Brisbane has an arts community that brings our city and our neighbourhoods to life. But for so long funding and support for the arts sector has barely made the list of priorities for successive Coalition governments. Add in COVID-19 and the communities within the industry have been up against the wall.
Our backyard, in the electorate of Brisbane, is home to some of our city and country’s most iconic arts and entertainment venues. So many of us have wonderful memories of gigs and performances at venues such as Brisbane Arts Theatre, the Judith Wright Centre, the Tivoli and Brisbane Powerhouse amongst countless other galleries, theatres, nightclubs, music halls, studios, and stages. It also encompasses Fortitude Valley, which for generations has been a vibrant haven for cultural and artistic expression, but is now in danger of gentrification.
The arts, entertainment and creative industry is worth $112 billion a year to the Australian economy and employs around 600,000 people. But as lockdowns and necessary COVID-19 restrictions ramped up, artists and all associated industry workers suffered immensely when their venues, gigs and vital sources of income dried up overnight.
While we’ve been welcoming back crowds of 50,000 people to Suncorp Stadium, many arts and entertainment venues are unable to operate at full capacity. The size of Australia’s domestic arts sector does not provide the scale necessary to sustain the industry at pre-crisis levels, and with international borders still shut, the prospect of major international acts being able to tour again is receding rapidly.
Before the pandemic, there had already been a steady reduction in funding and the domestic arts industry now needs support more than ever. Arts Council funding has declined by 20% since 2013, and is predominantly targeted at the major performing arts organisations. The 2021-22 Budget promises to deliver $300 million to help activate and support the successful re-opening of Australia’s creative and cultural sector. And yet, many initiatives in this $300 million have already been announced prior to the Budget and the industry still hasn’t seen the funding.
The Greens want to save Australia’s hard-hit arts, entertainment and creative industry with a Create Australia recovery package, including:
- a $300 million Creating Australia’s Future program putting an Artist-in-Residence in every school and library across the country;
- a One Billion Stories Fund - a $1 billion Australian content fund aimed at kickstarting Australia’s screen industry; and
- a $1 billion Australia Live Fund to inject money into Australia’s festival, music and live performance sector.
We want to see a thriving arts scene that is as diverse as our community, and recognise that the arts are of the utmost importance for First Nations communities in maintaining and even restoring a connection to culture and country.
We all relied on the arts to entertain us and give us hope during the lockdowns of the past year. It is about time we give them the respect and support they deserve.