Australia Council CEO highlights issues the arts sector faces following the pandemic

"The longer the social distancing goes, the more critical the cash flow issue is going to become"

Australian Council for the Arts CEO Adrian Collette has spoken up over the past couple of days about the issues the arts sector is currently facing and will face once restrictions lift.

In a segment with the ABC’s RN Drive yesterday (May 6) alongside Music NSW managing director Emily Collins, Colette said arts organisations will continue to suffer the longer they are required to close without the necessary support from government.

“The longer the social distancing goes, the more critical – and we’ve some examples of it – the cash flow issue is going to become,” he said.

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Collette also pointed out that getting wary audiences back into theatres is going to be one of the issues the sector faces once restrictions lift, and that needs to be on the government’s radar, especially since JobKeeper provisions will expire in September.

“We were amongst the first in and will almost by definition be the last out, but we’re also such an economic and social driver,” he claimed.

“How wasteful would it be to blow all the beneficial effects of keeping organisations together… if they don’t have the ability and support to start driving all the public benefits that they do?”

According to the Australian Government’s Bureau of Communications and Arts Research, the arts contributed $111.7billion to the Australian economy in 2016-2017 and accounted for 6.4 per cent of the country’s GDP.

In recently published data, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found more than a quarter of employees in the arts and recreation sector had lost their jobs. The figures coincided with the announcement that New South Wales cultural institution Carriageworks had entered voluntary administration.

Following on from the interview, Collette wrote an op-ed in The Australian today (May 7), speaking on how much the arts sector contributes to the Australian economy, directly and through flow-on effects.

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“[The arts] will be cultural experiences that will have people hitting the road for domestic tourism, and the shared experiences of gigs and performances and public events that will draw us back into our urban and regional centres and their restaurants, bars and cafes,” Collette wrote.

“An investment in the creative sector is a direct investment in economic recovery. As a
natural source of innovation and collaboration, our creative sector will be essential in
helping rebuild communities and navigate Australia’s path out.”

The Australian Council for the Arts was praised and criticised in equal measure for the revised Four Year Funding program to respond to organisations’ needs amid the coronavirus pandemic. It increased the amount of funding as well as the number of organisations receiving funding, however decided to not renew four-year funding to a number of reputable arts organisations.

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