By Ray Fulcher
MELBOURNE — A fortnight prior to the state government's "Arts 21" package being unveiled on November 23, the Melbourne Workers Theatre had its funding cut by $20,000.
Arts 21 is the Kennett government's policy supposedly promoting cultural diversity in Victoria. The policy outlays $7.1 million but talks specifically only of providing "world class" facilities for the arts — such as a new, bigger spire for the Victorian Arts Centre.
The slashing of MWT's funding occurred despite a recommendation by the Drama Advisory Panel, a mechanism of peer group assessment, to the Minister of the Arts that MWT receive an increase.
MWT began as a theatre company eight years ago. It has worked with many different cultural groups and on projects dealing with issues affecting sex workers, the right to strike, unemployment, migration, women in the work force, racism and safety on the job, among others.
These shows, as well as taking up issues relevant to a diverse range of people, have been performed in venues more accessible to workers, students and those to whom the performances relate. Pubs, factory canteens, social rooms, work-based classrooms, TAFE and university campuses have all hosted MWT productions.
"The funding cut to Melbourne Workers Theatre makes a mockery of the government's cultural package. The cut to this company places in jeopardy the broader community's access to theatre. Once again culture becomes a privileged activity." MWT artistic coordinator Patricia Cornelius told Green Left.
If the cuts stand, MWT will have to reduce its 1995 program. MWT is the only professional company in Victoria geared specifically to the needs, interests and issues of working people.
MWT plans to launch a campaign to regain its funding. For more information phone MWT on (03) 326 6667. Messages of support (particularly from the arts community) can be sent to MWT, PO Box 515, North Melbourne 3051.