Daylesford and Hepburn Springs are arts communities. The Prime Minister announced on Thursday that the Commonwealth will provide relief for the arts in regional communities like Daylesford and Hepburn Springs through $10 million crisis relief and targeted support to organisations, artists and art workers critical to delivering the arts to communities in regional and remote areas affected by shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The arts industry has been devastated by COVID-19. Live performances, festivals, gallery visits, cinema and arts classes have come to a grinding halt. Vast numbers of artists and support staff have become unemployed. Many are not eligible for the Job Keeper allowance and have had to go onto the lower paid Job Seeker scheme, often relying on the support of family and friends.
The regional Arts Industry Support Package is part of the $250 million package for the Arts community. It includes festivals, theatre, music and individual artists. More than 60,000 people are employed in Australia’s arts and cultural sectors. By contrast, in March the Commonwealth provided a $715 million relief package for the airline industry which employs 88,000 people.
The relief funding is welcome for the arts community but the overall package is heavily targeted at major arts organisations in metropolitan cities. This is great if you go to the opera and the ballet in Melbourne, but not so good if you like smaller regional festivals that have much more grass roots community involvement.
Less than 5% of the funding is available for regional communities. According to the ABS about 30% of Australians live outside major cities and 10% live in small rural communities.
There are also concerns that past COVID relief packages like Job Keeper have been administratively cumbersome and slow. Many local businesses have struggled to get through the paper work. Detailed advice and guidelines for local arts organisations to access the new funding package were not immediately available when the funding was announced.
Funding for regional communities will be delivered through the existing Regional Arts Fund framework. This comprises Regional Arts Australia and a network of state and territory-based regional program administrator organisations that deliver the funding to arts organisations and artists on behalf of the Australian Government. Funding to Regional Arts Australia will be delivered through an agreement administered by the Office for the Arts within the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.