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Call for $10m to help South Australia’s arts sector recover

Arts & Culture

South Australia’s peak arts industry body is urging the State Government to immediately invest an extra $10 million in the ‘survival and recovery’ of the arts and culture sector, saying it is facing a ‘major crisis’ due to the COVID-19 shutdown.

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Gail Kovatseff, chairperson of the Arts Industry Council SA (AICSA), said that the latest jobs figures released last week were alarming, and showed that one in three people in “arts and recreation” in South Australia had lost their job since March 14.

“Our industry is facing a major crisis,” Kovatseff said in a statement

“Arts organisations and venues were some of the first to shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; necessary social distancing requirements mean they will be some of the last businesses to completely reopen; and at least one in three people have lost their job in our industry in South Australia.

“The figures are even worse for low-income women in our industry.”

AICSA acknowledged that the State Government had responded early with a $2.5 million package of emergency funding for independent artists and arts organisations, but argued in a presentation to the Budget and Finance Committee this week that it should make an additional $10 million investment in the sector’s survival and recovery.

The council said the extra funding would bring the state’s total COVID-19 arts response package to $12.5 million, or $7.50 per head of population – which is comparable to that of Victoria, which has announced a package of $49.1 million.  New South Wales and Queensland have announced packages worth $50 million and $42.5 million respectively.

AICSA also suggested five priorities for spending the money, including assisting organisations and venues to reopen in a way that is commercially viable, enabling artists to continue making works, and helping those who have lost work due to the pandemic (especially people not eligible for JobKeeper support).

Kovetseff said the Government needed to “act fast”.

“Investment in the arts creates jobs, assists low-income workers, contributes to other parts of the economy, including tourism and hospitality, and keeps South Australia an attractive place to live.”

At a media call earlier this week, Premier and Arts Minister Steven Marshall answered a question about the call for additional investment in the arts sector by saying it was something the Government would consider.

“The arts sector and the creative industries in South Australia are vitally important and they are also a very large employer,” he said.

Nationally, there has been strong criticism of the Federal Government’s lack of support for workers and employers in the arts and entertainment industry, which has been one of the sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 restrictions.

Kovatseff described the lack of federal investment in arts and culture as astounding, saying recent research by The Australia Institute showed that “for every $1 million invested in the arts you get nine jobs; compared, for instance, with construction, where every million creates between 0.9 and 1.3 jobs”.

A petition calling for a “properly targeted relief package” and the extension of JobKeeper payments to arts and entertainment workers who are currently ineligible has so far gathered around 35,000 signatures.

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