8 July 2020
8 July 2020
The Hon. Paul Fletcher MP
Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Dear Minister Fletcher,
$250m arts, entertainment & screen industry package: Maximising investments in the dance sector for rebooting Australia’s creative economy
Ausdance National recognises that whole-of-economy support and assistance measures are necessary to restart Australia’s economy and secure sustainability for the future.
The association welcomes the $250m arts, entertainment and screen industry package announced by the Prime Minister last week. Financial investment to stimulate and support businesses in the dance sector is necessary to restart activities and build their long-term sustainability.
For dance businesses with access to the resources provided through this support package, it will assist in saving jobs and driving job creation as the sector rebuilds from the impact of COVID-19.
However, Ausdance National and its professional network across the nation have identified that further tailored support measures are needed to enable the full scope of dance businesses to return to work, and to do so efficiently.
We reiterate that reforms to current support measures can maximise job saving and job creation in the dance sector, and reduce the burden on the Federal Budget.
- Currently, sole traders who run micro dance businesses, along with other smaller dance businesses, are being left without the necessary means to successfully carry out their business activities. JobKeeper supports individual jobs, but resources are also needed to support the multifarious projects those workers undertake.
- Employers in the dance sector are seeing business productivity and profitability affected. They are being forced to prioritise giving shifts to casuals who have been employed by their businesses for 12 months or more, whether or not they are relevant to ongoing business needs.
- Employers cannot support their other casuals left without JobKeeper. As a result, they are finding that they are unable to retain and support uniquely skilled casual staff who provide the specific expertise required because they work on short-term contracts across multiple businesses.
- Freelance dance professionals, without any safety net, are struggling to remain in an industry in which they provide an essential element. A large majority of these workers have been omitted from JobKeeper because they have not worked for one employer for the length of time deemed necessary to meet eligibility criteria, yet as workers who have been consistently engaged by multiple employers in the 12-month period prior to COVID-19 they may have earned too much to meet JobSeeker eligibility.
- The business activities carried out by casual freelance professionals, and micro and small dance businesses, fulfil integral roles that support the business activities of the ‘sector significant organisations’ the Government has already identified. These are activities the ‘sector significant organisations’ are not positioned to undertake, but which are necessary to ensure effective, productive functioning of the dance ecology.
Unless outputs from the whole dance sector are maximised, many interacting or benefiting arts and non-arts business economies will be negatively affected. These include but are not limited to:
- Disability and regional sectors
- Mental health initiatives
- Physical health management
- Creative capacity building
- Tourism and hospitality sectors
Consideration must also be given to:
- Enhanced tax incentives to motivate private giving and investment in artworks and industry development.
- Removal of the efficiency dividend.
- Specific support for innovation.
- Relief for lease holders in both government-owned and private tenancies.
- Investment in a public campaign to rebuild confidence in the dance and arts sectors.
Australia is without a Federal Government arts policy. Endorsement and meaningful support of First Nations arts and cultural activity must be central to a new arts policy to preserve First Nations cultural knowledge and storytelling, and ensure the safety of First Nations Peoples. Without them we have no future. Policy at this level needs to provide clear vision to achieve recognised goals of national importance.
With this knowledge, and with the goal of supporting the dance sector to secure future sustainability within the creative economy, Ausdance urgently requests governments to:
- Expand JobKeeper eligibility criteria to include casual freelance dance professionals employed on short-term contracts who have worked consistently in the 12 months prior to COVID-19, but who have had multiple employers.
- Provide employers in the dance sector the flexibility to determine levels of JobKeeper pay equal to the casual employment contract suitable for project work.
- Extend JobKeeper beyond September to support dance businesses (including sole traders) who face ongoing disruption and impact on sustainability due to COVID-19.
- Add direct financial investment to the current package to include support for restarting business activities (including generating live performance outcomes) for micro and small dance businesses. This means prioritising further continued support to rebuild the dance sector – part of the greater arts industry that employs more than 645,000 Australians and is so severely impacted by COVID-19.
- Increase funding to the Australia Council for the Arts. Dance is severely under-resourced at present, and it must be enabled to rebuild its programs of innovative performance, its contribution to health and wellbeing, and its ongoing development of the sector as part of the solution to COVID-19 recovery.
