AICSA calls for additional $10M government investment in South Australia

One in three people working in South Australia’s arts sector have lost their jobs because of COVID-19, meaning that government support is even more urgently needed.

Peak body the Arts Industry Council of South Australia (AICSA) has called on the Marshall Government to make an additional $10 million investment in the survival and recovery of the state’s arts and cultural sector.

The call comes in the wake of new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, released on Tuesday 16 June, which shows that one in three people working in South Australia’s arts sector have lost their jobs because of COVID-19.

Such losses increased in May rather than reducing, the data shows.

AISCA Chairperson Gail Kovatseff said: ‘These figures are alarming, and they confirm what many in the arts and cultural sector intuitively knew already. Our industry is facing a major crisis.

‘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,’ she said.

While the South Australia Government responded early with a $2.5 million arts support package, Kovatseff said more was required – especially in light of the Federal Government’s slow response to the national crisis affecting the creative industries.

To date there has not been a substantive, general Federal Government package announced for the arts and cultural sector, and many workers in the sector have been unable to access JobKeeper.

On Tuesday (23 June) the Prime Minister said that while a support package is being planned for the sector, it will not be announced until July.

Furthermore, the impact of COVID-19 has come on the back of devastating cuts to the arts by the Federal Government since 2013.

‘At a time when billions are being invested into jobs and COVID-19 economic recovery, the lack of Federal investment in a labour-intensive industry such as arts and culture is astounding,’ said Kovatseff.

Read: Morrison Government’s ‘complete abandonment’ of the arts is shocking

In other Australian states, arts survival and recovery packages announced have ranged in the vicinity of $50 million (New South Wales, $6.63 per head of population), $49.1 million (Victoria, $7.72 per head of population), and $42.5 million (Queensland, $8.38 per head of population).

The AISCA is calling for immediate new investment of an equivalent size in South Australia, a minimum of $10 million, bringing the state’s total COVID-19 arts response package to $12.5 million, $7.50 per head of population.

Shadow Minister for Arts Jayne Stinson supported the sector’s call for greater support. ‘The response to the arts sector from the Marshall Liberal Government has been lacklustre and hasn’t kept pace with what’s happening interstate,’ she said.

‘About 16 000 people are usually employed in the arts in SA. It’s an iconic industry in our state. Yet there’s been a pitiful lack of support for workers who already only earn an average of $43 000 a year.

‘It’s about time that the Premier – who is also the state’s Arts Minister – supports the arts by responding to the industry’s calls for an urgent $10 million injection of funds,’ Stinson added.

‘It’s about time that the Premier – who is also the state’s Arts Minister – supports the arts by responding to the industry’s calls for an urgent $10 million injection of funds.’ 

– Shadow Minister for Arts Jayne Stinson

The AICSA has identified several key areas where additional funding would be most beneficial:

  • Enabling artists to continue to make artistic works in South Australia. Substantial new grants programs, commissioning funds and income relief have been a key feature of some State packages in the absence of such an initiative from the Federal Government.
  • Assisting organisations, venues and festivals to reopen in a way that is commercially viable whilst enabling them to mitigate risk, encourage audiences to return, and prioritise investment in new work by South Australian artists.
  • Assisting those who have lost their employment including many casual employees who were employed by statutory authorities and Government-owned entertainment venues who are not eligible for JobKeeper.
  • Strategies to encourage audience confidence and return, and to market the arts and cultural tourism.
  • Continuing to implement South Australia’s new Arts Plan with additional investment.

‘The arts industry both here and nationally is facing a dire crisis due to the impact of COVID-19, and government needs 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. Arts and culture are very important to the experience, wellbeing, economy and brand of South Australia,’ Kovatseff concluded.

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts