Friday 18 March 2016

AFTRS - A Senator asks some questions

Senator Catryna Bilyk, Labor Tasmania
As a part of the recent hearings of the Senate Estimates Committees examining Federal Government administration and expenditure, Senator Catryna Bilyk (Labor, Tasmania) submitted a series of Questions on Notice for response by the Minister for Communications. The Questions are on the public record on the Senate’s website. The answers may take some time to appear but, for the record, these are the matters raised. (It should be noted that as of today, 19 March, 2016, the Federal Government has still not made any appointment to the vacant position of Chair of the School Council last occupied by Professor Julianne Schultz in 2015. According to the legislation which governs the AFTRS administration, the Council is composed of nine people. At present only five people have appointments to it, including two staff members, the CEO Neil Peplow and the staff-elected representative. The Film Alert 101 blog has previously taken some interest in issues related to AFTRS and the training it offers. In particular there has been concern that the school is now no longer dedicated to producing graduates who go on to direct feature films, the quality sector of production upon which a nation’s film-making reputation resides. If you want to read a key earlier post that provides background to some of the issues raised by Senator Bilyk you can click here.) Now read on....

AFTRS - Re-Appointment of Professor Julianne Schultz
1. Has any previous Chair of the School Council accepted a second term for less than a three year appointment
2. What were the reasons why the current Chair was not offered a three year term in a manner similar to her predecessors over the 45 years of AFTRS existence
3. Is it proposed to make appointments to the other current vacancies on the School Council for similar twelve month terms

Future of AFTRS as a stand alone Federally funded institution
1. Has the Federal Government made a decision regarding the recommendation of the National Commission of Audit (2014): “The Australian Film, Television and Radio School could be transferred to a university or vocational education institution with an option for the Arts Council to fund scholarships. This is consistent with the principle that the Commonwealth should withdraw from activities that are outside its areas of core responsibility and could be more efficiently and effectively undertaken by the private sector or another jurisdiction.”
2. Has the Minister, his advisory staff or any Federal Government officials engaged in any discussions with the NSW State Government regarding the possible transfer of AFTRS or any of its activities to the NSW tertiary education sector
3. Has any member of AFTRS Council or staff engaged in any discussions with the NSW State Government regarding the possible transfer of AFTRS to the NSW tertiary education sector
4. Has the Minister or the Ministry received any request or proposal from the AFTRS Council with a view to initiating or responding to proposed discussions regarding its future as a Federal Government institution
5. Has the Minister or Ministry requested any proposal or submission from AFTRS Council or management regarding proposed activities over the next three to five years or longer.

AFTRS relations with the film industry
1. The AFTRS’s record in graduating students who become feature film directors has declined substantially over the past 13 years. What is the reason for this?
2. AFTRS has not graduated an Indigenous student who has directed a feature film since 2001. In what ways has the School changed its approach to supporting indigenous students through to graduation.
3. The AFTRS now graduates up to 250 students a year. Please supply statistics on the
number who found (a) permanent full time employment, (b) regular part-time employment, (c) some casual employment and (d) no employment in the film and associated industries over the last five years.
4. If these figures are not available how does AFTRS judge that it is providing services and personnel needed to sustain the film and associated industries?

Legal/employment issues -AFTRS
1. In the years from 2008 to 2015 how many former staff have taken legal action or lodged claims for compensation against AFTRS following their departure from the institution?
2. Was ‘unfair dismissal’ the common legal term associated with each of such claims?
3. How many cases were settled privately?
4. How many cases were the subject of court proceedings?
5. In how many cases was a settlement made which involved a payment by AFTRS to the individuals involved?
6. List all such payouts individually, and what was the total sum of any such payouts? What legal fees were incurred in relation to each case?

7. How much money was spent on recruiting replacements for people who left AFTRS in such circumstances? 


  1. See the later post to be brought up to date on Council appointments. The mystery of why the previous Chair, after a long period, has only been re-appointed for one year remains.

  2. No answer to the above some 3+ days since the question was asked. I've just sent a further email to the contact officer Justine Sywak of the Dept of Communications as follows:

    Dear Justine

    It somewhat pains me that I have to write to ask again whether you might advise the date of the appointments of two AFTRS Council members that were recently announced. Your name was on the bottom of Mitch Fifield's press release.

    I'm not sure why this information isn't readily available so could I just ask if you could give the matter your attention as soon as possible.

    Best wishes

    Geoff Gardner


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