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Arts Ministers meeting fails to deliver support package as Australia faces ‘devastating cultural recession’

Arts Ministers meeting fails to deliver support package as Australia faces ‘devastating cultural recession’
March 20, 2020

While Federal Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher has warned of the "most devastating cultural recession in generations", as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, a teleconference among Commonwealth, state and territory cultural ministers has failed to agree a support package for the culture and performing arts sector.

Held yesterday, no action was agreed beyond a commitment to meet again and a joint communiqué from the minister that acknowledged that the arts “plays such an integral economic and social role in the life of our nation, and will be critical to the health and wellbeing of people both during this immediate crisis, and into the recovery period”. 

With major arts institutions, galleries, museums and theatres across Australia closing as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, Minister Fletcher also staged a virtual roundtable with leaders from the culture sector to discuss the growing impact of Coronavirus on the sector.

The teleconference roundtable representatives of national institutions, the Australia Council for the Arts, indigenous arts groups and visual arts organisations, who have collectively called for a $750 million in financial support in the face of months of closures and staff layoffs.

With non-essential indoor public gatherings of more than 100 people banned, Minister Fletcher says that the challenges facing the culture and performing arts sector are significant, advising “like all Australians, they are showing great community spirit in calmly and efficiently dealing with the circumstances they are facing in the near-term so we can come through this challenging period.

“I thank sector representatives for their time and contributions at (the) roundtable, and for their leadership across the creative and cultural sector.

“A number of practical suggestions were put forward during our discussion."

With more than 80% of Australians attending arts events each year and 40% of international tourists attend arts events in Australia, the arts contributes an estimated $112 billion to the Australian economy each year.

The sector employs and more than 600,000 Australians.

Minister Fletcher added “given the significance of the cultural and creative sector - both economically and culturally - it is important we work together on a constructive approach to preparing for potential impacts and fully understanding the support available.

"The information I obtained … from this roundtable will feed into whole-of-government planning on COVID-19 responses."

Australia’s live performance industry is urging the Federal Government to include the sector in its next economic stimulus package, with Live Performance Australia (LPA) leading an alliance of industry groups calling for action to prevent a complete and permanent industry shutdown, costing thousands of jobs and forcing the closure of performing arts and commercial companies and venues for good.

LPA Chief Executive, Evelyn Richardson stated “our industry is shedding jobs by the hour - but so far little has been said by the Prime Minister or Treasurer on their plan to help the thousands of performers, artists, creatives, technical and road crew or sustain hundreds of performing arts and commercial companies, including music promoters, producers, venues and all the service providers that keep the industry alive.

“The next stimulus package must include an unequivocal focus on supporting live performance through immediate and longer-term measures that will support our people and businesses.

“LPA has put forward a comprehensive $750 million emergency support package to the Commonwealth, state and territory governments.”

Advising that all of Australia’s peak bodies and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) have today come together in calling for a clear commitment from government that it will adopt these measures or face the demise of Australia’s world class live performance industry which has fostered generations of local and global talent, Richardson added “this is an economic, social and cultural emergency that demands a fast, creative, flexible and agile response from all levels of government.”

At the time of writing only Queensland had announced any support for artists with an $8 million package including rent relief for tenants and 12-months extension of current funding.

Click here to view LPA’s emergency industry package.

The package is backed by:

Live Industry Peak Body Alliance
AMPAG (Australian Major Performing Arts Group)
Ausdance National
Live Performance Australia
Music Australia
PAC Australia (Performing Arts Connections)
Regional Arts Australia
Stage Queensland
Symphony Services Australia
Theatre Network Australia
Venue Management Association (Asia and Pacific)
Music Industry Alliance
AAM (Association of Artist Managers)
AFA (Australian Festivals Association)
AIR (Australian Independent Record Labels Association)
AMIN (Australian Music Industry Network)
AMPAL (Australasian Music Publishers Association)
APRA AMCOS (Australian Performing Rights Association)
ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association)
ATSI Music Office (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander)
Live Performance Australia
Music ACT
Music Australia
Music NSW
Music NT
Music SA
Music Tasmania
Music Victoria
Q Music
Sounds Australia
VMDO (Victorian Music Development Office)
WAM (West Australian Music)

MEAA (Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance).

About the author

Nigel Benton

Co-owner / Publisher, Australasian Leisure Management

Nigel Benton is the co-owner and publisher of Australasian Leisure Management, Australia and New Zealand’s only magazine for professionals in all areas of the leisure industry. Having established the magazine in 1997, shortly after his relocation to Australia, he has managed its readership rising to over 11,500 and its acceptance as the industry journal for professionals in aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues.

As of 2020, he has launched the new Asian Leisure Business website.

Among a range of published works and features, his comments on a Blog (blogspot) from 2007 to 2011, when this website went live in its current form, may be interesting to reflect back on.

Click here to connect with him via LinkedIn.

Read more from this author

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