The Greens’ plan to re-create Australia

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young outlines the Greens' plan to help the arts sector recover from the impact of COVID-19.

The impact that COVID-19 has had on hundreds of thousands of artists and entertainers right across Australia cannot be understated. While it has been a tough time for all Australians, there has been one thing that we have all been able to turn to and take comfort from, and that’s our arts and our entertainment industry. A good book, our favourite TV show or film, musicians doing gigs via social media, and virtual exhibitions have all offered us an outlet to both escape and come together.

This is not the first time, of course. We saw only recently, over summer, that it was artists and creatives that were there in the midst of the bushfire crisis and were the first to step up, help out and raise money at a much-needed time.

Yet despite the importance of the industry, we have a Prime Minister very interested in talking about sport but not at all interested in talking about arts, entertainment and culture.

So it isn’t really surprising the arts and entertainment industry has been left behind by the Morrison Government. There has been no targeted package for this sector as there has for others. No matter how many times the government insists that JobKeeper is there to help them, the truth is that a large number of workers in these industries have fallen and are continuing to fall through the gaps.

ABS data has shown how hard the has been hit: 94% of arts and recreation businesses have been impacted. A huge 53% of such businesses have stopped operating entirely and 27% of people in the arts and recreation sector have lost their jobs. Of the one million Australians who lost their jobs during this time, one-third have come from arts and recreation.


To be very, very clear: we are at a very real risk of losing an entire generation of Australian artists and creative institutions if we don’t act now to help them. This neglect is now taking a serious toll on an already underfunded sector.

The list of the numbers of artists, performers and businesses who have been completely stripped of their livelihoods is devastatingly long. This week we learned the Woodford Folk Festival, Australia’s biggest music and cultural festival, has fears that, if the event doesn’t go ahead this year, it may be gone for good.

We know festivals across the country like the Byron Bay Bluesfest and Dark Mofo in Tasmania have been cancelled. These cancellations affect so many, from the participating artists to the tech support and the crew, but it flows beyond that: it’s the local tourism industry, the local hotels, the B&B owners, the restaurants and the other tourism businesses in those areas. Entire communities feel the loss.

ABS data has shown us that arts, recreation, accommodation and food services have suffered the most from COVID-19. Sixty per cent of the jobs lost during COVID-19 thus far are in these sectors. These industries exist in an ecosystem, and one cannot live without the other. Without a healthy arts and entertainment sector, tourism and hospitality suffer – and they continue to suffer greatly.

We now risk entire organisations collapsing. Australian galleries have lost huge amounts of income, with regional galleries still reeling from the bushfires as well. This has been hit after hit after hit. From contemporary art space Carriageworks in Sydney calling in administrators to Adelaide’s iconic live music venue The Gov being on the brink of doing the same, there’s deep hurt across the country.

Arts and entertainment contribute $112 billion to our economy, yet have been left out in the cold. We need to ensure that there is enough support for a smooth recovery and the opportunity for economic stimulus.


I announced this week the Greens’ plan for a stimulus package to chart a pathway to recovery. The plan comprises three main elements.

The first is an artist-in-residence program, a $300 million project that would see an artist in residence in every school and library across the country. This is about investing in the value of the next generation of artists as well as getting our artists and authors back to work. It would enable visual artists, authors, writers and musicians to engage their skills to help mentor Australia’s young people and students. The project would be focused on job creation and community development, building an enhanced appreciation for our creative industries.

The second element of this package is the billion stories fund: $1 billion put into an Australian content fund to kickstart the Australian screen industry. Productions are job rich, including creative, scriptwriting, IT, lighting, sound engineers, crews, costumes, tradespeople, marketing, logistics – the list goes on. Making sure we can tell our Australian stories, when we get through this crisis, is going to be essential. It is vital for our cultural identity, but it’s also important for education and local jobs.

The third element is a $1 billion grant fund to inject money into Australia’s festival, music and live performance sector, which needs cash flow right now to recover and restart – investing in and creating incentives for the planning and delivery of events, live music and performance projects for metropolitan, suburban and regional communities. These projects are job rich and provide the economic kick that is so desperately needed for instant stimulus in the communities where they occur.


This package to Re-Create Australia would not only put artists and creatives back to work; it would build on our cultural capital that is so at real risk of collapse. We are going to need to restore our social fabric as we come out of this crisis. We need to create jobs for those who have been hardest hit and we need to create hope for the Australian community, with stories that reflect the Australian identity and show the value of really coming together.

One of Australia’s most beloved stage and screen actors, Noni Hazlehurst, has thrown her support behind this recovery plan. Noni summed it up very nicely, saying: 

‘If “jobs and growth” are the mantra, I can think of no better guaranteed ROI than the (Greens) Create Australia proposal, both in the short and long term, not only for workers in the sector, but also for the benefit of the population as a whole and for Australia’s international reputation as a creative and vibrant country.’

Our artists and creatives have stood by us during times of crisis and now we must do our part and stand by then. We cannot sit idly by and let an entire generation of artists, musicians and authors suffer in silence while their businesses and industry folds. The entire ecosystem of this sector must be valued. Neglecting the arts and entertainment industry now also neglects the future of the tourism and hospitality industries. Hundreds of thousands of workers are relying on this government to help them. We need an economic stimulus package for arts and entertainment now.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young
About the Author
Sarah Hanson-Young is a Senator for South Australia and the Greens' arts spokesperson. Sarah believes that our economy must deliver for both people and planet. Our generation is the first to see the impacts of climate change – and we are the last who can stop it. There is no time to lose in reducing carbon pollution and moving to a zero-emission economy. This means investing in renewable energy, green-powered industry, phasing out fossil fuels and banning new coal mines – like Adani. Climate change looms as the biggest driver of inequality of the next generation. Sarah is a strong advocate for making sure no-one is left behind as we transition to a cleaner and safer world. Sarah is a global citizen, committed to ensuring that Australia remains connected to the rest of the world, through ideas and global action. Decency to refugees and promoting a Welcoming Australia to new migrants is a cause close to her heart. As a proud student of public schooling, Sarah believes that a quality education should be free and accessible to every child and student, from early childhood through to University. Sarah will continue the fight to make our country a fairer and more compassionate place. She has backed diverse initiatives to encourage equality of opportunity for women and is a leading advocate for paid parental leave and universal access to childcare to help boost women’s workforce and community participation.