The Australia Council for the Arts has unveiled a Response Package to support artists and organisations affected by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adrian Collette, Australia Council for the Arts, CEOAustralia Council for the Arts CEO Adrian Collette

“In the last weeks we have seen our cultural and creative sectors suffer enormous damage as a result of the unfolding COVID-19 crisis that has seen public gatherings, performances and exhibitions cancelled in the interests of public health,” said the Australia Council’s CEO Adrian Collette. “We must do all we can to support the arts community, for whom the impact of COVID-19 is catastrophic. Venues have shut their doors with little or no notice, organisations have been forced to cancel their programs and activities, and hundreds of thousands of arts workers have had significant negative impacts to their immediate and future livelihoods.”

“We have freed up funds – as much as we are able – to immediately respond to the critical situation faced by Australian arts and culture,” Collette said.

The Response Package includes increased flexibility on grant conditions and reporting, including removing requirements on meeting audience KPIs, timeline extensions and allowing organisations to use money provided for a deliverable to be repurposed to pay essential bills such as wages, rent or utilities.

Four-year funding for 2021 to 2024 will proceed, with the Australia Council seeking to identify how to keep as many organisations as possible funded through the crisis.

One of the most significant changes in the Package is the suspension of the Australia Council’s investment programs, with Career Development Grants, Fellowships and Arts Projects funding among the programs put on hold to free up funds to deal with the crisis. The Australia Council will be contacting any artists and organisations who have already submitted applications for any of the suspended programs.

The Australia Council will also repurpose all available uncommitted funds to new programs in response to the crisis. “We will redirect at this stage approximately $5M to new programs designed to provide immediate relief to Australian artists, arts  workers and arts organisations to support their livelihoods, practice and operations during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Collette said.

Further details of these new programs will be available in April.

The Australia Council’s other initiatives include an online learning series, Creative Connections, to provide professional development to the industry, as well as industry roundtables and a new Facebook Group, Arts and creative industries: digital support.

The Australia Council has said it is also undertaking analysis to identify in more detail how artists and organisations can access Government stimulus packages.

The Response Package from the Australia Council follows calls, including an open letter from over 100 academics, for the federal government to step in to support the arts industry. In the meantime, the Queensland government announced an $8 million package last week, while the South Australian government has just announced new Quick Response Grants to help artists affected and the Australian Capital Territory has also announced grants to support Canberra artists who have lost their income and ability to maintain their arts practice as a result of COVID-19.

“We are also working closely with the Office for the Arts and our Minister to provide advice and information to assist the Government’s response to this urgent crisis,” Collette said. “In these stressful times, our arts sector continues to be extraordinary. It has been enormously important to hear from so many of you and witness great acts of organising and solidarity, including many creative responses to make people feel included at a time of social distancing, and rapid pivots to new platforms to release work.”

More information on the Australia Council for the Arts’ Response Package is available here