Australian federal arts minister Tony Burke has detailed the launch of the Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces (CAEW): a government body established to crack down on reports of sexual harassment, bullying and other forms of abusive behaviour in the entertainment industry.
As reported over the weekend by The Sydney Morning Herald, government-funded companies in the field will need to meet codified standards for employee safety and welfare, lest they face the risk of having their capital backing revoked.
The CAEW will be open to feedback from artists and employees across the creative sector, and will provide companies within it “official advice on standards of pay, safety and welfare”. It’s said that the new body will “facilitate referrals to authorities and develop codes of conduct and resources” for companies, who will need to formally enact them to continue receiving government support. The CAEW will oversee the entirety of this process.
“All Australian artists and arts workers have the right to safe and fair workplaces,” Burke said in a statement. “That doesn’t just mean physically safe workplaces. It also means a work environment that’s free from harassment and bullying.”
The CAEW – a direct offshoot of the Australia Council – reportedly comes as part of a broader plan for the Labor government to revamp its existing arts and culture policy, which the Herald notes is due to be detailed more comprehensively later today (January 30).
Part of the significance of this endeavour, Burke continued in his statement, was to acknowledge that artists and creative workers are valued constituents of the Australian workforce. “I think that’s something the previous government forgot,” he said. “We need to ensure that they are properly paid for their work – that’s why we’re establishing the Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces.”
Burke noted that the CAEW was established after the Labor government received advice from several panels, one of which had been delivered in part by musician and activist Deena Lynch (AKA Jaguar Jonze). Burke reportedly said Lynch was “instrumental” to the formation of Labor’s new approach to safety and welfare in the entertainment industry.
Lynch herself expressed optimism, but noted to the Herald that she hoped the changes – which only come after years of serious allegations being made against high-profile industry figures – were “not just performative”.
“It really requires leaders of the industry – who have the resources and the power and the privilege to actually make positive change and cultural change – to step up and start looking internally into their own workplaces,” she said.
Last September, an independent report titled Raising Their Voices (which Lynch also had a hand in formulating) found what it deemed to be “unacceptable levels of sexual harm, sexual harassment and systemic discrimination in the contemporary music industry in Australia”.
It came after NSW Parliament formally threw its weight behind a “broad cultural review” of the Australian music industry, which aimed to address issues of sexual harassment and systemic discrimination within it. Leading the charge was a group of industry professionals, which too included Lynch, determined to “drive wider research and meaningful industry discussions”.