The Federal Government has announced that it will provide an additional $125 million for the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) fund. The initial RISE fund of $75 million was part of a $250 million rescue package of grants and loans announced by the Government in June, 2020, in the wake of the COVID-19 shutdowns.

MTC Ghost LightMelbourne Theatre Company’s ghost light in 2020. Photo © Melbourne Theatre Company

Recipients of RISE funding so far include the Canberra International Music Festival, Australian Haydn Ensemble, Australian Theatre for Young People, Darlinghurst Theatre Company, Michael Cassel Group, Circa, Queensland Music Festival, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, UKARIA, the Australian National Academy of Music, The Australian Ballet, Melbourne Theatre Company, Melbourne Opera and Melbourne Digital Concert Hall, West Australian Opera and more. The Government has said this new funding will support around 230 projects and up to 90,000 jobs.

The boost to the RISE funding, which was already under fire for a sluggish rollout and opaque decision-making processes, comes as the arts industry now faces the looming “cliff edge” of the termination of the JobKeeper supplement this Sunday.

“Our focus has turned to stimulating activity so the work opportunities can flow,” said Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, Paul Fletcher. “This new funding comes at an important stage in the resurgence of Australia’s arts and entertainment sector. The purpose of the RISE program is to get shows put on, bringing employment to performers, crews and front-of-house staff.”

Grant decisions will be made by the Minister’s department, rather than by the Australia Council for the Arts.

The Government announced that it will make changes to make it easier for multiple businesses and organisations to access the program, as well as making changes to encourage projects from as low as $25,000. The Government also said it will provide a further $10 million to the arts charity Support Act in 2020-21, following $10 million directed to Support Act last April.

Labor’s Peter Khalil told Sky News that the package is “too little, too late” and “just does not cut it”.

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance said: “The extra $125 million announced today won’t be enough to save thousands of jobs in the arts & entertainment sector when #JobKeeper ends this weekend. It’s too little and too late and is no comfort to the many arts workers who were abandoned by the government last year because they weren’t eligible for JobKeeper.”

Industry body Live Performance Australia – which called for a $850 million stimulus package for the industry last March – has welcomed the injection of funding. “With JobKeeper ending this month, the music and live entertainment industry has a significant gap in Q2 and Q3 as it is unable to fully reactivate due to COVID-19 restrictions, notably venue capacity limits, border uncertainties and barriers to international acts entering Australia,” said LPA Chief Executive Evelyn Richardson. “While we are now seeing more of our theatre productions back on stage, Australia’s live music industry is gearing to deliver events in Q4 onwards. We need to ensure we retain our critical skills base and businesses across the supply chain including artists, crew, technical businesses, managers, promoters and agents.”

“We look forward to working with the government to get this money out the door as quickly as possible,” Richardson said. “This investment by government will help us keep companies alive, projects moving and people in jobs.”

APRA AMCOS has also welcomed the package. “We are delighted the Australian Government has listened to our plea to help support Australia’s live music entertainment industry through the uncertainty of the next six months,” CEO Dean Ormston said. “We urge the Australian Government to expedite the application process so these funds can be distributed to the industry urgently. The livelihoods of thousands will rely on this new package to ensure the sustainability of our sector.”

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