COVID-19 is the single biggest disruption to Australia’s cultural life in generations. But none of the Australian Government’s stimulus commitments thus far have addressed the arts, cultural or creative industries.
The amazing team at the National Association for Visual Arts have updated their Advocacy Toolkit to help government understand the need for urgent stimulus. (Thanks, NAVA.)
NOW IS THE TIME to contact Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and your local MP to help amplify the call. I adapted NAVA’s handy sample letter into my own version (below), and share it here in the hope that as many artists, artsworkers and arts lovers will do the same – this weekend, if you can. If posting on social media, don’t forget to tag MPs (the treasurer is @JoshFrydenberg on Twitter and @Josh.Frydenberg.MP on Instagram) and use #DontCancelCreativity to create a critical mass.
Sending strength and solidarity to everyone already feeling the impact. Take care out there, all.
Josh Frydenberg, Treasurer (josh.frydenberg @ treasury.gov.au)
Paul Fletcher, Minister for Communications and the Arts (paul.fletcher.mp @ aph.gov.au)
Steve Georganas MP, Member for Adelaide (steve.georganas.mp @ aph.gov.au )
I am writing to compel you to take immediate action on a stimulus package for the arts, culture and creative industries – among the first and hardest-hit casualties of the current coronavirus crisis.
COVID-19 is the single biggest disruption to Australia’s cultural life in generations.
With the mass cancellation of arts, cultural and creative industry events:
- Hundreds of thousands of artists and artsworkers’ livelihoods are being threatened.
- Thousands of small-to-medium arts companies are at risk of shutting down. This is significant. These organisations attract bigger audiences than their better-funded counterparts (reaching 9.4 million people each year compared to the 3.3 million served by the majors). Funding them goes further – reaching more than double the audiences on less than half the funds. They lead the country in terms of programming, inclusion and access – engaging and representing with the full diversity of Australian stories and identities. And they employ or create opportunities for a vast community beyond their direct employees.
- Countless workers and businesses in associated industries have been affected (such as audio visual services, hospitality and tourism).
- And millions of Australians have lost access to the country’s social, creative and cultural life at a time when they need it most.
- The entire arts and cultural industry has been put in peril – risking Australia’s story, identity and how we record our history – including how we remember this moment in time.
With the crisis coming on the back of this summer’s bushfires and the previous five years’ of arts funding cuts at all levels of government, the arts industry has never been more vulnerable.
Like many, I am a member of the sector’s freelance ‘gig’ economy. Like many, this not only means that work I rely on for my income has been cancelled, but that my prospects for future work have been decimated.
To date, none of the Australian Government’s stimulus commitments have addressed the arts, culture and creative industry, in spite of its significance to Australian life or the efficacy of this investment to the economy. The sector contributed $111.7 billion in 2016–17, on an investment of only $2.6 billion. That’s more than half that of the mining industry (which contributed $148 billion in 2017–18), on less than 10% of its $29 billion subsidy. The sector employs more people than the mining industry, too. The numbers didn’t add up back then. But we need them to now.
Immediate stimulus is needed, including:
- Immediate relief payments to freelance or sole trading artists and artsworkers
- Rent relief for arts and cultural organisations
- Waiver of waiting periods for Centrelink eligibility
- Introduction of specific measures for artists and artsworkers whose work is itinerant or casual, including paid sick leave for those required to self-isolate
- Government grant extensions and reporting relief
- Targeted stimulus and support for regional and remote Aboriginal art organisations
- Additional investment in the Australia Council (immediately and ongoing)
- Working with industry advice to create well-designed, long-term stimulus measures to avoid industry collapse and support it to rebuilt post-COVID-19.
Australia’s artists and creative workers lead the nation in innovation. Only a small fraction ever receive government funding, and they return that investment many times over. We are in crisis right now because our self-generated income has collapsed. Your immediate action could prevent the collapse of our entire industry.
Australia needs to follow New Zealand’s example in protecting this vital cultural, economic, social and human resource. There is so very much at stake.