Danny Pearson gets to work as Victoria’s new creative minister
It was inevitable that the Victorian music industry – Australia’s hardest hit during the pandemic — would feel anxiety pangs when the minister expected to play a major role in its recovery left his creative industries portfolio.
After six transformative years which made Victoria’s music scene the envy of other states, Martin Foley was moved the more urgent and senior posting of Health Minister.
The good news is that new Creative Industries Minister, Danny Pearson, is an avid fan of live rock and played Nick Cave at his wedding.
The 47-year-old MP for Essendon since 2014, married with five children, also served for a time on the board of the Melbourne Fringe Festival.
“He grew up in the outer eastern suburbs, and spent the 1990s studying gig guides and regularly watching live bands and observed the impact gentrification had on inner-city entertainment areas,” Patrick Donovan, outgoing CEO of Music Victoria tells TMN.
“Like the Premier, he recognises the role bands like Midnight Oil had in encoring young people to think about politics, and cites a 2004 Cold Chisel gig at Festival Hall as a highlight.
“His wife (Nicole) is a devotee of Nick Cave and they played his music at their wedding.”
Pearson believes music will play a pivotal role in how Aussies identify post-COVID.
His attitude and commitment to the wider arts are reflected in an earlier Facebook post about his time on the Fringe board from 2003 to 2006.
“I entered a world of committed and passionate people who would always drive to be the best in their field, which I had an appreciation for,” he wrote.
“But they also taught me to think differently and to view the world through a different lens for which I was, and remain, so grateful for.”
Victoria’s live music industry has already sent messages to the Government at how shattered it is, and Pearson’s stated priorities are to find new ways to protect and nurture live music, and support workers most disadvantaged by COVID – including young people and women.
Yesterday (October 6) his first announcement for the sector was that 78 arts and cultural organisations will share in $7.85 million in grants to help creative businesses develop COVID-safe practices.
These included the Next Wave Festival, Wangaratta Festival of Jazz, Community Music Victoria, The Substation and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
The arts sector has sent a message to him through ArtsHub, that among things to be fixed, was the need for new work to be encouraged and that 35% of independent artists received no Federal Government funding.
The Arts Industry Council of Victoria’s Joe Toohey and Simone Schinkel stressed both “uncertainty and inequity” as urgent issues currently facing our sector.
“We look forward to working with Minister Pearson to ensure both our short-term recovery and longer-term ambitions focus on meeting these dual challenges head-on,” they said.
How Pearson approaches his portfolio would be swayed by his key areas of interest: economics, digital transformation, trade, investment and innovation.
As Assistant Treasurer, he would appreciate the music sector contributes $1.7 billion.
His personal beliefs come from a family that is strongly working class, his maiden parliamentary speech quoted Marx (Karl, not Groucho) and he entered politics “because I want to play a part in creating a fairer, more just and decent society for us and for future generations.”
His predecessor Foley’s dynamic tenure saw him change the name of the ‘arts’ portfolio to ‘creative’, and got it that the music industry was a wide sector in which the grassroots was just as important as the top of the town.
He worked closely with the industry, listened to its concerns and, most important, drew it closer to government and business circles by emphasising its economic value as much as its global artistic achievements.
Donovan, who worked closely with Foley, said he made the industry feel valued, and ensured that this support was shared across his government.
“This in turn enhanced the value of music and the arts in the eyes of the Victorian public.
“Music Victoria wishes him the best in his challenging new role as health minister, and we feel that it has been passed on to strong hands.”