Modern Award Review: Opportunity to mandate pay and working conditions

The Modern Award Review was announced on 15 September 2023 and presents a significant opportunity to legislate pay for artists and arts workers. 

A major focus of NAVA’s work this year is to mandate minimum pay and conditions for artists and arts workers. NAVA’s Recognise Art as Work campaign aims to establish an Award for the Visual Arts, Craft and Design sector through the Fair Work Commission.

The Modern Award Review was announced on 15 September 2023. As per the commitment made in ReviveMinister Burke requested the Fair Work Commission investigate existing award coverage and minimum standards in the arts and culture sector, including potential coverage gaps, as part of this review. This is reflected in the President's statement which outlines the process for the review. 

draft timetable released on 26 September 2023 states that the Commission will begin the awards review with a focus on the arts and cultural sector. A discussion paper will be issued on 6 November and submissions will be invited in response by 4 December 2023. Consultations with interested parties will be held between 11-12 December 2023 and 22 January-2 February 2024. 

NAVA has set recommended minimum standards for the payment of artists and arts workers through the Code of Practice for Visual Arts, Craft and Design since 2001. The recently revised Code is widely endorsed by the sector but remains a voluntary instrument. The sixth edition of the Code was released in September 2022. It was subsequently endorsed by the Australian Government in January 2023, as part of the National Cultural Policy, Revive: a place for every story, a story for every place.

Accurate data on how many people are working in the sector does not exist. There are more than 2000 FTE staff across the documented public galleries. We know that a large majority of this number is made up of part-time and casual staff and many are on short-term contracts based around annual project funding. Then there are First Nations Art Centres, peak bodies, service organisations, commercial galleries, visual arts and craft festivals and fairs, art prizes, residency programs and more that are not accounted for.

From NAVA’s recent work on revising the Code of Practice, we found that the sector is operating on a patchwork system. Some state and territory galleries fall under a state-based public sector Award, some local government-run galleries employ their staff under the Local Government Industry Award 2020, and others use a mix of instruments including adaptations of existing Awards, references to NAVA’s Code of Practice and Enterprise Agreements. 

Establishing a Visual Arts Award is a significant opportunity to legislate remuneration and structures to reflect the proper value of work, improve career pathways and address the attraction and retention crisis for professional working artists and arts workers.

NAVA is undertaking a sector survey of just five questions to help unpack the gaps in arts sector Award coverage. Your responses will strengthen NAVA’s submission to the review and aid our advocacy work to improve workplace rights and conditions in the visual arts, craft and design sector.

Image credit

Poster 'Recognise Art as Work' by Nadia Hernández, 2023

Held up in front of Surry Hills Flowerhouse, mural by Nico

Modern Award Review: Opportunity to mandate pay and working conditions