- Invest in development of a national arts policy through consultation with the arts sector that recognises and acknowledges First Nations Arts and Culture, with custodians providing direction and leadership in the shaping (and decolonising) of our cultural context and frame.
- Continue to engage with dance sector representatives, including Ausdance and BlakDance, to inform equitable and relevant policies of support and assistance for the whole dance sector.
Ausdance National is confident that implementation of these measures will maximise the return on taxpayer-funded investment by enabling a highly skilled and innovative dance workforce to help facilitate rebooting Australia’s creative economy. Dance businesses help stimulate the economy beyond the creative sector, by contributing to the health, wellbeing and vibrancy of Australian communities, thereby helping to drive the regeneration of the broader Australian economy.
We look forward to your response to these suggestions, and to your further support of Australia’s vibrant, highly-skilled and diverse dance sector.
Paul Summers, Ausdance National President
c.c. The Hon. Scott Morrison, Prime Minister
29 June 2020
Ausdance National welcomes the $250m arts, entertainment and screen industry package announced by the Prime Minister last week.
Of this, $110m of seed and sustainability funding will be available to the arts, including dance, visual arts, First Nations arts, music, literature and theatre ‘for important and successful companies, large and small’.
However, Ausdance National has major concerns about the significant number of casual, freelance dance workers who are still without any safety net.
Ausdance National President, Paul Summers said: ‘Ausdance consultations reveal that there are hundreds of casual freelance dance professionals employed on short term PAYG contracts who are not supported through the current Government support measures. Without urgent direct assistance they face losing their livelihoods, and without creators, the tradies mentioned by the Prime Minister have no work in the arts.’
Ausdance National Vice-President and independent dance professional, Lizzie Vilmanis, said: ‘Freelance casuals, as well as micro dance businesses, need to be included with direct and relevant access to investment from support packages. Their business activities fulfil integral roles that currently- classified ‘sector significant organisations’ are not positioned to undertake.’
Ausdance National requests:
- The expansion of JobKeeper eligibility criteria to include casual freelance dance professionals employed on short-term PAYG contracts who have multiple employers.
- The extension of JobKeeper beyond September to support sole traders facing sustainability disruption due to COVID-19.
Ausdance National believes these measures would maximise the return on taxpayer-funded investment and improve the ability of a highly-skilled dance workforce to help facilitate rebooting Australia’s creative economy.
Email Ausdance National President Paul Summers or call on 0417 925 292 for further comment.
1 June 2020
An open letter to the National Cabinet
Ausdance National and the Ausdance Network respectfully bring to your attention the qualifications status of dance studio teachers and their businesses across Australia.
These thousands of businesses closed their doors on 24 March, demonstrating a shared responsibility to flatten the curve, despite never having been listed as a restricted business by the National Cabinet, and without any consultation.
We acknowledge that the National Cabinet has been careful to take account of the plight of gym owners, fitness studios, boot camps and other businesses whose primary concerns are physical activities. However – apart from an unfortunate comment by a state premier that implied dance studio teachers were not qualified – dance has been left out of the conversation.
The perception that dance studio teachers are not qualified is inaccurate – 96% of dancers and choreographers have received recognised formal training and 86% of dancers and choreographers supplement this with private training (An Economic Study of Professional Artists in Australia published by the Australia Council in 2017). Dancers at their peak are as highly trained and nuanced in their physical capabilities as elite athletes.
In the meantime the Ausdance Network has produced a comprehensive, national Return to Work Framework for post-Covid-19 recovery. The Ausdance Network is also conducting a national Covid-19 Impact Survey which is demonstrating the extent of economic and mental health impacts caused by the shutdown.
Ausdance offers the following information to assist the National Cabinet to understand the high quality of dance teaching that takes place in our communities, including First Nations teachers and choreographers.
Ausdance and the Australian dance sector introduced Dance Teaching Standards and Ethical Guidelines several decades ago, and these formed the bedrock of the rigorous vocational training programs dance teachers now engage in to ensure safe, methodogically sound and progressive dance teaching practice.
In addition to tertiary degree programs which train dancers in performance and teaching in community and school contexts, there are numerous professional membership bodies whose sole focus is the training and professional development of community dance teachers.
Organisations such as the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), Australian Teachers of Dancing (ATOD), Cecchetti Ballet of Australia, Comdance and others, including various ballroom associations, have pointed to their long-standing commitment to rigorous examinations and registration systems. There is also a range of professional qualifications specific to dance in the community such as dance and disability, community cultural development and dance for Parkinson’s.
