This COVID-19 Industry Advisory Note is intended for NAVA Members and our colleagues in the contemporary arts sector across Australia. This webpage is not offered as health advice nor health emergency management advice. As circumstances change, this advice may change.

COVID-19 graphic on green background


Across the world, precautions are being taken to protect us from the novel coronavirus COVID-19, a respiratory illness that is causing a rapidly growing number of deaths. On 11 March 2020 the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic and called for “urgent and aggressive action”. This action includes stringent personal hygiene and physical distancing to prevent rapid community transmission. The Australian Government began to advise physical distancing measures and restrictions on public gatherings on 13 March 2020, and since then galleries have closed, public gatherings have not been permitted, interstate and international travel has been suspended, and we have been advised to stay at home. The latest information is on the Department of Health's website. These actions are vital to protecting our health and saving lives. They also have significant impacts on Australia’s cultural life – and on the artists, arts workers and organisations who create our arts and cultural experiences. 

In Australia, arts events and public programs have been downscaled, postponed, or cancelled. Biennials, festivals, exhibitions, symposia, residencies, workshops, talks and all other programs are jeopardised indefinitely, with a debilitating effect on our cultural life. Organisations have seen their self-generated income vanish, and are having to make difficult decisions around staffing. Individual artists – the practitioners whose itinerant work invented the terms “gig economy” and “portfolio career” – have been facing unexpected income losses, many of which amount to a year or two years' worth of work.

This means that all arts organisations have faced detrimental financial impacts as a result of COVID-19. NAVA continues to assess those impacts, plan ahead as best we can, and advocate for what’s needed to ensure that our industry remains viable and Australia’s cultural life remains vibrant.

Financial support

Please visit the Australia Council's Guide to government COVID-19 assistance for the arts 2021 for regularly updated information on the various assistance initiatives that are being provided by federal and state/territory governments.

Visit the Australian Taxation Office for information about JobMaker Hiring Credit for businesses.

Support for individuals

COVID-19 Disaster Payment - Services Australia 

Australian Government - Office for the Arts

ACT - artsACT

NSW - Create NSW

NSW rent assistance - NSW Government

NT Arts and Culture COVID-19 Interruption Support - NT Government

Queensland - Arts Queensland

South Australia - Arts Recovery Fund

Tasmania - Arts Tasmania

Western Australia – culture and arts funding

Business support

ACT COVID-19 Business Support Grant - ACT Business Hub

NSW COVID-19 Business Grants - Service NSW

NSW COVID Development Grants - Create NSW 

Northern Territory Business Lockdown Payment Program - NT Government

Queensland COVID-19 Business Support Grants - Business Queensland

Tasmania COVID-19 Business Support - Business Tasmania

Victorian Business Support - Business Victoria

SA COVID-19 Business Support - SA Department of Treasury and Finance

Mental health support

At this difficult time, please know that support is near:

Reopening resources for galleries

Is your gallery planning to reopen? Access NAVA's tips and resources to help your arts organisation navigate through this process.

NAVA partnered with the Art Gallery of NSW and Create NSW to host a free webinar to support individuals and organisations as the sector prepares to open up. Emily Crocker, Head of Government and Corporate Planning at the Art Gallery of NSW presented AGNSW’s experience and shared tips on:

  • Communicating vaccination and mask mandates to audiences 
  • De-escalation techniques and dealing with customers/visitors in the space
  • Risk mitigation and preparing for escalated situations
  • Planning for the future.

Industry advice

Best practice at this time is about ensuring we’re protecting everyone’s health first and foremost, while doing what we can to minimise the immediate and long-term impacts.

  • Reassess risks: NAVA advises Members and all sector organisations to re-assess the health, financial, cultural, community and other risks that your organisation or business faces this year. Consider bringing your board and executive staff together by teleconference as soon as you can to undertake these assessments, so that you’re in the best position to plan your work this year.
  • Working from home: Consider what arrangements you have in place for working from home, and how best to implement these.
  • Keep your key financial stakeholders including government updated about the impacts on your organisation. Be assured that NAVA will be doing the same on behalf of artists, the sector and the entire industry.
  • Offer brief small, common-sense advice that reminds us to wash our hands, shield our coughs, and stay at home if we’re unwell. Offer advice that links people directly to information from public health authorities in your state rather than offering your own, so that we’re all connected to the most authoritative information and its updates.
  • Complete a COVIDSafe Plan as required by authorities in your state when your gallery or business is open to the public. This document will outline all the measures you are taking to keep everyone safe.
  • Get in touch with artists who will are affected by your program changes as early as you can, and let them know what your plans are. NAVA is advocating to government and philanthropic bodies that the payment of artists and freelance or casual arts workers be prioritised from funds that have been secured for this purpose, ensuring also that organisations are not penalised come acquittal time. We're heartened to see that many states and territories have already made such announcements.
  • Take extra special care with all of your communications at this time: formal and informal, internal and external. Be aware of how your language and tone may be received by people experiencing this crisis in different ways. Express your duty of care and emphasise that care. Be as clear as you can, and consider how your message can be repeated and presented across multiple formats.

