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Does the Australian arts recovery package go far enough?

Arts recovery

It's not exactly a secret that our arts and creative industries have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic outbreak.

An industry that relies on live events, in-person exhibitions and gatherings, social-distancing restrictions have put many people and sectors out of work.

But there is some good news in today. The Federal Government has announced $250 million in grants and loans as part of a COVID-19 recovery package.

According to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, these grants and loans will help our creative sectors rebuild over the next year.

"This package is as much about supporting the tradies who build stage sets or computer specialists who create the latest special effects, as it is about supporting actors and performers in major productions," he said.

"Many in the sector will find a new way to operate while the current social distancing measures remain in place and while that won't be easy, I know there's a strong desire among all Australians to see the return of gigs, performances and events."

Many members and workers within creative industries have been left out of the JobKeeper subsidy. The payment did not cover freelancers and certain casual staff - employment types that makeup the bulk of the creative sector.


Where is the funding going?

But this new funding could offer some relief.

While we're yet to find out how the funds will be distributed, we do know a few things. $75 million will be issued in competitive grants for festivals, concerts, tours and events.

$90 million will come in the form of concessional loans to for new productions - loans will come from banks but with a Commonwealth guarantee.

A further $50 million in funds will go towards helping to helping productions who've been unable to access insurance restart.

Then $35 million in direct financial assistance will go to Commonwealth-funded organisations, including theatre, music and dance.


What more needs to be done?

"The amount is way too small to really make the difference we need and it's coming so late after the sector has been struggling.

"It was one of the first industries hit as we went into the COVID-19 lockdown and it's going to be the last sector to come out. It's just simply not good enough," she said.

Unfortunately, rebuilding our arts industries will be a long road. While these grants are certainly a great start, a "return to normal" is not enough. Arts and creative sectors were in decline before COVID-19, so simply returning to where we were will not be the way to save this sector.

We've written before about the path we need to take for our arts sectors to become vibrant and valued. As a society we need to reevaluate where these sectors sit within the cultural fabric of Australia. They're not a luxury. Arts and creative industries are an engine of social recovery and inherently part of our identity. They push us forward, leading the path of progress and giving voices to those that are unheard in other areas of society. We cannot afford to lose the arts.

There are many ways you can support creatives. We've spoken to our creative community for advice on what we can be doing individually to offer support to creatives. Visit a gallery, go to a show, follow on Instagram, comment, like, share. And of course patron with your dollars where you can. We'd also encourage you to write to your local member of parliament to show your support for the art.

Together we can rebuild.