NAVA's submission: COVID-19 Senate Inquiry
Read NAVA's submission to the COVID-19 Senate Inquiry.
Read NAVA's submission to the COVID-19 Senate Inquiry.
Ahead of the 28 May 2020 deadline, NAVA prepared a draft submission to the Senate Inquiry on the Australian Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. NAVA made the draft available on 18 May 2020 to help in the preparation of your own submissions, so that the Senate Select Committee would have all the information it needs to understand all arts impacts and next steps. We were delighted with the helpful responses from Members and have now finalised and lodged the submission.
Senator Katy Gallagher, Chair
Senator James Paterson, Deputy Chair
Senate Select Committee on COVID-19
via: Committee Secretary
Thursday 28 May 2020
Dear Senators Gallagher and Paterson,
NAVA welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Senate’s investigation.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the most debilitating disruption to cultural life that most Australians have ever experienced. Such damaging impacts necessitated a holistic cultural response. This did not occur. As a result, both the creative industries and the Australian economy as a whole will experience long-term, avoidable negative consequences – as will all Australians. These consequences have social, economic, health and mental health impacts. It’s not too late to avert the worst of these.
This document addresses:
The National Association for the Visual Arts is the professional membership body for the Australian contemporary arts. Through the Code of Practice for the Professional Australian Visual Arts, Media, Craft and Design Sector, we set national best practice standards for the industry. Our community of over 50,000 Members, subscribers, friends and followers consists of artists, artsworkers, arts organisations, and arts lovers including business and philanthropy. NAVA is a non-profit company limited by guarantee founded in 1983. We are a DGR-1 entity with a public fund, and we are also the custodians of the Artists’ Benevolent Funwhich has experienced high demand in response to this crisis. NAVA’s work across this period:
 For full details on the Fund see https://visualarts.net.au/artists-benevolent-fund/
 All of NAVA’s work to date is available on our COVID-19 Industry Advisory page: https://visualarts.net.au/advocacy/industry-advisory-note-covid-19-response/
Arts and culture are the heart of our everyday lives. 98% of all Australians participate in the arts as artists, craftspeople, designers or audience members – the arts matter to all of us. Australia’s creative and cultural industries contribute $111.7bn to Australia’s GDP, representing some 6.5% of the economy. We employ 600,000 people including 50,000 professional artists. The industry is highly diverse in its business models and highly employment-intensive, with a high proportion of expert workers employed casually. Only a small proportion of Australia’s artists earn all of their income through their creative work alone; the rest work casually and part-time, in both arts- and non-arts-related work. 70% of those earning arts-related incomes work as teachers, including as casuals in the tertiary education sector. Many also work causally in hospitality. Not only, then, do artists and artsworkers engage in precarious work as their professional focus, but also, for the incomes they earn to support that professional practice.
NAVA’s COVID-19 impact survey heard from 3,000 respondents and assessed $50m in losses, affecting 39,027 artists and 475 small-to-medium organisations via 9,827 event cancellations. The mental health strain has been extreme, and tragedies have already occurred. There has been a disproportionate and concerning impact on First Nations Elders, artists and organisations.
Australia’s leading economists, including the Government’s own, have identified our industry as the first hit and the worst hit:
The industry has been united and clear in outlining the specific impacts as well as the industry interdependencies across tourism, accommodation and hospitality, each relying on events and venues on our industry for their success:
Some changes to income support measures have been made as a result of combined action by non-profit sector, and these have been welcomed by the industry:
NAVA commends the work of:
Overall, however, beyond the Australia Council and the Office for the Arts, the Government response has not reflected an understanding of the industry’s impacts, and has not met industry needs:
By contrast, states, territories and capital cities have responded with alacrity to the priorities of the creative industries, recognising the great value of our work and our audiences to their cultural life, their experience economy, and their tourism at a time when international travel will not be possible:
However, the industry remains vulnerable, and this will worsen:
Industry bodies were united and clear in calculating the need for specialist stimulus at $1-2bn.
