First They Came For The Creative Arts

The Australian creative and cultural sector has been hard as of late. Leanne Elliott examines just how deeply this industry has suffered in the wake of COVID.

Many industries have been feeling the pressure caused by the COVID-19 disruption, with massive job cuts, downsizing, and closures. But Australia’s creative and cultural industries have been hit with a double whammy, losing revenue because of COVID-19 restrictions and loosing much needed government funding.

The Government’s $250 million bailout for the creative economy has been met with backlash, with the government making it clear the package is designed to provide financial relief for the main industry players, leaving smaller businesses and individuals swimming in an ocean of financial uncertainty.

“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.” Scott Morrison, as quoted by Jo Caust for The Conversation.

Recent funding cuts have delivered yet another blow to what could be referred to as Australia’s cultural crisis. The NSW writing centre‘s annual funding application for $175,000 funding was rejected, leaving the organisation with some hard decision to make. Writing NSW reports it has lost up to 40% of its revenue since the pandemic hit, and, now projects like the Boundless Festival, an “Indigenous and culturally diverse writers” festival, and other core programs are now under threat.

Other organisations missing out on essential annual government funding include, PACT Centre for Emerging Artists, La Mama Theatre, Sydney’s Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP), and many more.

Individuals in the creative industries, many who are already exposed to the volatility of Australia’s growing gig economy, have also been left high and dry. The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance recently surveyed its members, with 35% of respondents reporting they were not able to claim Job Keeper payments.

And in a recent article by Guy Morrow and Brian Long for the Conversation, it was reported “81% of artists work as freelancers or are self-employed, with 43% relying on contracts and 35% of artists income from royalties and advances.” Though the government has excluded freelances from Job Keeper payments.

Puts a whole new meaning to the term starving artists, right?

While it might be bad news on top of bad news for those working in the Australian creative and cultural industries, students who were planning to enter these industries have also got some hard decisions to make after government plans to hike up fees for Humanities and Arts degrees, with some fees expected to increase more than 100%.

Universities have also been hit hard by the pandemic, and it seems Humanities and Creative Industry options for students are going be limited or costly. For example, the University of Newcastle recently announced that it was cancelling its relatively new Creative Industries degree, and Monash University shocked staff and performance lovers when it announced its Centre for Theatre and Performance will close.

So, it would seem the recent negative impacts to Australia’s creative and cultural industries are going to be generational. Limited opportunities and complete uncertainty as to how these essential industries will get back on their feet is discouraging for sure.

But, if there is one thing I know about the people who work in the creative and cultural industries, it is that they are resilient and passionate, and it will take more than a pandemic or financial crisis to stop them from following their calling.

Feature Image: Madelyn Gardiner, Yak Media Designer

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