Further Reading

National priorities

Australia’s arts industry is already in a precarious condition as the result of public investment not having kept apace with industry growth and public policy not aligning with industry needs. Action is required to ensure that the COVID-19 impacts do not devastate the arts sector.

NAVA is advocating for three urgent measures to ensure hard-hit visual artists, arts workers and arts organisations have access to vital financial support in this time of economic crises and to build resilience and confidence for the sector.

  1. Provide crisis funding for the visual arts. To date $40 million has been allocated to music charity Support Act initially for the music sector, but opened to live performing arts in August 2021. NAVA calls for this support to be made available to the visual art sector or a proportionate allocation to be made to NAVA’s Artists’ Benevolent Fund. Additionally, NAVA calls on the state and territory governments to amplify this commitment with allocations for each jurisdiction.
  2. Introduce a business interruption insurance scheme, underwritten by the government, to guarantee payments to artists and employees following the cancellation or closure of an exhibition or event due to COVID-19, ensuring payments to artists are guaranteed.
  3. Invest in a national commissioning and new work fund targeted at the visual arts sector without a prescribed event or outcome. 

Further Reading

Sit For An Artist campaign

The visual arts sector is in crisis. Australian artists and arts workers have been impacted by lockdowns across the country with their exhibitions and commissions cancelled.

NAVA’s Sit For An Artist campaign was created in response to deep concerns about the long-term impacts of the pandemic and lockdowns on visual artists, galleries, organisations and arts workers. It is a play on the age-old concept of sitting for an artists portrait, but this time NAVA is asking Australians to sit for a COVID vaccination.

Fronting the campaign, which was filmed at the National Art School in Sydney, are Thea Perkins, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Wendy Sharpe and Dean Cross.

NAVA's immediate action

  • NAVA is open for business, offering advice and support to our Members, and leading policy, advocacy and action for a contemporary arts sector that’s ambitious and fair.
  • NAVA staff are working from home, and all interstate travel is suspended. Given our national focus, our office systems are already designed to promote remote working and online meetings for effective national collaboration. 
  • We encourage all enquiries to be made via email rather than by phone, so that we’re best placed to respond to you wherever we are. 
  • Unfortunately, NAVA's Members' insurance package does not cover loss of income due to cancellation of work and other impacts of COVID-19. Please follow this link to more information.
  • We're leading regular national roundtables on crisis management and post-COVID19 transition.
  • NAVA already presents a range of programs and events online, including workshops, online courses, and our suite of professional practice resources. 
  • We are seeking donations for the Artists’ Benevolent Fund. Donations of $2.00 or more are tax-deductible.
  • We've led national industry unity to create clear outlines of what's needed and what's missing in the Australian Government's response to date, and this work has directly informed the packages offered at capital city, state and territory level.
  • We're working closely with sector peak bodies across all artforms, with key organisations, and with artists and artist groups, to support effective advocacy for urgently needed action.
  • We remain in ongoing contact with state and federal ministries and government departments, as well as state and national colleague organisations, working hard to make sure that the impacts on our sector are minimised and that the government response becomes effective. 