 Connecting Australians: The National Arts Participation Survey, Australia Council https://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/news/media-centre/media-releases/connecting-australians-the-national-arts-participation-survey/ accessed 15.05.20
The economic value of cultural and creative activity as at most recently available figures (2016-2017), Australian Government Bureau of Communications and Arts Research: https://www.communications.gov.au/departmental-news/economic-value-cultural-and-creative-activity, accessed 15.05.2020
 Prof. David Throsby and Dr Katya Petetskaya, Making Art Work: An Economic Study of Professional Artists in Australiahttps://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/research/making-art-work/ accessed 15.05.2020
 For a more detailed breakdown of artists’ employment patterns, see Throsby and Petetskaya, Making Art Work
 Case studies and direct quotes: https://visualarts.net.au/news-opinion/2020/creative-industry-stimulus-whats-missing-and-whats-urgently-needed/
 Australia Council Briefing Paper: https://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/workspace/uploads/files/briefing-paper-impacts-of-c-5eaa570cef589.pdf accessed 15.05.20
 Impacts of COVID-19 on the economy, Australian Bureau of Statistics https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTAT... Features2Week Commencing 30 March 2020?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=5676.0.55.003&issue=Week Commencing 30 March 2020&num=&view= accessed 15.05.20
Estimating the COVID-19 Employment Shock, Grattan Institute https://grattan.edu.au/report/shutdown-estimating-the-covid-19-employment-shock/ accessed 15.05.20
 Deloitte Access Economics https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/media-releases/articles/covid-19-australias-60bn-income-pain-290420.html accessed 15.05.20
 ABS Job loss statistics: https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs%40.nsf/mediareleasesbyCatalogue/400084FDCC1353C9CA2585500026370F?OpenDocument accessed 20.05.20
https://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/funding/funding-index/2020-resilience-fund/ accessed 28.05.20
 Minister for the Arts, JobKeeper payment to keep the spotlights shining in the arts sector: https://www.paulfletcher.com.au/media-releases/media-release-jobkeeper-payment-to-keep-the-spotlights-shining-in-the-arts-sector, accessed 15.05.20
 See Esther Anatolitis in The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/08/as-we-crave-the-return-of-our-cultural-life-arts-workers-and-organisations-are-being-left-behind, accessed 15.05.20
 See Paul Fletcher in the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2020/apr/23/coronavirus-hit-australias-arts-industry-hard-and-early-our-support-package-is-designed-to-help, accessed 15.05.20
 Impact of the 2014 and 2015 Commonwealth Budget decisions on the Arts, https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Legal_and_Constitutional_Affairs/Arts_Funding accessed 28.05.20
 Analysis by Jackie Bailey, BYP Group: https://www.bypgroup.com/blog/2020/4/1/australian-state-and-local-government-responses-to-the-impact-of-covid-19-on-the-arts-and-cultural-sectors accessed 28.05.20
 Letter to the Prime Minister, front bench, opposition, state ministers and lord mayors, signed by 130+ leading arts organisations and industry bodies: https://visualarts.net.au/news-opinion/2020/letter-federal-and-state-ministers-re-covid-19/ accessed 15.05.20
In a time of crisis, particularly one in which global behaviour change is necessary in order to protect our health, it’s vital that a national response begins with a direct engagement with Australian culture in all of its diversity. When corporations wish to enact significant change, they undergo a cultural change process. Only when people have confidence that they can express their identities, values and community life will we adopt major behavioural change.
By starting the COVID-19 response with arts and culture, the Australian Government could have led an expert process that gave all Australians great confidence, supporting the industry as well as nurturing Australia’s cultural life. It’s not too late to focus on recovery that benefits the entire nation, as well as our global relationships, cultural diplomacy and export markets.
Last month, the Australia Institute presented eight principles for targeting economic recovery most effectively to “create jobs in the short term and lasting benefits in the long term.” The closer an industry aligns with those principles, the more the government recovery effort should focus there – not just for the benefit of that industry, but for the economy as a whole. Starting with GFC-era Treasury Secretary Ken Henry’s compelling advice to “go early, go hard, go households”, the Australia Institute’s principles strongly align with what the arts offers government in terms of valuable policy levers:
Clearly, the creative industries align with every one of these principles. Early, responsible and comprehensive investment could have boosted the entire economy, as well as inspiring the nation.
Another of the unique expertise areas of the creative industries is public engagement and high-quality communication. Effective communication design during a pandemic is of paramount importance and can mean the difference between life and death. The Australian Government’s presentation of information has been inconsistent and at times poor, generating a great deal of confusion.
The opportunity was lost to:
In a global context, the Australian Government’s COVID-19 response to the arts and culture industry ranks the third worst in the English-speaking world, and less than that of several individual Australian states. As well as the lost opportunity to support Australia’s most culturally crucial industry, the opportunity has been lost to bolster the industry for the global demands that await as we transition into re-emergence.
 The Australia Institute, Design Principles for Fiscal Policy in a Pandemic, https://www.tai.org.au/content/design-principles-fiscal-policy-pandemic accessed 15.05.20
 Dr Ken Henry, former Secretary, Treasury, interviewed by Chris Uhlmann on ABC’s 7:30 Report, 20.07.2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5UHT2hBGdk, accessed 15.05.20
 Throsby and Petetskaya, Making Art Work, https://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/research/making-art-work/
 Austrade, Creative Industries overview, https://www.austrade.gov.au/International/Buy/Australian-industry-capabilities/Creative-Industries, accessed 15.05.20
 National Arts Participation Survey: https://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/news/media-centre/media-releases/connecting-australians-the-national-arts-participation-survey/ accessed 15.05.20
 Analysis by BYP Group: https://www.bypgroup.com/blog/2020/3/21/government-arts-responses-to-covid-19 accessed 28.05.20
 Analysis by BYP Group: https://www.bypgroup.com/blog/2020/4/1/australian-state-and-local-government-responses-to-the-impact-of-covid-19-on-the-arts-and-cultural-sectors accessed 28.05.20
A strong arts and cultural sector is critical to Australia’s future.
