NAVA Advocacy Toolkit: Helping government understand the need for urgent stimulus

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Action stations, everyone. 

COVID-19 is the single biggest disruption to Australia’s cultural life in generations – and on the back summer’s fires and storms and the past five years’ funding cuts at all levels of government, this comes at the most vulnerable time the arts industry has ever experienced.

Artists and artsworkers are seeing years worth of work vanish as exhibition openings and festivals are cancelled, galleries close, residencies are withdrawn, talks and workshops are abandoned, and all next jobs are entirely in jeopardy. Each of these engagements represents a career culmination for everyone involved. As self-generated income disappears, the livelihoods of independent artists and freelance workers are imperiled, and successful small-to-medium companies risk folding. We’ve never seen anything like this. 

To date, none of the Australian Government’s stimulus commitments have addressed the industry that was one of the first to be hit by the economic devastation of COVID-19.

I want to commend the work of Minister for the Arts Paul Fletcher in hosting an industry-wide a roundtable on 17 March, and bringing forward an extraordinary Meeting of Cultural Ministers on 19 March. Minister Fletcher understands what’s needed – and he needs our support to make that happen.

Sector bodies such as NAVA have outlined specific measures that need to be taken immediately to avoid industry collapse, and advised all state and federal ministers, remaining in ongoing contact. 

Yesterday’s emergency Meeting of Cultural Ministers unfortunately did not agree to any actions and did not announce a decision-making timeline.

It’s time to act.

Writing to your MP and to the Treasurer

Sample letter

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Now’s the time to contact Australian Government’s Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, and/or your local MP.

Here’s a sample letter as a guide – with plenty of wording that you can adapt for social media, phone calls, messaging etc. 

Please don’t feel you have to copy it verbatim! Actually, it’s better if you don’t. This one’s focused on the visual arts, but you’ll find useful tips below for drawing on the key issues, stats and stimulus priorities articulated by our colleague sector bodies. 

Tips for email-writing success:

  • Make it yours: Describe your work in your own words. Personalised letters get noticed.
  • Be passionate: What does your practice mean to you? What does Australia’s contemporary arts mean to you? What’s at stake right now? Write with clarity and passion.
  • Don’t risk being ignored: Offensive or abusive messages don’t get taken seriously. Worse: they completely undermine your efforts. Treat this letter as seriously as you want all artists to be treated.
  • Use the Australia Council’s Electorate Profiles: Talk up key arts stats from right where an MP’s constituents live with localised information that’s targeted to a specific electorate.

Go social: Tag MPs into your posts and use #DontCancelCreativity to create a critical mass. On Twitter, the treasurer is @JoshFrydenberg.



Subject line: Urgent arts industry stimulus to restore Australia’s cultural life:

To: 

Josh Frydenberg, Treasurer
Paul Fletcher, Minister for Communications and the Arts
Ken Wyatt, Minister for Indigenous Affairs
Simon Birmingham, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment
Michael McCormack, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development

And here’s the list of other ministers you might be interested in contacting

firstname.surname.mp @ aph.gov.au 

josh.frydenberg @ treasury.gov.au

  

Dear Mr/Ms/Mx/Senator SURNAME,

I’m writing to compel you to take action on a billion-dollar stimulus package for the arts industry to be implemented as soon as possible. Because there’s no time to be lost.  

COVID-19 is the single biggest disruption to Australia’s cultural life in generations.

When arts events are cancelled:

  • hundreds of thousands of artists and artsworkers’ livelihoods are threatened, 
  • thousands of small-to-medium companies risk closure because their self-generated income isn’t flowing,
  • the entire arts industry is imperilled, 
  • countless workers and businesses are affected in all of the industries that depend on our success such as local and regional hospitality and tourism, and 
  • millions of Australians are bereft of social connection and cultural life at a time of worldwide panic. 

On the back summer’s fires and storms, plus the past five years’ funding cuts at all levels of government, this comes at the most vulnerable time the arts industry has ever experienced.

Our peak body NAVA continues to assess impacts. To date, a total loss of $30m has been reported in the visual arts, affecting 10,690 artists and 309 S2M organisations via 5,418 event cancellations. 

To date, none of the Australian Government’s stimulus commitments have addressed the industry that was one of the first to be hit by the economic devastation of COVID-19.

I want to commend the work of Minister for the Arts Paul Fletcher in hosting an industry-wide a roundtable on 17 March, and bringing forward an extraordinary Meeting of Cultural Ministers on 19 March. Minister Fletcher understands what’s needed – and he needs your support to make that happen.

