Opinion: Why the arts matter to the Greens

Artists-in-residence in schools, a minimum performance fee, and accessible arts education for all are among the Greens' arts policies.

From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australians turned to art. Locked down in our houses, we watched television in droves, went to VR exhibitions in the world’s best museums, drew, painted, danced and sung. Musicians streamed free gigs on social media as online music festivals became commonplace.

It is because of the creativity of those who work in the arts that we’ve managed to get through these last two years.

Yet, while artists have risen to the occasion, they have lost income. Without the ability to perform or display their art, creating has become harder to juggle with making ends meet.

The Australian Greens have for two years now been calling on the tin-eared Morrison Government to breathe life back into an industry in dire straits.

Despite this, the Morrison Government has released a budget that contains even less support the arts, with funding cuts equivalent to 19% for 2022-23.

For an industry that gives us so much, the Government continues to deny support in return, instead expecting the industry to get back on its feet alone and for free.

It is clear that we need to reframe the conversation in politics about the arts and their value to Australia.

The arts, and the skills they foster, have not been adequately recognised or harnessed for their value to our communities and economy. The industry already provides $112 billion a year for the Australian economy, and with the right support, this could be expanded.

The Greens understand that art matters. We know that art and the power of harnessing creativity is a public good.

That is why our vision is one that revives a Creative Australia, and provides the investment needed for the industry to not only recover, but to grow. It creates permanent jobs for artists in schools and libraries. It champions Australian stories and invests in our creatives who have given so much.

It provides a fit-for-purpose insurance fund for live events that are still facing setbacks and cancellation – not just COVID but also events, gigs and festivals that are cancelled because of natural disasters and extreme weather, like floods and bushfires.

It gives a head start to the next generation of young artists who should not have to face income instability when they’re doing honest work.

The Greens understand the future will require investment in creativity and innovation, not just ‘hard skills’ in science, technology, engineering and maths. Investing in a Creativity Commission will help transition us from STEM thinking to STEAM thinking. It will integrate the creativity usually reserved for the arts throughout the economy and society. With a $10 million investment each year, the Creativity Commission would provide advocacy, advice, structural support to the creative sector and beyond.

Our Creative Australia would ensure financial security for artists across the country. By employing an artist-in-residence in every Australian school and library, there will be a member of the school community dedicated to fostering blossoming creativity. Not only will this provide jobs to many artists, but it will shine a light on a career in the arts, and help children develop the soft skills that will be so important for our future economy – things like curiosity, emotional sensing and entrepreneurial thinking.

Beyond this, we will legislate a minimum performance fee for musicians, comedians and creative entertainers who are performing at publicly funded events. A gig guarantee, so when you’re booked for a gig, you know you’ll get at least $250 for your work.

Without investment in the wages and economic security of creative workers, we risk losing the next generation of Australian artists. That’s why the Greens will introduce a pilot program to provide a living wage for 10,000 emerging artists across the country to develop their craft, build their portfolios and support them to keep creating. The Artist Wage program would be a first in Australia, but it is modelled on similar programs Ireland and France.

Read: Greens pitch artist’s wage (again)

There are such brilliant young emerging artists here in Australia, and we need to support them into the future. This also means providing opportunities for an arts education.

My daughter has loved performing since she was little. She may not choose to work in the arts, but like every young person growing up in our culturally rich nation, she deserves a choice – one that does not come at the cost of financial security.

The Greens would ensure accessible arts education for all, across the country. Despite being a creative state with a booming arts industry, South Australia currently doesn’t have a dedicated school for artistic practice. We would invest in a new institution to provide a learning launchpad to the next generation of actors, musicians, dancers, visual artists and screen producers.

Arts education will ensure there is a steady pipeline of artists into our existing industries, like our screen sector, who are so important in telling Australian stories. By investing in an Australian Stories Fund, we can ensure our screen industry can keep creating high quality content so that Australians can see themselves and their communities reflected on our screens into the future.

Storytelling is such an important part of social change. As a politician, that’s the business I’m in. We can’t tackle these big issues that face us as a society, as humanity, without being able to help people connect and understand.

The role of the Greens, no matter the Government of the day, is to stand up for your industry and the creative workers in this country. To ensure your stories are told, your work is seen and your contribution is valued.

In the balance of power, the Greens would push whoever is in Government to do the same.

Art matters. As artists, you matter and your work matters.

It’s not enough to simply give back. We have a duty to invest in our creative industries so they can reclaim their place as the beating heart of our nation.

This opinion piece is part of a series looking at policies for the Federal Election 2022.

ArtsHub has previously published opinion pieces outlining arts policies for the Liberals and Labor.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young is the Arts spokesperson for the Australian Greens.