The Australian federal government has announced it will contribute $35million to supporting arts workers and companies affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will be split between its own Sustainability Fund (set to receive $15million) and mental health charity Support Act (receiving $20million).
Per a statement issued this morning (August 10), the funding will supposedly allow Support Act to expand its work beyond the music industry. “It will now offer support to artists, creatives, production and technical crew across the arts sector,” it is noted.
The announcement comes as Support Act faces a surge in demand. The Age reports that an average of 500 calls are being placed to the charity each day. It’s said that applications for crisis grants peaked at 600 a day in mid-to-late July, when Victoria entered its fifth lockdown and NSW extended its own into August.
“People have used up their savings and other income streams they might have had; they’ve started to dry up,” CEO Clive Miller told The Age.
“There doesn’t seem to be a clear road map out of this and I think it’s having a huge impact on not only people’s mental health but on their economic viability. Anyone in the sector is realistically expecting to struggle for some time to come.
“Some people are leaving the industry; finding work elsewhere. Certainly, that’s the position of a number of crew who are leaving the industry altogether and driving trucks for Coles and Woolies and finding they have a regular income stream for the first time in a while. Others are finding work in film and television.”
In addition to funding raised through artist-driven initiatives (the likes of which G Flip, Crowded House, Ash Grunwald and Powderfinger have all spearheaded in recent times), today’s $20million injection to Support Act will bring its government funding to a total of $40million since the pandemic first broke.
“The challenges faced by those in the arts and entertainment sector are affecting the mental health of many in the industry. That’s why charities like Support Act are crucial at this time,” Minister for the Arts Paul Fletcher said in a press release.
The release notes that at the start of August, Support Act had provided 4,506 grants totalling $10.9million, with over 1,700 hours of counselling offered through its Wellbeing Helpline. In the past week alone, it’s reported $770,000 in grants – each maxing out at $2,700 – was paid to music industry workers including artists, managers and crews.
According to Fletcher’s office, the Australian government will be investing over $1billion in the arts and creative sectors throughout 2021 and 2022.