Today's critical moment for the future of our arts and culture

Published by: NAVA | 18-Mar-2020
Today NAVA calls on every cultural minister in Australia to implement immediate stimulus, as well as a responsible long-term plan, to ensure the survival of the visual arts and all of our creative colleagues across Australia.
At 2:00pm today the Meeting of Cultural Ministers will decide the future of Australia's arts industry, said Esther Anatolitis, Executive Director of NAVA.

COVID-19 is the most devastating disruption to Australia's cultural life in generations.

All of the ways that we come together to explore identity, search our emotions, find one another, and feel that life-giving inspiration “ all of this has been downscaled, postponed or cancelled.

Artists and artsworkers are seeing years worth of work vanish as exhibition openings and festivals are cancelled, galleries close, residencies are withdrawn, talks and workshops are abandoned, and all next jobs are entirely in jeopardy. Each of these engagements represents a career culmination for everyone involved. We've never seen anything like this.

NAVA continues to assess the impacts on our sector. To date, a total loss of $27.6m has been reported, affecting 10,690 artists and 309 small-to-medium organisations via a whopping 5,418 event cancellations.

Following five years of funding cuts, on top of summer's fires, floods and storms, this disruption comes at the most vulnerable time that the industry has ever experienced.

Sensitive industry discussions indicate that mental health is at a flashpoint. It's not just careers on the line and companies on the brink “ lives are in danger. Peak bodies across all artforms are warning that the industry is now on the brink of collapse.

The stimulus required is of a massive scale. We're talking close to a billion dollars to ensure that the entire industry not only remains viable “ but is ready to inspire us as soon as possible.

98% of Australians regularly engage with the arts and 100% of Australians are now bereft of the artists and the works that create our world. Now is the time for our ministers to work together more ambitiously than ever.

There's no time to be lost.

NAVA is calling for:

· Implementing an ambitious and well-funded stimulus package specific to the arts sector in response to industry advice;

· Offering specific measures for artists and artsworkers whose work is itinerant or casual, including paid sick leave for those required to self-isolate;

· Immediate initial relief payments to artists, artsworkers and organisations, delivered efficiently via professional membership bodies and by the Australia Council;

· Urgently implemented Centrelink eligibility with no waiting periods; a paid sick leave fund for itinerant, casual and freelance workers;

· Targeted stimulus and support for regional and remote Aboriginal art centres;

· Ensuring that the regional fire, storm and flood recovery needs are not forgotten at this critical time;

· Setting specific timeframes around national self-isolation and event restrictions, rather than indefinite restrictions, so that creative businesses can plan their work “ for example, announcing a review date on public gathering, social distancing and travel restrictions; all levels of government to provide immediate clarity to publicly-owned galleries so that their boards and committees can make the decisions necessary to protect staff entitlements, collections and all programs;

· Prioritising the payment of artists and freelance artsworkers on government- or philanthropy-funded activities that are no longer proceeding; encouraging all government funding bodies and philanthropic trusts to let funded organisations know that they will not be penalised for paying artists for cancelled work, and that organisations who have been unable to present funded programs will not be penalised when the time comes to acquit their grants;

· Extending all local, state and federal multi-year funding to the end of 2021, CPI indexed; relieving organisations of reporting burdens to their government funding bodies across the next six months, to be reviewed towards the end of that period;

· Implementing immediate and ongoing additional investment in the Australia Council of $50m per year that doubles the available funding pool for the Four Year Funding for Organisations program, which has already been assessed and due to be announced on 30-31 March, so as to invest in the capacity of those nationally-focused organisations best placed to build the capacity of the entire sector; Additionally, tripling the Australia Council's competitive funding pool budget, to facilitate timely stimulus;

· An immediate $20m to build the Artists' Benevolent Fund into a program matching the work of Support Act in the music industry;

- On industry advice, create well-designed long-term stimulus measures to avoid industry collapse and inspire innovation “ including an impactful and inspirational public campaign to rebuild confidence.

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