This excellence of training is evident in Australia’s professional dancers, many of whom are the beneficiaries of training by dance studio teachers in suburban schools and full-time training courses.
We acknowledge that opening a dance studio does not require formal qualifications, as there is no government regulatory body for dance. However, there is a range of pathways and training for professional teachers, including for those who have had careers as professional dance artists, and First Nations teachers who not only have formal dance training but who have inherited thousands of years of dance traditions.
Ausdance has worked for more than four decades alongside the teaching organisations and artists by providing research, information, guidelines, publications, workshops and seminars to ensure that Australia has the highest quality community dance teaching anywhere in the world.
- Produced four Safe Dance reports (1990-2018), detailing the latest research into injury prevention and management.
- Published research papers to support Safe Dance practice, and made comprehensive recommendations affecting the syllabi and choreographic practices that are now widely recognised by teachers everywhere.
- Produced a Code of Ethics with dance teachers (first published in 1987), and a code for parents.
- Developed competency standards and skills sets with the sector, and encouraged teaching societies to incorporate these Safe Dance and ethical practice standards into their own curricula.
- Chaired a review of VET competency standards required for Certificates, Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas, opening pathways for dance teaching societies and companies to become Registered Training Organisations.
- Founded the Tertiary Dance Council of Australia in 1985, whose professional dance leaders have produced the current generation of choreographers, dancers, artistic directors and teachers, making this the most highly qualified dance teaching sector in history (see statistics above).
- Developed fact sheets and guidelines for studio teachers and their businesses, including access to tailor-made insurance, music copyright licences, etc.
- Provided workshops, seminars, conferences, and international and national research to aid communication and knowledge across the sector.
- Introduced a category into the Australian Dance Awards that recognises best practice in dance education in schools and communities.
- Encouraged professional artists-in-schools programs to complement the work of primary and secondary dance teachers (many of whom are not specialist dance teachers, particularly in primary schools where teachers are trained as generalists).
- Led the development of the Dance curriculum in The Australian Curriculum: The Arts and devised strategies for implementation that involved teaching artists from dance companies, studios and communities, as well as supporting registered primary and secondary teachers.
- Produced biennial Australian Youth Dance Festivals that provide students and their teachers with creative learning opportunities in dance for young people.
- Worked with the Australian Institute of Sport to create after-school dance programs for children that provide creative alternatives to sport.
Ausdance also made a submission to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and developed guidelines for both dance education and studios that have been taken up across the sector.
It's also important to note that the AusPlay Focus Children’s Participation in Organised Physical Activity Outside of School Hours (April 2018) records dancing as the 4th overall out-of-school physical activity for all Australian children in 2017, and for girls it's the second highest activity.
We respectfully request that the National Cabinet acknowledges the dance sector and its specific knowledge and expertise. We seek clarity about the post Covid-19 restrictions and the guidelines that need to be followed by a sector which consists of thousands of distinct and highly professional physical activity businesses across the country, employing well over 10,000 dance teachers.
This is one of the most affected groups as a result of the economic downturn during the Covid-19 lockdown, and we look forward to your support and acknowledgement. We would be pleased to provide further advice.
Paul Summers, Ausdance National President
With the Ausdance network: Ausdance NSW, Ausdance Qld, Ausdance Victoria, Ausdance SA, Ausdance WA, Ausdance ACT.
28 May 2020
Department of the Senate
PO Box 6100
Canberra ACT 2600
Dear Select Committee members,
Thank you for this inquiry into the Australian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ausdance National is part of the Australia-wide Ausdance network that represents the voice of dance at all levels, including performers, companies, studio teachers, academics and independent artists.
Our COVID-19 impact survey is identifying job losses, severe income loss for independents and sole traders, financial stress for large and small companies, and in many cases, struggle to adapt to the online environment with limited resources and student numbers falling away.
We note the actions taken by the Australian Government and the Australia Council in responding to the impact of COVID-19, and appreciate the challenging circumstances in which they are operating.
We thank the Federal Government for the financial assistance measures available to the arts industry, including JobKeeper, JobSeeker, and the $27m for regional arts organisations and artists announced last week.
