Mute and inglorious?

“The ultimate aim of the Trust must be to establish a native drama, opera and ballet which will give professional employment to Australian actors, singers and dancers and furnish opportunities for those such as writers, composers and artists whose creative work is related to the theatre,” Nuggett Coombs wrote, hoping to help artists “come to flower, when many of them now are mute and inglorious from lack of opportunity”.

Nugget Coombs, founding chair of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust

David Bell, Democrats Arts Campaigner

The arts have come a long way in Australia since 1954 but right now they lack both opportunity and champions in government. How else can we explain the funding cuts over time, the lack of trust by government in the Australia Council, the exclusion of artists from JobKeeper and the too-little-too-late rescue package?

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis the Australian Democrats have campaigned for the need to support the arts community. We have made connections with a number of organisations and individuals and will continue to do so. Political support is not just about money but about people.

Finally, the Government announced $250 million in support. However, $90 million of this is in bank loans and $75 million for events production once social distancing restrictions ease. Not one dollar of this support has yet been granted and it is unlikely that any money will arrive until at least November. None of it is to be directed towards individual practitioners.

An essay by Karen Hands (University of the Sunshine Coast) in a recent edition of The Conversation provides an excellent summary of the history of Arts funding in Australia.

In summary political attitudes to arts funding have always been that artists and companies should become self-reliant. Call it The Market if you like.

The Australian Democrats reject a market based approach to the arts. The arts are the cultural lifeblood of the nation, the soul of our people, the comfort in times of trouble, and the window on who we might become.

Federal Arts Minister, Paul Fletcher said last month: 

“We are backing over 600,000 Australians in the cultural and creative sectors whose work contributes $112bn to our economy.

“These sectors have been hit hard during the pandemic, and the government’s investment will play an important role in the nation’s economic recovery.”

Important, perhaps, but it’s hardly glorious.

Photo by Flavio Gasperini on Unsplash

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