Open letter to Australian Government from the arts: ‘No one is fighting for us’
A group of arts advocates have come together to pen an emotional open letter to the Australian Government, calling for more COVID-19 financial support, an acknowledgement of the level of frustration and despair across the sector, a dedicated arts and creative industries minister and more concrete timelines for the revival of the sector.
The letter has been compiled by James Bustar – who spearheaded the stirring campaign about how much entertainers’ mental health was suffering during lockdowns – as well as Mark McConville and Lindsay Webb.
The letter notes arts, creating and performing is “who we are”, but identities and livelihoods are now falling apart.
“We go into the arts and creative industries because it’s our love and our passion. However, in the current situation our identity is being eroded and it feels as though no one is fighting for us or at the very least understands our current plight.
“Successful artists take decades to hone their skills to the point of being able to make a living from the arts and creative industries. We are proud of the fact that we have successfully run businesses, purchased houses, raised children, and repeatedly donated our services for the greater good.”
One of the key demands of the letter is for the Federal Government to have a stand-alone minister for the arts and creative industries.
Back in 2019, Prime Minister Scott Morrison abolished the Department of Communications and Arts as part of a public service restructure, and rolled it into a new super department now known as the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.
The word ‘Arts’ no longer appears on any Federal department name.
Paul Fletcher, however, remains the minister for communications, urban infrastructure, cities and the arts.
The letters signees say this structure “does not do our industry justice”.
“We also ask that this new portfolio be led by someone who is suitably qualified and therefore acutely aware of the uniqueness fo our industry and its requirements,” the letter added.
The letter also expressed frustration at the lack of priority given to the sector in economic recovery plans and discussions about getting back to normal.
“One issue that continues to frustrate the live events and entertainment sectors in particular is the apparent government prioritisation of sporting events in lieu of meaningful support of the creative industries. Time and time again the NRL and AFL codes have received the full support of various governments across the country. Sports teams are allowed ‘bubbles’, whereas only recently in Melbourne, theatre productions requested a ‘rehearsal bubble’ to which they were denied,” the letter said.
“Additionally, in recent times we have seen crowds allowed to attend football matches while at the exact same time indoor events and entertainment venues have had to operate under reduced capacity forcing many events to be cancelled or run with limited financial viability. These apparent double standards and financial uncertainty are crippling our industry and its people.”
What the sector needs, the letter contends, is acknowledgement and support.
“Ever since the pandemic began, the national conversation from government and the media has focused on health, Sport, tourism, aviation, hospitality and retail, while the live events, entertainment and arts have been for the most part overlooked. It’s no wonder the mental health of our industry workers is at an all-time low given our ‘forgotten industry’ status.
“We call upon the Federal Government of Australia to publicly acknowledge the level of frustration and despair being felt across the live events and entertainment industries. At the same time, outlining a financial recovery package specific to our industry.”