Public health information in your state

NAVA again calls for urgent crisis support for the visual arts sector, 10 August 2021

Visual arts sector urgently requires crisis funding, 4 August 2021

Visual arts sector far from recovery, NAVA survey reveals, 30 March 2021

NAVA welcomes arts package and strongly encourages visual arts, craft and design applicants, 25 June 2020

Australia’s visual artists, craft practitioners and designers call for urgent, fair access to COVID19 support in an open letter to Government, 11 June 2020

Prime Minister, this is your moment to create Australia’s future, 4 June 2020

Creative Partnerships Australia announces matched funding to Artists’ Benevolent Fund, 4 May 2020

Top priorities for NSW’s next minister for the arts, 10 April 2020

City of Sydney donates $83,000 to Artists’ Benevolent Fund, 9 April 2020

NAVA welcomes the first of the Australian Government’s COVID19 arts industry measures, 9 April 2020

It’s ghostlights, not spotlights, for the industry hardest hit by COVID19, 8 April 2020

Artists unite to demand that Government act now to #CreateAustraliasFuture, 7 April 2020

SA Government donates $50,000 to Artists’ Benevolent Fund, 2 April 2020

Creative industry unites to secure Australia’s cultural life, 27 March 2020

Philanthropist reinvigorates Artists’ Fund with 10-year vision, 26 March 2020

Second COVID-19 stimulus: what does it mean for the arts?, 22 March 2020

NAVA responds to Meeting of Cultural Ministers Communiqué, 19 March 2020

Today’s critical moment for the future of our arts and culture, 19 March 2020

COVID-19: Minister Fletcher acts quickly to ensure whole-of-government response is informed by arts industry, 17 March 2020

Urgent arts sector stimulus needed to secure the industry that inspires our healing nation, 16 March 2020

Meet the Wallers documentary examines struggles of making income as an artist, ABC Capricornia, 18 January 2022

Visual Arts Needs Insurance Boost for Covid Recovery, The Wire, 23 November 

Insurance safety net for events set to boost confidence of promoters, SMH, 17 November 2021

Six actions to get Sydney’s events sector back on track, Committee for Sydney, 16 November 2021

Federal Parliamentary Report suggests roadmap for the Arts as COVID devastation becomes clearer, Limelight, 1 November 2021

Visual artists across the country want their fellow Australian’s to get vaxxed ASAP – here’s why, RUSSH, 21 October

Vaccine plea from Australian artists, as research shows COVID-related income losses have left many below the poverty line, ABC News, 15 October

4 in 5 visual artists lost income from the pandemic, ABC News, 11 October 

Are arts workers at risk in compulsory vax policies? ArtsHub, 2 September 

#SitForAnArtist champions sector recovery, ArtsHub, 1 October

Art workers on the frontline: HR implications of vaccination policies, ArtsHub, 2 September 2021

The cruel blow that has left a generation of artists reeling, Sydney Morning Herald, 3 August 2021

Visual arts sector overlooked in COVID relief support, ArtsHub, 20 August 2021

Mimi Crowe on ABC TV News Chanel, 4 August 2021

Report details COVID struggle for artists, The West Australian, 20 July 2021

Mimi Crowe and Penelope Benton on Triple R 102.7FM, 7 July 2021

Fletcher’s “significant re-imagining of the Commonwealth’s approach to the arts” falls short, Limelight, 29 April 2021

Politicians have failed to focus on those COVID-19 has hit hardest, Independent Australia, 31 October 2020

Attacks on the arts miss their value, Eureka Street, 13 October 2020

The arts sector is already suffering. This year's budget just pours salt on the wound, The Guardian, 8 October 2020

What the world needs now is art, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 August 2020

Arts industry could wait three more months for Coalition's $250m Covid-19 rescue package, The Guardian, 7 August 2020

We need to stop punishing artists: their creative thinking will help us out of this crisis, The Guardian, 28 July 2020

Labor fears delays over arts bailout package, ArtsHub, 3 July 2020

Arts sector reps speak at Senate committee: “We can’t operate at reduced capacity. It’s simply not financially viable”, NME, 1 July 2020

Calls to extend JobKeeper for arts sector, 9news, 30 June 2020

What the arts sector says about the Fed Government's $250M relief package, ArtsHub, 25 June 2020

'Massive public demand': artists welcome overdue assistance, Australian Financial Review, 25 June 2020

Struggling arts sector gets $250m lifeline, Australian Financial Review, 24 June 2020

Moody's: Australia doing better than other advanced countries, Australian Financial Review, 23 June 2020

'Our work is relied on by millions': artists urge rescue package, Australian Financial Review, 11 June

Tina Arena, Jimmy Barnes among 1,000 others calling on Coalition for rescue package, The Guardian, 10 June 2020

The economic argument against the arts is over. The government lost, ArtsHub, 24 May 2020

Esther Anatolitis on Backchat - FBi Radio 94.5FM, 23 May 2020

Arts industry NSW: Policy reforms key to restarting industry, The Daily Telegraph, 22 May 2020