However, unless arts funding deficiencies are addressed, implications for the dance sector will be severe, threatening the vibrancy of Australia’s cultural life and posing significant threats to the wellbeing of the many Australians who benefit from the health, connectedness and community economies that dance activities generate.
Ausdance supports the submission to the Inquiry by BlakDance, noting this observation in particular:
‘First Nations-led solutions that empower our communities to utilise our cultural arts knowledge and build on our unique strengths are the most likely to succeed. This includes the need to sit with, in deep listen and work with our First Nations Elders, leaders, and to prioritise funding for First Nations-led organisations in sufficient sums to enable long-term planning for sustainability.
Self-determination means First Nations people have the right to make decisions concerning our own lives and communities; the right to retain their culture and to develop it, and the right to be full and equal participants in the construction and functioning of the governing institutions under which we live.’
In supporting this statement we reiterate the point about First Nations self-determination being an essential core element of their artists’ practice. The following comments by Ausdance National include First Nations dance practice in all settings.
The recent results of the Australia Council’s four-year funding for small to medium dance companies highlight the ongoing losses sustained by the dance sector, with only eight small dance companies and organisations across Australia now having the ability to employ staff, plan for the future and create new work, while four other highly regarded companies are left hanging by a thread, with one-year transitional funding.
Many other small but artistically significant dance companies and independent artists are completely without Australia Council or State/Territory funding support, and all will be struggling to rebuild creative output, audiences and touring schedules in 2021, further weakening our already fragile dance infrastructure. That the Australia Council was forced to spread available funding so thinly demonstrates the extremely serious diminution of vital dance infrastructure in this country.
The dance industry’s loss of all self-generated income, and its inability to survive long months of shut-down and the road to recovery, is of major concern. The small businesses that are dance studios and small dance companies are in the thousands, and we have been contacted by many who do not qualify for JobKeeper or JobSeeker and are struggling to understand and implement the confusing regulations around returning to studio teaching and rehearsing. Dance has been confused with gyms, boot camps, fitness studios etc., leaving teachers without clear direction about the future of their arts businesses.
The provision of an arts-specific funding package would be an opportunity for the Government to show cultural leadership and a recognition of the ways in which the arts (including dance) could be part of the solution, leading healing and reconnection of communities in the COVID-19 recovery phase, including those facing mental health issues.
People stay physically and mentally well by dancing and moving. The significant role played by dance in communities through dance education, dance for Parkinson’s programs, dance and movement for the elderly and the widespread health and wellbeing programs offered by professional dance artists across the country, must not be under-estimated.
INDUSTRY–SPECIFIC STIMULUS PACKAGE
The absence of an arts-specific support package from the Government – called for by all peak arts organisations including Ausdance – reflects a lack of acknowledgement of the sector’s demonstrated contribution to our economy of $111.7 billion (or 6.4% of GDP), a contribution that will dissipate with an unsustainable loss of arts infrastructure.
It will affect tourism, community health, arts education, tertiary arts training, a reduction in cultural activities and the world-class performances that make Australian destinations great places to visit.
It is also concerning that some Government ministers do not acknowledge gaps in the JobSeeker and JobKeeper packages, particularly as they relate to many casual artists and artsworkers who do not fit the criteria. The reality is that many professional artists and dance teachers are left without the cash flow needed to immediately transition services online and build new income sources.
A survey by Ausdance NSW of 81 independent artists in that State demonstrated that 52% were not eligible for either JobKeeper or JobSeeker. Our COVID-19 impact survey is identifying mental health as a major issue in the current environment, a matter of great concern.
We endorse the recommendations of Live Performance Australia and other peak arts organisations and the call for a dedicated Industry Rebuild and Recovery package for the live performance industry.
THE AUSTRALIA COUNCIL
Ausdance acknowledges and notes a particular paragraph from BlakDance’s submission to this Senate inquiry:
While our organisations are financially robust, there is unmet need for support for First Nations artists and arts workers across Australia, as illustrated by the Australia Council for the Arts’ analysis of unmet funding need for First Nations organisations:
“In 2015, the Australia Council received Expressions of Interest from 43 First Nations-led small to medium arts and culture organisations for multi-year funding that equated to a total request of $12.5 million per annum.
We were only able to support 16 organisations with a total $3.5 million per annum, declining over 60% of the organisations that applied and leaving unmet demand of over 70% in terms of dollars – the demand far outweighs the funding available.” Australia Council for the Arts, Submission to the Closing the Gap Refresh (April 2018)."
