Hero Jackman arrives in nick of time
WAAPA's Link dancers in the 2012 show Pivot. Picture: Jon Green.

The new Jackman Furness Foundation for the Performing Arts has come at an ideal time for the WA fame school, which cut staff levels and programs to meet its budget after years of being in the red.

The Chamber of Arts and Culture praised the philanthropic example of the initial $1 million donations to the foundation by film star Hugh Jackman and his wife Deborra-Lee Furness and WA power couple Andrew and Nicola Forrest.

The foundation, which raised $5 million during Jackman's weekend visit to the WA Academy of Performing Arts, was a heartening initiative when government arts funding was stagnating or being withdrawn, chamber chairman Warwick Hemsley said.

The foundation was a great example of legacy investment from the private sector. He hoped the example shown by Jackman, Furness and the Forrests inspired others to follow in their philanthropic footsteps.

WAAPA's financial stresses were highlighted by a 2012 report which said the school at Edith Cowan University must make major changes to its management, funding and course models to be sustainable.

Rated one of the world's best performance schools, WAAPA's intensive tuition program came at the cost of recurrent deficits, the report by University of Ballarat professor Peter Matthews said. WAAPA should collaborate better with ECU to attract more corporate sponsorship, he said.

WAAPA has since trimmed its staff numbers to save hundreds of thousands of dollars to help balance its $22 million budget.

ECU vice-chancellor professor Kerry Cox said the university had taken the Matthews recommendations into account when it devised a strategy for WAAPA's future sustainability.

"That strategy, which we began implementing from the end of 2012, was a restructure of the curriculum and a change in the approach to teaching, so that WAAPA is able to deliver the required outcomes within the funding matrix as determined by allocations from the Federal Government, the State Government and student fees," Professor Cox said.

Following the changes, WAAPA finished 2013 with a balanced budget, he said.

"The great benefit that will flow from philanthropic support for WAAPA is that considerable enhancements to the core curriculum will occur through increased learning opportunities worldwide for staff and students, visiting artists, scholarships for students, and enhanced provision of infrastructure to support staff and students."

Professor Cox said it was a delight that Jackman returned to ECU 20 years after his graduation to "give back" to the performing arts communities that supported his obvious prodigious talents.

The West Australian

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