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The Product of Unproductivity

“Every artist has lost their audience and therefore the income stream they normally generate for themselves. This industry is on the brink of collapse.”
Richard Roxburgh

Australia’s arts and cultural industries have been among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing laws have meant that live performance venues were the first to close, and will likely be the last to reopen, making production and productivity an almost impossible endeavour.

New statistics published by the Australia Bureau of Statistics on May 28th show that more than 85% of Arts and Recreation Services are still operating under modified conditions, having already lost hundreds of millions of dollars of contracts.

An arts industry in crisis has serious trickledown effects both economically and culturally. In 2019 the Arts employed 193,600 Australians (that’s three times more than mining

The Live Performance industry is currently calling for a $750 million relief package to save the arts industry. This is the result of findings from ILostMyGig.net.au, which has now captured the stories and data of over 10,000 people who have logged job losses on the site.

On Tuesday, May 5th, Sydney arts centre Carriageworks went into voluntary administration, facing an “irreparable loss of income”. This is a devastating loss for the Sydney arts community, as Carriageworks is one of the only venues of its size that is willing to take a risk on work of an experimental nature.

As we went to press, the Sydney Film Festival released a star-studded appeal for donations to help the organisation to continue “sharing stories”.

What about Job Keeper?

The Government’s $70 billion Job Keeper package (as revealed by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on March 22nd, a drastic reduction from the original $130 billion forecast scheme) is facing scrutiny for excluding casual and contract-based workers. This exclusion hits home for the arts, an industry built on a foundation of casual workers and freelancers.

On top of this, organisations trying to claim Job Keeper need to show 15-30% COVID-19 related income loss to reap the benefits. Arts organisations often face uneven cash flow, often with income subsidised mainly by grants and philanthropy, making it difficult to prove eligibility for the scheme

How you can help

If you are in a position to support the arts industry, several grassroots schemes can connect you directly to the people that need the most assistance.


A self-explanatory initiative! If you have purchased a ticket for a cancelled arts event, or if you’re a subscriber to a venue or company, consider donating the cost of your ticket to the company. By donating your ticket, you’re relieving arts institutions of some of the unimaginable pressures they’re facing during this time.

Arts Wellbeing Collective 

The Arts Wellbeing Collective is a mental health program specifically designed for the performing arts. Your donation helps support the Support Act Wellbeing Helpline a 24/7 helpline service providing free counselling services to anyone who works in the arts. 

Adopt an Artist

Described as ‘a triage organisation for creatives in immediate need’, Adopt an Artist matches philanthropists and financially able individuals with artists in need. The organisation prioritises the artist’s requirements, hoping to help artists build relationships with donors that can continue beyond COVID-19. If you’re interested in registering as an artist or a donor, head to their website to find out more.

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