APATA – The Australian Performing Arts Teachers Association

Studio News > Article

The Creative Industry – Our Place In The Future

Posted by Opinion: Yolande (Lou) Smith | Dec 2, 2020

I’ve heard many over the past 8 months state ‘it’s all about sport’ but to be honest they have their sh*t together – sport is a machine, firm agenda and focus in place. There is no pandering to government nor playing the status quo. It’s an industry on a mission for the love of the game who will fight on every level to secure their future and what is offered for the sporting community.

They never steer away from any challenge or fear losing funding if they don’t fall in line. They are fully engaged and aware of the risks should they not always be on the front foot – never to be left behind or overlooked.

This I have to admire even if I don’t know one end of the football or cricket field to the other. Sport plays a central role in the economy and they are smart enough to stand strong and united so government on every level fully appreciate their contribution, business acumen and high-end stakes they negotiate. It is an essential – part of the Australian identity.

Sport have grants, funding, and facilities, they’re also a business. Do you think for one moment the AFL, NRL, Netball, Soccer, Cricket would leave behind the grass roots community level clubs knowing this is where the next set of sports stars are developing, training, and falling in love with the game? Not only is this where talent is discovered it is also where their future audiences are generated and grown.

What about the creatives? Well in Australia it’s bizarre! Arts and culture are stiff words to pass lips in particular for the federal government. Arts and culture is recognised globally as playing a crucial role in economic terms. The creative industry has the major performing arts companies talking their agenda, studios and schools running viable business whom without the talent pool they nurture across all artforms and practice the industry would quickly suffer, through to suppliers in production, design and retail where little acknowledgement and support is recognised – try running a performance without them and see how you go.

As we are aware the Australian government provides funding and support for Australia’s creative sector. Through the Australia Council, the government also supports Australia’s 28 major performing arts companies. The problem with arts funding in Australia goes right back to its inception – that’s a whole other article. It must also be said the industry keeps on keeping on whether that be by compliance or acceptance I’m not sure. The arts and cultural sector have swallowed a funding drop of 4.9% in the decade 2007-2008 to 2017-2018 and struggled through short-lived, not-realised policy from government. There is a combination of short-falls, lack of voice and lack of understanding, especially for the role of arts in public life. Sadly, these regurgitating conversations have been embedded for over half a century with the industry now in complete and utter crisis due to the COVID pandemic.

You need only to look across the ditch to our New Zealand cousins where Prime Minister Ardern registered in May 2020 that the cultural sector “was amongst the worst hit by the global pandemic…Now more than ever we need a thriving arts and cultural sector. We saw in the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes the potential of creativity and culture to create jobs, drive economic recovery and enhance social wellbeing, and they can help us do it again.”

It’s been challenging to watch the word ‘arts – entertainment – performance’ literally stick in the throats of government representatives – an industry across every element of employment that has been disregarded and ignored. In March 2020 in the height of COVID shutdown, 33 organisations lost their funding and then COVID and social isolation saw performance shut down. Here we are moving into December 2020 and slowly the doors are reopening, and the creatives are starting to look towards the long road of recovery. The toll has been immense. It has been very pointed to watch other industries voice concerns, consult and work with government to move forward – the arts?…

To offset the devastating financial consequences of social restrictions, funds have been set aside by State and Territory governments, combined with $5 million of redirected funds from the Australia Council to reinvigorate the sector and assist industry through the pandemic shutdown in the initial closures. Recently the Victorian Government, the last to safely reopen threw a good amount of funds behind the creative sector which has been warmly welcomed and celebrated as we prepare for the festive season. But these funds won’t remedy the financial woes of the sector. If we want to be sustainable we need to change with a whole-of-model approach. Like all sectors there are complexities, but unlike other sectors the momentum to review, reflect and importantly change to work towards comprehensively fixing what is broken appears to be at a standstill.

Morrison finally decided to offer the arts sector a helping hand – this has taken months to engineer and release. The time has arrived to push agenda’s and bring together a unified industry. Sure some toes might be stepped on, feelings hurt and the risk of down funding (happening anyway) but without change and taking control, the way sport does, the sector will be left in the deep deep wilderness.

Surviving Australia’s pandemic is the first step to the long road ahead for many, in particular those running their own businesses be it specialised production and design through to the local private studio. The point here is a performing arts studio – music, dance, circus, theatre, through to kids workshops for film and television, writing and so on have all been affected substantially, in much the same way as many other businesses across hospitality, tourism and retail.

Production, venues and private schools are all small businesses where owners have also asked the question – “How am I going to pay the bills?” Rent is still required, as is water and electricity – same as most people in commercial business. On top of this there are the personal bills to be paid – mortgage, school fees and day-to-day living costs. Employment for instructors and teachers have felt the same brunt of the pandemic with little support and considering many teachers in the arts are also industry professionals working the stage, it’s a double whammy.

More than eight months on from the closure of our borders and the extensive restrictions placed on how we work and play, we’ve heard across numerous media outlets the stories and fallout for everyday Australians and what the future may hold. “Every week that goes on, I lose money and life as it was won’t be the same again for some time.” While I don’t honesty believe for one moment there would be anyone in our creative community wanting to risk health and safety for their staff, clients, students and communities, the sector has been lumped into wrong classifications and I must say by not being united this has shown to be detrimental to business. Dare I say it – if we come together as a industry instead of just an individual approach by discipline and role the stronger we will be – isn’t the saying #inthistogether?

