The iconic Australian company is to cease trading following the Board’s failure to secure the agreement of Company Members to a radical overhaul of existing governance structures.
The Board of Circus Oz has announced its intention to wind up the company.
In a statement released overnight, the Board stated it had failed to reach an agreement with the Company Members of Circus Oz over a decision to reform the company’s governance structure.
Such a reform was apparently identified as a necessary outcome of an independent review of Circus Oz commissioned by the Australia Council for the Arts and Creative Victoria, and which commenced in May 2021.
Simultaneously, the Board conducted its own research on different governance models across the industry and of companies of an equivalent scale of Circus Oz in order ‘to be prepared and open to review recommendations’, according to a consultation document circulated among Company Members on 1 September this year.
Reflecting its artist-led origins, the Circus Oz Board includes several artist representatives drawn from the ranks of the Company Members (former staff and artists who had worked with the company for a minimum of five years) alongside more standard Board appointees from the business and corporate sector.
Circus Oz Company Members have been shocked by today’s announcement.
Susan Provan AO, a long-standing Company Member who joined Circus Oz as General Manager in 1985 and is now Director of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, said she was stunned by the news.
‘This is news to the company. Transformation of Circus Oz is in progress and winding up the company is not on our agenda,’ she told ArtsHub.
‘Circus Oz has a great history and a positive future. There are challenges for sure but there is also vision, energy and the creative resource of a very resilient company who have valuable contributions to make to Australia’s performing arts sector,’ Provan said.
Board Treasurer Mike McCredie told ArtsHub the decision to shut down the company was made by the members, not the Board.
‘It’s been a decision by the members. We are a member-based organisation. We have just under 100 members, and we put it to the members, “Do they accept the changes that have been asked for in relation to the governance structure?” Or if they vote against that, then the government funding will be turned off, we will no longer be entitled to government funding, which leaves the Board with no other decision than to wind the organisation up, absent any other alternative,’ McCredie said ….
Main image: The 2014-15 Circus Oz production, But Wait… There’s More. Photo credit: Rob Blackburn.