Immediate stimulus is needed, including:

  • immediate initial relief payments to artists, artsworkers and organisations, including rent relief for galleries
  • Centrelink eligibility with waived waiting periods
  • specific measures for artists and artsworkers whose work is itinerant or casual, including paid sick leave for those required to self-isolate
  • government grant extensions and reporting relief 
  • targeted stimulus and support for regional and remote Aboriginal art centres
  • implementing immediate and ongoing additional investment in the Australia Council 
  • on industry advice, creating well-designed long-term stimulus measures to avoid industry collapse and inspire innovation – including an impactful and inspirational public campaign to rebuild confidence.

We echo the calls of all of Australia's arts industry bodies in calling for stimulus. All together, a $1bn package is needed: $780m in S2M business stimulus payments; $180m to the Australia Council; and $40m for the Artists’ Benevolent Fund and Support Act. Additionally, a wage fund and subsidy for the freelance and casual workers and sole traders who make up the bulk of the industry will be vital.

Australia’s artists and creative workers lead the nation in innovation – we invented the gig economy and the portfolio career – and only a small fraction ever receive government funding. We’re in crisis right now because our self-generated income has collapsed. Your immediate action can prevent the collapse of our entire industry. 

Australia needs to act now. There is so very much at stake.

 

Sincerely,

YOUR NAME.

 

PS: For further information on how best to act, here’s NAVA’s priority list of arts sector stimulus needed to secure the industry that inspires our healing nation.

Communicating the impacts

COVID-19 and the arts

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Keen for more industry information on COVID-19 impacts, stats, and specific stimulus priorities? Great work has been done very quickly this week to assess and communicate the impacts to date, and outline what’s needed:

and plenty more. Please use what’s most helpful in getting the message out there about this most devastating disruption to Australia's cultural life we've experienced in generations. 

Engaging further with MPs

Tips on finding your MP and then staying in touch

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What’s my electorate? Who’s the MP?

Use the Australian Electoral Commission’s Find My Electorate 


What are their values and motivations?

Watch or read their First Speeches in Parliament


How do I contact an MP?

Contact one of them – or all of them


What about senators?

Look them up and read their First Speeches 


What’s their record? What bills have they voted for or against?

Search this database by name or postcode 


How do I talk up our local arts scene?

Use Australia Council’s Electorate Profiles and most importantly: your own experience and your own story.

What’s NAVA calling for?

Industry support

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Implementing an ambitious and well-funded stimulus package specific to the arts sector in response to industry advice:

  • Offering specific measures for artists and artsworkers whose work is itinerant or casual, including paid sick leave for those required to self-isolate;
  • Immediate initial relief payments to artists, artsworkers and organisations, delivered efficiently via professional membership bodies and by the Australia Council;
  • Urgently implemented Centrelink eligibility with no waiting periods; a paid sick leave fund for itinerant, casual and freelance workers;
  • Targeted stimulus and support for regional and remote Aboriginal art centres;
  • Ensuring that the regional fire, storm and flood recovery needs are not forgotten at this critical time;
  • Setting specific timeframes around national self-isolation and event restrictions, rather than indefinite restrictions, so that creative businesses can plan their work – for example, announcing a review date on public gathering, social distancing and travel restrictions; all levels of government to provide immediate clarity to publicly-owned galleries so that their boards and committees can make the decisions necessary to protect staff entitlements, collections and all programs;
  • Prioritising the payment of artists and freelance artsworkers on government- or philanthropy-funded activities that are no longer proceeding; encouraging all government funding bodies and philanthropic trusts to let funded organisations know that they will not be penalised for paying artists for cancelled work, and that organisations who have been unable to present funded programs will not be penalised when the time comes to acquit their grants;
  • Extending all local, state and federal multi-year funding to the end of 2021, CPI indexed; relieving organisations of reporting burdens to their government funding bodies across the next six months, to be reviewed towards the end of that period;
  • Implementing immediate and ongoing additional investment in the Australia Council of $50m per year that doubles the available funding pool for the Four Year Funding for Organisations program, which has already been assessed and due to be announced on 30-31 March, so as to invest in the capacity of those nationally-focused organisations best placed to build the capacity of the entire sector; Additionally, tripling the Australia Council’s competitive funding pool budget, to facilitate timely stimulus;
  • An immediate $20m to build the Artists’ Benevolent Fund into a program matching the work of Support Act in the music industry;
  • On industry advice, creating well-designed long-term stimulus measures to avoid industry collapse and inspire innovation – including an impactful and inspirational public campaign to rebuild confidence.

#DontCancelCreativity

Share on social media

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If you’re on social media, use the hashtag started by Luke John Matthew Arnold:

  • Talk up the connection between event/program cancellation and your work
  • Talk up ways to keep engaging with the arts and with your work and your organisation 
  • Share stats on the COVID-19 impacts so far
  • Link to stimulus measures proposed by arts sector bodies
  • Talk up all the ways that art creates the future. 

Help is near

At this difficult time, please know that help is near

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  • Call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 or text the helpline on 0477 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue has a comprehensive list of national help lines and websites