As we emerge from this crisis, Australians are demanding the creative experiences that connect and inspire us. The hospitality, accommodation and tourism industries are relying on the creative industry’s rapid and robust emergence. Without international travel, regional and interstate travel will fuel Australia’s economic recovery.
Priorities for Australian Government implementation well before the reporting date of this Inquiry:
NAVA’s submission to this Inquiry endorses the submissions of:
As noted in the submission upload process, I consent to making this document publicly available. I look forward to reviewing submissions from across the Australian community.
It will be important to devote at least one full day of hearings to the arts and culture sector so that artists, craftspeople, designers, artsworkers, organisations, sector bodies, philanthropists and audiences have the opportunity to enrich your work with their experiences. I welcome the opportunity to speak to this submission in person, as well as introducing you to artists, artsworkers and organisations impacted by this crisis. I thank you and each committee member for your important work at this critical time.
As we begin to emerge from this health and economic crisis, let's lead that recovery with a close focus on the way we live our lives, connect with one another and create our future.
Please do not hesitate to contact me for any further information I can provide.
Hala is an internationally renowned artist with an exhibition and installation practice who has won numerous awards across her career. She can go months without earning anything from her practice, and then sell a work, receive an exhibition fee, or earn a grant. Hala earns $46,000 per year across five casual jobs presenting workshops at galleries, teaching at a university, and working in hospitality. The longest she’s worked in any of those jobs is ten months. All of this work has ended. After 15 years as a casual she has only $33,000 in super, and is not willing to jeopardise her future by withdrawing it.
Dun is a sole trader artist who, later this year, was going to have the career-highlight experience of being curated into an art fair as a featured artist – but now, that’s been cancelled. The fee was the equivalent of two years’ income, and they would’ve sold a great deal of work, so they hadn’t secured many other paid opportunities for 2020.
Regionalplace Gallery is a popular public gallery and the lifeblood of local community life. Like the majority of Australia’s regional galleries, it is owned by local government. The gallery’s rare collection is of national significance and contributes significantly to the Shire of Regionalplace’s balance sheet. The gallery receives no shire operating budget and is instead expected to return revenue to council. All of the gallery’s self-generated income has disappeared including workshops, community events and venue hire.
Cityspace is a capital city contemporary gallery with global impacts. Over 50% of its staff are casually employed artists and artsworkers, including installers, technicians and curators. One of their artists is currently stranded overseas as part of a residency exchange, and in unable to return home and unable to access any income support payments. Cityspace’s closure has eliminated all of its self-generated income and jeopardised its commercial and philanthropic relationships, but the gallery can’t demonstrate the required downturn in order to access support. Worse, having investigated JobKeeper, Cityspace can’t commit any of its remaining staff to carrying out the admin required to process a large number of small payments, and can’t keep paying staff for the month or more that it will take to receive the reimbursements. Even if it were possible to prove their eligibility, these payments would only support staff and not the gallery, which has small reserves and will be unable to pay its outgoings as of May.
Arts Association is an industry body whose members are organisations all over Australia. One by one, they are withdrawing their membership because they can no longer afford to pay. Membership is the association’s primary source of income and they don’t receive any grants. Soon they will have no members left. With the recession expected to last across 2020-2021, this industry sector won’t have an expert body to lead national capacity-building work for the COVID-19 recovery period nor beyond.
Direct quotes from NAVA’s COVID-19 survey –
“We have had to cancel eight (and counting...) of our upcoming events and exhibitions due to the risks that COVID could have on our Central Australian community. This has meant artists have had to change their plans – which drastically affects their working year which, in turn, affects their financial position.”
“We probably won't be able to hold this program again because it was so contingent on a range of types of funding from grants that we will not receive again. It took us years to secure those grants.”
“This was the first of all my future jobs cancelled. I now have no work lined up. I am a single mum with a mortgage and I am quite frankly stuck without any money and no chance of work anytime soon.”
“These closures have removed two of my casual jobs and I now have no income from two key sources. I live week to week generally and now I am in a very challenging position. This situation is also likely to effect an upcoming group exhibition and also the Spring 1883 art fair in which I was scheduled to show work. I am now in a position where I cannot afford to spend money producing artwork even if the art fair does go ahead. These are very grim times and I feel very scared.”
“This will impact market development for future European and Asian tours and installations of my current work. Loss of current income means future sustainability is in question.”
“Some of the cancelled project components were part of strategic planning as pilots for future programs. We have lost R+D time, income, capacity building and if more cancellations continue (which is likely), we will be unable to produce any public events in the future.”
“Having just survived financial hardship due to bushfire impact in my local area this is just another nail in the coffin.”
“This was my main exhibition this year. It took 1 year to prepare. What was previously a big opportunity to propel my career in visual arts has basically been nullified.”
“I have been working on this project for nearly a year. Psychologically it is really devastating to have such a large project rescheduled and potentially cancelled. There was an immense build up I have been working really hard and now I am not really sure what to do. Makes the days empty. I also have 11 artists that I am collaborating with and paying working on it. I will still honour these payments out of my own pocket.”
NAVA’s COVID-19 Industry Advisory features detailed information on industry impacts, immediate support and policy priorities: