The "Major Permorming Arts Inquiry" conducted by Helen Nugent (known as the Nugent report) reviewed 31 major performing arts organisations and arose out of a perceived crisis in the sector due to the adverse impacts of globalisation, technological change and demographic shifts on their viability
: in short, costs were spiralling while revenue was declining. The inquiry conducted a comprehensive dissection of the sector employing a business model as well as a review of the organisations’ performance in terms of training, administration and repertoire.
The report argued that the major performing arts companies made ‘an enormous artistic and financial contribution to Australian life’ and that the implementation of these recommendations would ‘stabilise’ and ‘reposition’ the sector and thereby ‘secure [its] artistic vitality, accessibility and financial viability’.
The underlying principles of the report were that:
Australia should have a vibrant major performing arts sector that enriches Australian life and builds its image as an innovative and sophisticated nation; that Australia should cost-effectively deliver broad access to the major performing arts — recognising that the arts are for everyone; an that Australia should have a financially viable major performing arts sector that supports artistic vibrancy.
Equally, however, the report endorsed the view that government support should be ‘transparent and should be based on an understanding of the responsibilities of all parties’.
The report’s 95 recommendations were accepted by government and an extra $70 million was injected into the sector by federal and state governments, administered by DCITA and the MPAB of the Australia Council. The recommendations were designed to create a cohesive structure for the industry and included:
Classifying companies into Global, Australian Flagship, Niche and Regional Flagship depending on the strategic role played by each.
Introducing a five step funding model that reflects the cost of each artform, each company’s strategic role and the commitment to geographic access.
Ensuring a commitment to invest in new works, new productions and improved quality of performance to increase box office receipts and build a differentiated image of Australia.
Strengthening private sector support.
Engaging in collaborations, cooperation and co-productions between companies within artforms.
Exploring a ‘community of musicians’ concept between orchestras.
Strengthening marketing and development capacity.
Introducing rolling triennial funding.
Improving accountability and reporting practices.
Adopting a reserves policy.
Changing the financial dynamics of companies in each artform.
Despite the introduction of the majority of these changes, the overall wellbeing of the major performing arts companies has not markedly improved, as an Australia Council review by the Major Performing Arts Board concluded in 2004. Because of the perceived bias towards protecting the major artform companies, other sectors lobbied for similar reviews and funding increases. The Nugent Report became the first of the so-called ‘Review Cycle’ into arts sectors with inquiries into the small-to-medium performing arts sector, visual arts and crafts, symphony orchestras, new media and dance to follow.