NSW Labor Pledges Great Southern Nights, Support Act Backing Ahead of State Election
As the most consequential election in recent memory looms large, NSW Labor expands its offering to the music community with a years-long pledge to support live music, and a multi-million-dollar commitment to tackle bullying and harassment in the music industry.
The opposition party, by way of its leader Chris Minns, and John Graham, shadow minister for music and the night time economy, recently made a $103 million commitment, representing almost three times the largest-ever pledge to music on a state level.
Graham led a discussion on those proposals last Wednesday (March 15), for a consultation session at the United Workers Union, after which a string of new guarantees were put on the table.
Should Labor win the state election this Saturday (March 25), Minns and his team would back Great Southern Nights for the next four years in both metro and regional spots, and pump $4 million over the next term for programs, and training, in line with recommendations spelled out in the Raising their Voices report.
Great Southern Nights, the pandemic-era concert series, would be funded and rebooted with focus to “specifically activate” Parramatta as a key precinct.
Its proposal would include a program of live music and street activations, a response to the so-called “venue drought” in western Sydney which has “left artists and music workers without adequate opportunities to hone their crafts and fans without access to seeing their favourite acts perform locally,” reads a statement.
NSW Labor promises to throw funding, energy and time at live music, through the soon-to-be annual program, which is meant to reinvigorate independent venues and support restaurants, bars and cafes who want to host live music but have been held back by red tape, with funding through Destination NSW.
“We are committed to promoting and supporting NSW artists and live music,” comments Graham in a statement.
“Some of the most exciting new music in Australia is coming directly out of Western Sydney, and yet the venue drought means these artists perform in their own communities.”
Great Southern Nights “will be about getting people out at night, activating our precincts, and using the new regulatory tools that Labor is bringing to the table to support new and existing venues.”
Western Sydney would be a “focus area” in the 10-year Contemporary Music Strategy, NSW Labor announces, while a statutory review of the Berejiklian government’s controversial “Music Festivals Act 2019” would be undertaken should the party take office, and the Entertainment Act would face a review to find ways to strengthen support for festivals, venues, artists, managers and music workers.
Sydney’s west “has its own thriving music ecosystem in spite of the fact that it has been historically under-resourced and lacks the venue infrastructure of other areas,” comments Donna Davis, Labor’s candidate for Parramatta.
ARIA welcomes the commitment.
“Great Southern Nights was born from the pandemic, designed to help breathe life back into the once-thriving NSW live music and entertainment industries, and saw hundreds of gigs take place in 2022 right across the state including 36 in the Greater Western Sydney area,” comments ARIA CEO Annabelle Herd.
“We are determined to surface the stories of NSW artists from Broken Hill to Brunswick Heads. The continuation of Great Southern Nights and a focus on developing music hubs in areas like Parramatta, which already has a thriving music culture, is a step in the right direction to unlock the true cultural and economic contribution of music in the state.”
The buck doesn’t stop there.
A Labor government in NSW promises to action the recommendations for reform outlined in Raising Their Voices, the 2022 report into the national review of sexual harm, sexual harassment and systemic discrimination in the contemporary Australian music industry.
Funding levers would be activated to ensure compliance with codes of conduct developed by the newly-established federal Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces, to the tune of $4 million over four years.
And $2 million would be pumped into Support Act over four years, to support the music industry’s charity in its quest to deliver crisis relief services to musicians and music workers.
“The music industry is stepping up to change its culture. This announcement is about backing that change,” explains Graham.
“The Raising Their Voices report spelt out the unacceptable levels of harm, harassment and discrimination in the music industry. That’s why the report was supported across party lines in the Parliament. Labor is committed to the safety of artists and music workers.”
The commitments form part of the “fresh start” pledge that NSW Labor made in support of the policy paper distributed by the #VoteMusic industry alliance on Feb. 20.
“A critical element of supporting music in NSW is ensuring that we are creating sustained culture and behaviour change through the development of psychologically safe workplaces that are free from harassment, discrimination, bullying and sexual harm, and which promote safe and productive workplace cultures where music workers of all genres are seen, heard and valued,” comments Clive Miller, CEO of Support Act.
The funding pledge “will greatly assist Support Act’s programs in this area. It will also help fund our First Nations mental health and wellbeing programs and crisis relief services, which provide short term financial relief to musicians, managers, crew and music workers who are still doing it tough”.
With the election just days out, the governing NSW Coalition is yet to commit any support for music.