Last week’s announcement of a $250 million support package for the cultural and creative industries sounds impressive but how much of this money will trickle down to Australia’s many freelance and casual dance artists and teachers?
The Australia Council is happy with the package. “This is a welcome investment in some of the industries hardest hit by the impacts of COVID-19,” said CEO Adrian Collette AM. “An investment in the arts is a smart investment in recovery: creativity-led productivity fuels our economy and our social fabric. Arts and culture are major drivers for tourism, both domestic and international. They boost the hospitality sector. They underpin the vitality of our cities and regions, and the perception of Australia internationally.”
The package is made up of four parts:
- $75 million in competitive grants of between $75,000 and $2 million for production and event businesses to put on new festivals, concerts, tours and events as social distancing restrictions ease
- $90 million in Commonwealth-guaranteed concessional bank loans to fund new productions and events
- $50 million in grants dedicated to a temporary interruption fund, set to be administered by Screen Australia and designed to help local film and television producers secure finance and restart filming and production
- $35 million will be spent on direct grants to Commonwealth-funded arts and culture organisations facing threats to their viability because of the pandemic disruption.
While this sounds like a large investment, it is difficult to know how much of this money will reach the dance sector, in particular small-to-medium companies and independent artists and teachers. At a glance, it would appear that there is little direct support offered to these segments of the dance sector.
In a statement released today, Australia’s peak body for dance, Ausdance National, has expressed major concerns about the welfare of casual and freelance dance workers. While the statement indicates that Ausdance welcomes the $250 million investment, it fears for the well-being of those “who are still without a safety net”.
“Ausdance consultations reveal that there are hundreds of casual freelance dance professionals employed on short term PAYG contracts who are not supported through the current Government support measures. Without urgent direct assistance they face losing their livelihoods, and without creators, the tradies mentioned by the Prime Minister have no work in the arts,” says Ausdance National President Paul Summers.
Ausdance National Vice-President and independent dance professional, Lizzie Vilmanis, continues, ”Freelance casuals, as well as micro dance businesses, need to be included with direct and relevant access to investment from support packages. Their business activities fulfil integral roles that currently-classified ‘sector significant organisations’ are not positioned to undertake.”
Ausdance National is asking the Federal Government to: expand JobKeeper eligibility criteria to include casual freelance dance professionals employed on short-term PAYG contracts who have multiple employers; and to extend JobKeeper beyond September to support sole traders facing sustainability disruption due to COVID-19.