The federal government's decision to merge the Department of Communication and Arts into another department managing roads and rail sends a message to artists "that they have little or no value".
That's the view of Arts North West executive director Caroline Downer, one of many people concerned about the decision - but Parkes MP Mark Coulton says the "fears are unfounded".
Ms Downer said the move devalued arts "economically, socially, culturally".
"By removing all mention of the word arts in the title of the portfolio, I don't think that sends a good signal," she said.
"It's about the world we're currently living in - there's a lot of anxiety out there and this doesn't send the best signal on how they value the arts in Australia."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the decision on Thursday, moving arts into the new Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.
But Parkes MP Mark Coulton said the decision would "streamline the department" and that it wasn't "really a big deal".
"[People's] fears are unfounded. This is not about cutting service delivery, it's about being more efficient in the mechanism of government," Mr Coulton said.
"I don't think it's really a big deal - I think it's maybe a big deal for some public servants in Canberra, but I don't think the general people of Australia will notice the difference."
Mr Coulton said Arts Minister Paul Fletcher would remain in the role and the combined roads, rail and arts department wouldn't mean any changes, either.
"The programs will be the same; it's just that there's a little more streamlined backroom work that won't be noticeable for the people connected to that department," he said.
Ms Downer was skeptical of this, saying it was a matter of "wait and see".
"It's very unclear at this stage. Maybe it hasn't changed, but does that mean the government doesn't believe in the arts? Because that's the message they're sending," she said.
The decision will come into play on February 1, 2020.