We recommend a First Nations self-determined approach to recovery of arts practice, ensuring that re-opening actions and funding support are locally-led, holistic and culturally safe for communities.
We are particularly concerned about the Australia Council’s capacity to respond adequately to recovery of the arts sector, leaving many small companies and independent artists without support in an already-diminished funding environment.
As the Federal Government’s own peak arts funding and advisory body, the Australia Council’s funding must be substantially increased in the October Budget. Its present funding levels deprive it of being able to deliver on its vision to ‘support Australia’s arts through funding, strengthening and developing the arts sector’.
The dance ecosystem is inter-dependent, and the Council must be adequately funded to strengthen and develop it. Policy settings should recognise that different dance sectors serve different purposes, from the AMPAG dance companies to youth dance companies, First Nations performers, independent artists, community dance practitioners, school and studio teachers, choreographers and producers.
Increasing the Australia Council's current funding in the context of an arts-specific funding package is not a big request when compared to the rescue packages afforded to other industries. Recognition that increased funding is an investment in our future, and will be part of the recovery solutions, is vital.
It is self evident that 2021 will require more than a thinly-spread funding strategy in order for the arts and cultural sectors to re-emerge as viable creative industries.
We therefore recommend that the government supports individual artists and non-profit arts companies to get back on their feet by providing a Stabilisation and Recovery Fund of $70m to the Australia Council for the Arts, and an ongoing $50m per annum uplift to stimulate recovery for Australia that is led by the arts and cultural sectors. This recommendation is in line with those of Theatre Network Australia and other peak arts organisations.
We also request a full day of hearings to allow detailed advice from various arts and entertainment sectors.
Contact National President Paul Summers on 0417 925 292.
26 May 2020
In response to huge demand from dance teachers, dancers, independent artists and dance companies across Australia, Ausdance, the peak body for dance, has today released Return To Dance: Principles and framework for restarting dance activities post-Covid-19.
This document provides guidelines for practising dance safely whilst meeting the required health and safety guidelines in a new post-Covid environment. It applies to all members of the dance community: dancers, teachers, studio owners, companies and organisations.
The guidelines directly reference the Framework for Rebooting Sport in a COVID-19 Environment developed by the Australian Institute of Sport. The Ausdance guidelines have received the endorsement of Dr David Hughes, Chief Medical Officer, Australian Institute of Sport Medical Director, Australian Olympic Team, Tokyo 2020.
We recognise that our sector has been decimated by this pandemic, but COVID-19 has also provided an extraordinary opportunity for individuals, companies, small and medium businesses and communities to work together as never before to ensure a safe and productive future as soon as possible.
We also recognise that all dance in Australia sits within the context of 100,000 years of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance continuum. This is a powerful and extraordinary fact, and protection of First Nations Elders as the source of First Nations storytelling and knowledge in Australia is the first principle of this framework.
Teachers, parents, students, organisers and administrators can use the ‘Return to dance’ document to inform dance practice in classes, rehearsals and performances.
It’s important to remember that these are guidelines for operating within State or Territory directives: they are not an exemption from these directives. If necessary, the Ausdance network may seek exemptions to specific directives supported by ‘Return to dance’, alongside Workplace Health and Safety documentation through the COVID-19 Taskforce.
The Australian dance community has been united in its support for these guidelines which were developed by Ausdance Queensland in collaboration with BlakDance, and with the support of Arts Queensland and the guidance of many vital members of the dance and arts community.
All media enquiries: Julie Englefield, ph 0426296050
4 May 2020
This project highlights the work of some of Australia's most innovative choreographers, and demonstrates what has been lost over the last two decades as funding for dance diminishes.
We urge you to participate in advocacy for dance, and here’s how you can get started. The Politics of Dance – an action plan will help you to speak up for dance, and to use our new dance archive, From the Vault, to illustrate what has been lost over the last two decades.
From the Vault begin with some of those artists who have been awarded an Australian Dance Award for Outstanding Achievement in Independent Dance since 2003.
In coming weeks we'll also profile choreographers from other dance sectors, including First Nations dance, youth dance practice, small companies & projects, dance & disability and community dance. We also hope to include some of the Australian pieces commissioned by the larger companies in recent years.
