Funding cut forces La Mama Theatre to pause shows in 2025

Funding cut forces La Mama Theatre to pause shows in 2025
Brendan Rees

Carlton’s La Mama Theatre will regrettably draw the curtain on all productions in 2025 as the beloved independent institution grapples with the aftermath of devastating funding cuts.

The pause is a blow to artists and the wider community after the organisation was unsuccessful in the latest round of grants from Creative Australia for 2025-2028.

La Mama’s legacy spans more than 50 years, with funding from the federal government’s arts body contributing $300,000 to the theatre per year – a third of its income – to support its operations.

The theatre’s chief executive and artistic director Caitlin Dullard said the news was “unexpected” and “very disappointing” for their not-for-profit organisation. La Mama will now channel its energy into finding alternative and sustainable opportunities.

“We were very hopeful,” Ms Dullard said of receiving a funding grant, when Creative Australia announced its latest allocations in December.

“We thought we were on track. But yeah, the rejection email was more gut-wrenching than shocking.”

In a statement, Creative Australia said, “We acknowledge La Mama’s significant decision to pause public performances while it reviews operations following the outcomes of the four-year investment program.”

“Creative Australia met with La Mama representatives after the decision was announced to provide feedback and to talk through future opportunities for funding.”

Ms Dullard said instead of presenting shows next year and “limping along”, they would use this as a “moment to be proactive and to actually put what resources we’ve got into some kind of strategic planning” to support staff, artists, and the community for years to come.

“I don’t think that the future lies in government funding, so I think we need to reach out to business partners and to different sectors, health sector, education, etc. and find different partnerships and different models of working and I am hopeful that we’ll get there,” she told Inner City News.

Ms Dullard said while the theatre community was reeling “because we’re taking away a lot of opportunity, I think most independent artists understand that the system needs some more energy put into it”.

It’s not the first setback the theatre has experienced. In 2018, a fire gutted the iconic double-storey red brick building on Faraday St, with a trove of archives lost.

And in 2020, La Mama missed out on funding from Creative Victoria but managed to survive and come out stronger thanks to JobKeeper and other government stimulus packages during the pandemic.

Melbourne Greens State MP Ellen Sandell said she was devastated to learn of the funding cut and urged the state and federal governments to keep La Mama “alive and thriving”.

“The arts are the lifeblood of our city. Melbourne would be so much poorer without art and theatre. They must be supported,” she said.

In a statement, Minister for Creative Industries Colin Brooks, said, “La Mama has been a creative leader for more than 50 years and the Victorian Government continues to be a proud and long-term supporter of the organisation.”


Ms Dullard said she remained positive for the future.

“I think there’s actually a level of gratitude and optimism from the sector that this will be a turning point that will actually improve things if we kind of do it right.” •

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