Creative industry across the board – professional level through to grass roots schools have never experienced such an impact, but sadly the last voice to be heard. The release of stimulus, grants and funding on a federal level has been tremendously slow. State and territory governments have moved fairly quickly to support where they can with grant schemes but in terms of running a business in the creative industry – a viable commercial business, many are struggling to keep the doors open.

First up performing arts studios are not gyms – dance studios are currently classified into the same category as gyms and health clubs for COVID classification. This is our failing! This conversation must continue as we settle into the new normal. Change must be enacted to provide the industry with its own classification. Now is the time to address these issues and future proof creative business in all it’s different shapes and forms and on all levels.

Performing arts studios and many working in industry are training and educating young people, preparing them for future careers. Teachers are qualified and highly educated individuals, with many carrying years of experience and certified as instructors and experts with certificates, diplomas, bachelor, master, and PhD candidature. This is also true of the many professions working in the industry across production, promotion, marketing, design, administration, and performance. Even on a school level curriculum-based examinations are demonstrated throughout all sectors with the Australian Education Framework recognising student examinations to demonstrate training and development through to advanced levels.

There has been frustration and anger for the sector’s misrepresentation where steps must be taken to lobby for change and position arts and culture where it deserves to be recognised – an industry of its own making as a priority. In saying this we must push hard – perhaps even with a sport mentality to get the job done and close the gap – arts and culture is education and business.

The process was long, arduous, and difficult to watch as Australian schools reopened with communications via medical experts declared safe with hygiene and social distancing in place for primary and secondary students – same demographic of students attending their dance, music, circus, and theatre practice in after school hours. Studios providing connection and routine for the young in times of disruption is paramount as is creative and physical activity. Performing arts schools offer large spaces to practice and low-risk environments.

Over the past several months many have worked through class rotation, space designation, hygiene practices and the management of parents undertaking pick-up and drop off procedures between classes successfully with policies in place to coordinate the new normal. Even though we’ve moved forward we must come together to position ourselves for the future and viewed under the correct classification – we’re running businesses, training, and educating.

Performing arts studios across the country have seen enrolments drop up to 80% and losing financially. 2021 will lean heavily on experience and reputation to re-build. Like our entire economy the flow on affect is considerable with artists out of work, many studios ineligible for economic stimulus support and the broader ecology of the business across economic, physical and wellbeing profound.  If these businesses collapse, thousands of independent artists and associated workers will lose their primary sources of income, and the cumulative effect on local economies, such as performance venues, suppliers, and related retailers, will be devastating.

Another major concern is the talent chain – teachers nurture talent into universities, major performing arts schools, and companies who in turn will develop students further to advanced levels and complete training before moving into professional careers. The creative industry as a whole must move forward as a force to work on policy change and future proof, be seen as serious business, educators, training organisations, performing arts ecology and major business across the nation. The lack of rounded representation on a state or national level is appalling. We must as an industry work to ensure we are never left behind again in uncertainty and disruption.

SO it’s time to talk – really talk – the good, bad, and ugly as they say! This conversation must convert – policy, recognition, strategy. We must sit in the driver seat and drive our agenda as an industry discussion because the success of a few is not the success of an industry.

Let’s look at some data – who we are and what we are about.

Reflecting on a year that has significantly impacted creative industry, it is time to look to the future and unearth opportunities to elevate and profile the importance of creativity and culture across Australia.

Bernard Salt AM, Managing Director, The Demographics Group, one of Australia’s most sought-after social commentators will share insights – where the industry is positioned and what needs to be considered for the road ahead with a presentation focused on the role of the creative industry in building a better Australia.

Joined by Barrie Cassidy, a veteran political journalist and former presenter of Insiders, ABC TV’s political commentary program, a vigorous discussion to dive deep and explore the data, unpack the current state of play, while providing a front seat into the future will be presented.

Presented by The Larrikin Collective, the launch of this annual event will be presented as a virtual platform to reach those in the city to the regions to celebrate creatives, particularly in the wake of such challenging times.

“We chose our speakers to cut through the white nose experienced over the past several months to prepare a presentation that speaks to the creative sector, those in commercial business and government alike, to discuss the future vision of our industry and start a conservation so we are never left behind again. It’s about reinstating confidence in our people – to learn, regroup and come together as one.”

The Larrikin Collective Presents: The Creative Economy Forum

Australia, Not Just A Sporting Nation – The role of the creative industry in building a better Australia with Bernard Salt AM, Managing Director, The Demographics Group and Barrie Cassidy,

Register Now – Monday 14 December 2020 – Virtual Presentation at 7.00pm AEST

Event registration is FREE – a decision made by The Larrikin Collective to support industry across Australia.

Post presentation the forum will be made available on the APATA Digital Library (only available for members).

Looking forward to 2021 register your interest to join a discussion panel to share your thoughts and insights to be a part of a vigorous conversation to enact change.

Email your bio and interest to us HERE 


Sign Up to our newsletter and be the first to hear about the latest news and events.

Sign Up to our newsletter and be the first to hear about the latest news and events.