Coronavirus NSW: galleries and museums scramble after unexpected lifting of restrictions, The Guardian, 20 May 2020

Coronavirus: Lack of aid for arts triggers cries of culture war, The Australian, 18 May 2020

'Our income vanished': Australia's galleries and museums buckle in Covid-19 storm, The Guardian, 7 May 2020

Devastating times for museums, galleries and visual arts venues, Australian Times, 7 May

Fears for Australia's arts industry after Sydney's Carriageworks folds due to coronavirus, SBS News, 5 May 2020

‘Dire’ situation for creative industries with collapse of iconic arts centre, 2GB 837AM, 5 May 2020

Iconic Carriageworks cultural centre that hosts popular farmers market and writers' festival folds as coronavirus devastates Australia's arts industry, Daily Mail, 5 May 2020

Carriageworks enters voluntary administration, Sydney Morning Herald, 4 May 2020

'If our government wants cultural life to return, it must act now': an open letter from Australia's arts industry, The Guardian, 24 April 2020

Struggling NSW arts companies given $6.35 million relief package, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 April 2020

Are you an artist who’s been affected by COVID-19? There’s a survey for that, CityMag - InDaily, 9 April 2020

Arts sector to receive $27m in targeted support package, The Australian, 9 April 2020

Australia's arts have been hardest hit by coronavirus. So why aren't they getting support?, The Guardian, 8 April 2020

Coronavirus has shut down Australia's arts industry but artists say the Government has ignored them, 8 April 2020

Urgent financial investment in the arts would ease four-year funding fallout, ArtsHub, 7 April 2020

Australian artists unite today in a day of action, Limelight, 7 April 2020

Day of Action as Australian Artists Unite to #CreateAustraliasFuture, Art Almanac, 7 April 2020

Arts and the budget: ad-hoc approach reflects Coalition’s misunderstanding of the sector, Crikey, 4 April

Esther Anatolitis on SBS French TV, 3 April 2020

Esther Anatolitis on ABC Radio Adelaide, 3 April 2020

Survive, adapt, create, says Australia Council, Sydney Morning Herald, 31 March 2020

Nation's cultural life is in tatters, industry groups warn, Sydney Morning Herald, 27 March 2020

Dear Prime Minister: Creative industries unite to secure Australia's cultural future, ArtsHub, 27 March 2020

New arts funding announced in light of COVID-19, Art Guide Australia, 26 March 2020

Artists and companies to get emergency government funds to pay bills, Sydney Morning Herald, 25 March 2020

Philanthropist reinvigorates Artists’ Fund with 10-year vision, Art News Portal, 25 March 2020

ICYMI: The week's top news in the arts – NAVA reveals Arts Day on the Hill 2020 date, ArtsHub, 25 March 2020

ICYMI: The week's top news in the arts – Philanthropist reinvigorates Artists’ Fund with 10-year vision, ArtsHub, 25 March 2020

Plea to help the shows go on, The Australian, 23 March 2020

NAVA reveals Arts Day on the Hill 2020 date for ambitious national advocacy at this critical time, Art News Portal, 23 March 2020

Don't stop: Arts leaders plead for more help, The Age, 22 March 2020

Covid-19 and the arts, The Saturday Paper, 21 March 2020

Arts leaders in crisis talks as virus shuts down sector, The Australian, 19 March 2020

Yes Minister? Talk's great, but we need commitments, ArtsHub, 19 March 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on the arts sector, SmartArts, 3RRR, 19 March 2020

Today’s critical moment for the future of our arts and culture, Art News Portal, 19 March 2020

Esther Anatolitis on Triple R, 3RRR 102.7FM, 19 March 2020

Insurance 'won't save' arts companies from existential crisis, The Age, 17 March 2020 

Another round of broken arts, The Australian, 17 March 2020 

Arts carnage as virus forces QPAC closed for six weeks, Morning Bulletin, 17 March 2020

Arts leaders warn of an industry 'on the brink of collapse', The Australian, 17 March 2020

Minister meets arts leaders to plan coronavirus approach, ArtsHub, 17 March 2020

Australia's arts industry faces existential crisis amid COVID-19, Insurance Business Australia, 17 March 2020

Esther Anatolitis on 'The Project', Channel 10, 16 March 2020

Coronavirus will cause 'devastating' cultural recession, Australian Financial Review, 16 March 2020