Arts, music and culture lie at the heart of who we are. They tell our stories, bring our communities together and position us on the world stage. They are also fundamental to our state’s economy, employing hundreds of thousands of people across NSW.
Yet decades of chronic underfunding, a pandemic and unprecedented natural disasters have left our arts and cultural sector in NSW struggling to survive.
Over $130 million of income was lost from the music and creative industries in NSW during the pandemic and many venues and cultural institutions were forced to close their doors for good.
Without a significant funding boost to our arts and creative sectors, we run the risk of losing a generation of artists and seeing the closure of even more venues across the state.
We need the next government to make significant investments in our cultural and arts industries. And we should aim to do more than keep the sector afloat: we should aim to make NSW a world-class State of the Arts.
The Greens have a plan to put the arts, culture and performance back where it all belongs, at the heart of communities in the cities, regions and country of our beautiful state.
The Greens’ plan for the arts
It starts by reversing the years of damage and neglect caused by cuts and underfunding from the Liberal-National Government.
For decades, First Nations cultural leaders have been advocating for the establishment of a world-standard First Nations-led Indigenous Cultural Centre in Sydney, but plans for a purpose-built centre in Barangaroo have once again been scrapped. The Greens will work with First Nations communities to secure commitment for an Indigenous Cultural Centre in the city’s CBD, which will be dedicated to the performing visual arts and hold seating for 500-plus audiences, with spaces for performances, smoking ceremonies, exhibitions, studios and workshops.
We’ll also save the icon of culture and heritage that is the Powerhouse Museum by cancelling the NSW Government’s plan to destroy the original Ultimo building, retaining the original Harwood building, restoring its role as an arts and science museum and renaming the new museum in Parramatta.
NSW is more than Sydney
Of course we need to think outside the Sydney CBD and beyond the big arts organisations. That’s why we have a plan for supporting the arts in Western Sydney and NSW’s regions.
It’s clear that a lot of people in NSW are missing out. Small and independent initiatives often get overlooked for funding, and regional galleries and projects struggle to get off the ground. We will nurture vibrant cultural centres around NSW, providing flexible employment and location opportunities for artists, making more room for diversity in the arts, and invigorating neighbourhoods and communities.
Western Sydney, with its culturally diverse and extremely talented diaspora, has been ignored for too long. One in 10 Australians live in Western Sydney, yet the region receives just 1% of Commonwealth arts funding and 5.5% of state funding.
The Greens will create a $50 million arts and cultural investment fund to help support Western Sydney community arts. We’ll establish an Aboriginal Art Gallery in Western Sydney, provide $40 million in funding to restore the Roxy Theatre in Parramatta, and fund a new theatre and gallery in Campbelltown, while increasing funding via Destination NSW for small and medium sized arts and culture events in Western Sydney.
Our regions need more support and development to enable artists to create where they live and ensure people outside the city have access to diverse arts and culture. We’ll secure Regional Arts NSW with ongoing annual funding of $200,000 to support the statewide network of Regional Arts Development Organisations, and embed a First Nations Arts Development team in each one.
An eye on arts jobs
We’ll make creative careers more secure, so you can focus on the job of making art.
Work in the arts has always been insecure, but the pandemic destabilised it further and the rising cost of living has put a creative career even further out of reach.
The Greens have a plan to introduce a universal well-being payment. Enough to comfortably cover your basic needs, it will be a regular payment with no means testing and no bureaucracy that will free you up to live and create as you see fit. Based on the cost of living, it will increase if and when costs go up.
We also want to make it easier for all artists to apply for funding. Funding applications can be an unnecessarily complicated burden, demanding long hours of time that take away from artists’ real work. This is an especially huge barrier for artists living with disability. We will simplify the application process for public funding by introducing a first-tier “expression of interest” round, so you have an idea of whether your project will be considered before you go through the full process of applying.
We’ll also bring back live music and help performers get back on their feet.
We’ll reinvigorate venues by throwing out the pokies and bringing back the bands, helping smaller venues to make the transition with a ‘Return to Live Music’ program that builds connections with the music industry, performers and audiences. We’ll also reconnect music with young people by offering those aged 15-24 vouchers worth $200 a year to spend on gigs and live music, and revive our festivals, targeting on-the-job training for artists and crew in Western Sydney and regional areas.
A resilient future
But all the plans in the world hang by a thread unless we plan for resilience in the face of the climate crisis.
Times of catastrophe are when we need the arts most. We will support a climate-resilient arts sector that can weather the impacts of disasters like fire and flood and be part of the recovery response – providing grants for affected artists, subsidised community spaces for artists to collaborate with community and heal through art, and a new statewide Creative Resilience Network to connect disaster response specialists with arts organisations.
With proper funding and support, our NSW arts sector will be vibrant, inclusive and absolutely world-class. The Greens will work with whoever forms government to support greater investment in the arts so that NSW can be the State of the Arts.
The NSW State Election will be held on Saturday 25 March 2023.
ArtsHub has approached each of the major parties to present their Arts Policies ahead of the election. Read Arts Minister Ben Franklin’s statement here and Shadow Minister for the Arts John Graham’s election pitch here.