the heart of what you want your project to be, tell the story and be sure avoid convoluted language.
3. Start playing! Create a login and start an application. Experimenting and playing around with the application layout will answer many of your questions and curiosities. It may even help you to better articulate your project and intentions. You can save an unfinished application and no one need see it until you click submit. This will help to demystify the whole process and give you confidence.
4. Don’t be discouraged. Both lina and Jill emphasised that being an unpublished writer isn’t necessarily a disqualifying factor. If the quality and potential is evident in your supporting material, then the application won’t go unnoticed. However, it is still a very competitive environment and many people apply, but don’t be discouraged simply because you haven’t been published yet.
5. Last but not least, call a grants officer. lina stressed that is so important and one of the first things applicants should do. It can be easy to tell which applications have not been well researched and lack an understanding of the grants and the Australia Council’s work. Grants officers can tailor their advice and strategies to your particular needs and requirements, which can help you put together a strong application.
On the other side of the application process are the peers who assess the applications, ensuring that the selection process is equitable and at an arms-length from government and political processes. This means that people who are part of the writing community and who understand what goes in to the creation of a new work will review the proposals. Established writers within the community are encouraged to register to become a peer assessor. lina described it as ‘funky jury duty’ and argued that it can be a whole new way of connecting with the writing and arts community at large.
While being awarded a grant can be immensely beneficial for writers and artists, the speakers highlighted that funding doesn’t make you an artist and not getting funding doesn’t mean you’re not a good writer. Even if you are not successful in one round, the experience gained and the lessons learned will carry through to the next time you apply.
The Australia Council for the Arts grants close on 4 October 2016. See their website for more information on how to apply.