We will add new videos from various sectors each week, so watch this space each Monday!
29 April 2020
In response to this year’s International Dance Day Message from Gregory Vuyani Maqoma, Ausdance National will promote the legacy of dance creation in this country by initiating a new digital platform called From the Vault – a retrospective of Australian dance. The project will profile the diversity of Australian dance that has moved and inspired audiences and participants for two decades, but whose creators will be unable to continue their ground-breaking work if Australian dance continues to be drastically under-funded. We will be linking this project to a national advocacy campaign highlighting the value of dance across all sectors.
Gregory Maqoma notes that ‘Dance is not political but becomes political because it carries in its fibre a human connection and therefore responds to circumstances in its attempt to restore human dignity’. In expressing these sentiments, Gregory reminds us that through dance we can come to recognise that humanity still exists; it extends purpose and empathy to inspire living.
We all know that to build and sustain communities that are vibrant, where people can lead quality lives and where bodies and minds are healthy, we need a viable and sustainable dance industry. People’s physical, social, cultural, emotional, mental, economical and creative health need to be nurtured. Dance enables this. As an essential element of human communication, movement and culture, dance uses the human body as its vessel. This is the power of dance – to positively affect human society and wellbeing, to quantify the value of humanity.
So, how do you value dance? Why should it be supported? Do you value humanity? Why would you support that? Take the time to share these questions (and your ideas) with your local Member of Parliament and State/Territory senators, and emphasise the importance in investing in an arts-led COVID-19 recovery by empowering artists to fully participate in the way forward. Our guide The politics of dance – an action plan will help you to take action and to make your voices heard where it matters – in the parliaments of Australia.
20 Apil 2020
In support of Australian dance, Ausdance has written to the Arts Minister, the Hon. Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts. In the meantime, we are providing a voice for dance through regular briefings with the Government, the Opposition, the Greens, and officials from the Australia Council, the federal Arts department, Treasury and other peak arts organisations.
Ausdance National and the State/Territory Ausdance network thank you for the financial assistance measures available to the arts industry, including JobKeeper, JobSeeker, and the $27m for regional arts organisations and artists announced last week.
We are writing to reinforce the concerns of our arts colleagues about the anomalies in the eligibility for assistance of independent artists, sole traders and dance companies. We remain extremely concerned that measures announced to date do not yet respond to the urgent issues that have been outlined by leading arts organisations, and do not align with the specific needs of our industry.
An arts industry-specific stimulus package must be implemented as soon as possible to redress our industry’s loss of all self-generated income and to assist its ability to survive long months of shut-down and the road to recovery.
At last week’s roundtable with the Australia Council, the Department for the Arts and your own staff members, Kristine Kaukomaa and Ryan Bloxsam, Ausdance National raised the issue of recovery and the Australia Council’s capacity to respond to a very different arts landscape that will emerge from the current crisis.
The recent results of the Australia Council’s four-year funding for small to medium dance companies highlighted the ongoing losses sustained by this sector of the dance profession. Only eight small dance companies and organisations are left with the ability to employ staff, plan for the future and create new work, while four other highly regarded companies are left hanging by a thread, with one-year transitional funding.
All four ‘transitional’ companies have played a significant role in working regionally; with disability artists and with Indigenous artists and their communities, and all four will probably not survive without ongoing funding beyond their transition year. Many other small but artistically significant dance companies and independent artists are completely without Australia Council or State/Territory funding support, and all will be struggling to rebuild creative output, audiences and touring schedules in 2021, further weakening our already fragile dance infrastructure.
The Australia Council is the Federal Government’s own peak arts funding and advisory body, and we call for its funding to be doubled in the October Budget. Its present funding levels deprive it of being able to deliver on its vision to ‘support Australia’s arts through funding, strengthening and developing the arts sector’. If its policy settings are to recognise that the dance ecosystem is inter-dependent, then the Council must be adequately funded to strengthen and develop it. Such policy settings would recognise that different dance sectors serve different purposes, from the AMPAG dance companies to youth dance companies, First Nations performers, independent artists, community dance practitioners, school and studio teachers, choreographers and producers.
We also reaffirm that people stay physically and mentally well by dancing and moving. The significant role played by dance in communities through dance education, dance for Parkinson’s programs, dance and movement for the elderly and the widespread health and wellbeing programs offered by professional dance artists across the country, must not be under-estimated.
