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Features November 30, 2015

Giving Back: A Q&A with Support Act’s Jo Cave

Giving Back: A Q&A with Support Act’s Jo Cave

Image:Support Act helpedprofessional saxophonist Neill Duncan purchase a one-handed sax

Founded almost 18 years ago, Support Act has been the underlying heartbeat of the Australian music scene, providing the invisible hand to rescue many a musician and industry professional.

Established as a charity in 1997, Support Act was founded by the industry’s peak bodies. Established by APRA AMCOS, ARIA and PPCA, Support Act’s beginnings were created from the understanding and vision that Australian musicians and their colleagues needed an organisation that understood the existence and life of someone who worked in music.

Today Support Act has helped many music professionals financially and practically and is the only charity in Australia helping those who work in music with a crisis service.

A unique and poignant organisation, TMN spoke to Support Act’s Chief Executive Joanna Cave to find out more about the life and times of being a musician in crisis and how Support Act actually helps artists and music professionals.

Tell us about the initial stages of Support Act and what it looked like in the early days.

Initially Support Act was registered as a charity in 1997. Those involved with Support Act at the time had all heard stories or been involved with people in our music industry that had really faced a crisis, and literally had nowhere else to go for help. The initial stages were really based on these stories and the need to create that safety net and this core idea that has stayed the same throughout the years.

What was the structure like and what sort of help could you provide?

The Board recognised the need for a social worker, and so Lindy Morrison – who had a professional career as a drummer for the ‘Go Betweens’ and who was also a fully accredited social worker – came on board.

This has always been really important for our organisation, to be able to understand the pitfalls and challenges of working in music. From the beginning we have always assessed an application for help and worked out how best to provide help to that person. Everyone has different needs. We have always helped both financially and practically. We don’t pass on money directly, we pay bills to third parties on behalf of a client.

Jolene Brown (administrator) and Joanna Cave, Chief Executive

What does Support Act look like today and what changes have been made?

Well, Lindy was the sole employee and the first point of contact, as she is today. We naturally grew from that stage and started to take on more and more cases as the years went on. Back in those days the charity was quite small and dealt with fewer cases than we see today.

Almost three years ago its board agreed to appoint the organisation’s first Chief Executive, with a new mandate to review and reform. We made some sweeping changes that dealt specifically with the processing of applicants and helping those in need with a faster turnaround- getting help to those who need it quickly.

So what is the application process like today for someone in need?

We streamlined our processes and now our response time to get help to a client is on average seven days. In some cases we can provide financial support as quickly as four days. We realise that when someone is in crisis we need to respond to that as quickly as we can. We also updated our website which means you can now apply online in your own time.

What’s the criteria to qualify for your support?

We ask five questions that you can access online or over the phone, and if we get a yes to all five questions then you qualify in principle and we look into your case. However, the key factor for us is that you have been involved in the music industry as a professional on any level for at least five years and that you are in need of some help. This includes artists, roadies, songwriters, sound engineers, managers and every one in between.

Lastly, what are Support Act’s key principles and what makes you unique in your approach to artists?

We have three core principles that we adhere to everyday and which make our organisation unique in its approach. Since we were established within the music industry firstly we have a genuine understanding of what it’s like to be a musician or industry professional in crisis.

Secondly, we pass no judgment on your case or your circumstances as we have heard and experienced almost everything you could imagine. Thirdly our services are completely confidential and your privacy is absolutely guaranteed.

We have to fundraise to provide our services as we receive no government funding and rely on the generosity of our members and supporters.

We all care about our incredible music industry, and we are here to provide an emergency service to that industry.

If you are an artist or music industry professional in need and would like to hear more about the services of Support Act visit their website at or phone on 1300 731 303.


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