In the shadows of the A$130 billion JobKeeper funding that emerged from Parliament on Thursday, a tiny amount of $27 million was added for the arts. $7m of that is dedicated to First Nations artists.

In a statement that morning, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher’s office said: “To help the Arts sector deal with the devastating impact of COVID-19, which has seen performances cancelled, venues closed and many performers and crew hit by the loss of gigs, the Morrison McCormack Government is committing $27 million in targeted support across three particularly vulnerable areas of specific need”.

These targeted measures come on top of the Government’s JobKeeper initiative and expanded JobSeeker payment.  The statement outlined:
The Government is providing $10 million to help regional artists and organisations develop new work and explore new delivery models. The funding will be delivered through Regional Arts Australia’s Regional Arts Fund.
To support Indigenous artists and arts centres, the Morrison Government is providing $7 million in additional funding. The funding will be delivered under the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support program.
The Government is providing $10 million to the charity, Support Act, to enable it to extend its important work across the arts sector.

JobKeeper is expected to deliver support to arts organisations, allowing them to keep workers on the payroll at art centres, etc connected with the organisation, while the JobSeeker payment means some arts sector workers who have lost their income are eligible to receive $550 a week, with a removal of the usual assets test and waiting period.

Shadow Arts Minister Tony Burke was, however, derisive on Twitter: A $50 billion industry dependent on gatherings is shut down. Its workers are largely ineligible for the wage subsidy. And this is the response? Live sector asks for $850m, gets $27m.

In a field of responses that largely seem to be about the performing arts rather than the visual, it was perhaps ironic that Evelyn Richardson, CEO of Live Performance Australia noted, The additional $27 million of funding across these areas of need will certainly be put to good use in these extremely difficult times. It’s absolutely critical that we support our First Nations communities at this time of crisis to protect our Elders, to preserve our cultural knowledge, to ensure our song lines, stories, skills and assets survive.

Geoff Henderson, President of the Aboriginal Art Association of Australia, enthused, The 7 million additional funding for IVAIS represents a 30% boost to the annual funding delivered currently to art centres through that mechanism.  This is a significant step towards ensuring that when Covid-19 passes, Indigenous owned art centres will emerge with the fabric of these vital community enterprises intact.

And a recent Desart survey of art centres suggests that this 30% boost will be virtually essential even for those that are open and continue to achieve sales, as, over the last two years, 41% of an average art centre’s total income has come from grants rather than art sales.

Meanwhile, on the lighter side of things, Indigenous art curator at the Art Gallery of NSW, Coby Edgar has had a bit of fun online, repurposing some of the Gallery’s collection to tell stories appropriate to these dark days. See the web page below.