The provision of an arts-specific funding package will be an opportunity for the Government to show cultural leadership and a recognition of the ways in which the arts (including dance) will lead healing and reconnection of communities in the COVID-19 recovery phase, including those facing mental health issues.
Doubling the Australia Council’s current funding in the context of an arts-specific funding package is not a big request when compared to the rescue packages afforded to other industries. Recognition that increased funding is an investment in our future, not just another handout to a struggling industry, is vital
We look forward to your early response, and would be pleased to participate in any future policy planning that may evolve in the coming weeks.
Paul Summers Julie Dyson AM
Ausdance National President Ausdance National Vice-President
18 April 2020
7 April 2020
Following the recent announcement by the Australia Council of its four-year funding grants, Ausdance National is pleased to note that eight dance companies have been successful, providing them with some surety for the next four years. Five other dance companies have received transitional funding for a year, but now hang by a thread, their losses merely delayed as they face an unsustainable extension of life. Many other applicants did not make it into final considerations.
That the Australia Council was forced to spread available funding so thinly demonstrates the extremely serious diminution of vital dance infrastructure in this country, evidence that more arts funding is required if dance is to remain a viable industry within the wider cultural sector.
Ausdance National notes the actions taken by the Australian Government and the Australia Council in responding to the impact of COVID-19, and appreciates the challenging circumstances in which they are operating. However, unless funding deficiencies are addressed, implications for the dance sector will be severe, threatening the vibrancy of Australia’s cultural life and posing significant threats to the wellbeing of the many Australians who benefit from the health, connectedness and community economies that dance activities generate.
It is self-evident that 2021 will require more than a thinly spread funding strategy in order for the arts and cultural sectors to re-emerge as viable creative industries.
In recognition of the extreme difficulty under which the Australia Council is working, Ausdance calls on the Australian Government to significantly increase the Council’s budget as part of a larger set of arts industry stimulus measures. In the context of the hundreds of billions of dollars being rolled out to sustain the economy and ensure a transition out of the pandemic, this increase would be a small but vital investment in the arts and cultural sectors.
The absence of an arts-specific support package from the Government – called for by all peak arts organisations and supported by Ausdance – reflects a lack of acknowledgment of the importance of the arts and cultural sectors to Australian lives. The sector’s demonstrated contribution to our economy of $111.7 billion (or 6.4% of GDP) is a contribution that will dissipate with an unsustainable loss of art infrastructure, thereby affecting tourism, community health, arts education, tertiary arts training, a reduction in cultural activities and the world-class performances that make Australian destinations great places to visit.
It is also concerning that Government ministers do not acknowledge gaps in the JobSeeker and JobKeeper packages, particularly as they relate to many casual artists and arts workers who do not fit the criteria. The reality is that many professional artists are left without the cash flow needed to immediately transition services online and build new income sources. Our COVID-19 impact survey is identifying mental health as a major issue in this environment.
The loss of dance infrastructure over many years is reflected now in the four-year funding outcomes, despite the increase in outputs by the sector. Given artists’ critical contribution to world-class performances, to the creative economy, to community health, well-being and cultural education – all of which help to scaffold Australia’s cultural life – recovery from the COVID-19 crisis will be severely impaired for many of our citizens.
Contact National President Paul Summers on 0417 925 292 for further comment.
4 April 2020
At a time when the dance industry is facing some of its biggest challenges in history, Ausdance is collating vital information from dance professionals, businesses, educators and organisations to feed into a national COVID-19 impact study by Australia Council for the Arts.
The Ausdance COVID-19 dance survey is about everyone working in dance, and it’s inclusive of every genre and sector within the industry – choreographers, companies, teachers, studios, academics, community dance artists, company managers and administrators.
We need your data right now to:
- Show evidence of the true economic value of the dance sector to ensure that stimulus packages are sufficient to mitigate the impact of COVID-19;
- Shine a light on the often invisible work of artists and arts workers;
- Provide in-depth and lasting data to assist advocacy bodies, artists, statisticians, policymakers and politicians to make the case for arts support now and into the future.
This Australia Council study will show the economic, social and cultural impact of COVID-19 on the arts sector as a whole. It will also shine the light on the true economic value of the arts in Australia in a way we have never seen before.
