Artist seeks email in court after Australian Council withdrew funding for self-insemination show

Casey Jenkins believes the email linking the then arts minister to the withdrawal of council funds may not have been disclosed, said their lawyer in court. Lawyers for an artist whose Australian government funds were withdrawn for a project they intended to inseminate themselves via live broadcast said it was possible the email was linking the decision to the former arts minister has not been disclosed. Casey Jenkins, who uses the pronoun they/they, is suing the Australian Council in federal court for withdrawing funds for the 2020 Immaculate show fair.

The court heard on Wednesday that Jenkins believed the Australian Council had not properly complied with the court's order to provide the documents relevant to the decision to withdraw the funds. The Council, the state's main public funding agency for the arts, withdrew Jenkins' funding after being criticized by far-right commentators including Peta Credlin and Dr Bella D'Abrera of the Institute of Public Affairs.

In 2020, Jenkins received $25,000 from the board for an international project. As the pandemic closes international borders, they seek funding amendments so that it can be used for Immaculate, a live broadcast of those who self-inseminated with donated sperm while discussing their past experiences with conception. They say the project aims to confront the stigma against odd pregnancies and parenting in the art world. The amendments were initially approved, but were later overturned by the board in a letter sent in September 2020.

Emrys Nekvapil, for Jenkins, told judicial registrar Amelia Edwards that a search for documents linked to the decision yielded fewer files than expected, including from the office of then arts minister Paul Fletcher. Jenkins is seeking a court order that would compel the Australian Council to conduct a more detailed search of documents including emails, online chat history and text messages sent between August and October 2020. Nekvapil said it only used the search terms "Casey" and "Immaculate" in searches. previously for documents relating to the decision was not enough.

He questioned why, for example, the Australian Council only submitted about 10% of the emails Jenkins had sent, despite accepting that the council would not submit multiple copies of the same emails if they were included in the thread. But Meg O'Sullivan KC, for the Australian Council, has described Jenkins' pleas at least five times as "fishing expeditions". He said the proposed order was unfounded, as it did not refer to actual documents that had not been submitted in the discovery.

The evidence provided by Jenkins' lawyers to support claims about the discovery methodology used by the Australian Council is also irrelevant, O'Sullivan said.

"It's tantamount to 'you don't do it like we do so you must be wrong'," he said.

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