Ausdance is part of the Australia Council research working group that comprises Ausdance, PAC Australia, NAVA, I Lost my Gig Australia, Diversity Arts Australia, National Writers Centre Network and MEAA.
The aim of this working group is to provide an accurate representation of the impact of COVID-19 on the arts and cultural sector as a whole, as seen in this Australia Council summary of the work currently being collected and collated.
It is critical to note that we have never seen data collection like this before in the arts, and it is critical that we get as much data as we can right now to allow us to make a case for the arts for years to come. Please contribute by doing the survey urgently and add your voice – dance needs to be heard more than ever before.
For more information please contact project leader Jordin Steele, Ausdance Q'ld Chair.
29 March 2020
The following letter was sent to The Hon Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister, and The Hon Michael McCormack MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development, on Thursday 26 March 2020. Read here>>>
25 March 2020
In what has quickly become a major crisis, we are very aware of the enormity of the impact of COVID-19 on the dance sector as artists, teachers, choreographers and company directors.
We assure you that we are working with our colleagues across the arts sector to bring you the best information, but most importantly, to be a voice for dance at all political levels.
Your Ausdance network is working closely with local dance artists and organisations to advocate on your behalf, to facilitate online network meetings where possible, and to provide information about State/Territory government regulations as they change from day to day. However, many of us are now only working in a voluntary capacity, so we hope you will understand when immediate responses aren’t always possible, as many of us are depending on social media to communicate.
As you know, Ausdance National members voted last year to continue supporting the national body. We have a strong and active board whose members are in constant contact with one another, providing great advice as they engage with the dance community across Australia. We are also in constant conversation with our major arts sector colleagues, and Ausdance network leaders.
Dance studios: While acknowledging the extreme hardship this will cause, Ausdance notes the directive from the Federal government and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee in relation to the temporary closure of non-essential businesses which has included gyms and indoor sports facilities. Ausdance recommends therefore, on the basis of common sense, that all dance teaching and rehearsal studios close temporarily until further notice, effective immediately.
Here are some of the advocacy actions Ausdance National is currently undertaking with the Ausdance network:
- We issued a statement in support of the dance sector last Friday, and invite you to share it with your colleagues. It especially notes the plight of independent artists and sole traders.
- We are urgently surveying the whole dance sector to enable us to take the direct impact of COVID-19 on your practice to our political decision makers. This survey was initiated by Ausdance Qld with support from Ausdance National, and we urge you to complete it as soon as possible so that we can continue with the important analysis. COVID-19: Dance Sector Survey.
- We have been invited by the Opposition Arts spokesperson, Tony Burke MP, to join a peak body roundtable teleconference at which we will present the earliest survey results. We are also included the the weekly teleconference between the federal Arts Department, the Australia Council and peak arts bodies, and the regular NAVA conferences, representing dance.
- Earliest analysis of the survey indicates major issues with mental health, so we will advocate for greater resources to support our sector, as well as for loosening of criteria for access to new financial packages.
- We have had a very positive response to our statement from Senator Sarah Hanson-Young who is pushing for a targeted package for arts and creative industries. Our statement has also been shared with Arts Minister Paul Fletcher and his advisor Kristine Kaukomaa.
- We are keeping our social media communication up to date, and invite you to ‘like’ our FB page and share widely.
- We’ve had a teleconference with insurance company Aon about what we need to communicate to our members. See our insurance information, and please consider Aon as your primary insurer, as we are ensuring the best dance cover possible, both for companies and individuals. There is also a 10% discount for Ausdance members - you can call the Ausdance-dedicated team from across Australia on 1800 806 584.
- Ausdance Qld has developed a template (which can be modified to suit specific State requirements) to stand down employees. This means that the 'employer relationship' is retained and gives the employee long term intention, but complies with the law in relation to a temporary stand-down. The document has been created for us (including, importantly the disclaimer) by Lindsay Carroll, Legal Practice Director of the National Retailers' Association. A link will be available shortly.
- Online teaching resource: Dr. Katrina Rank, education & training officer with Ausdance Victoria, is developing an online teaching resource which will be shared across the network.
Here are some of the most useful documents and advice available to date:
- Wellbeing Helpline
- Arts Law Centre of Australia: COVID-19 FAQs for artists
- Department of Treasury: Economic assistance for businesses
- Centrelink information - COVID-19 financial package
- Arts Minister’s media release: Cultural and Creative Sector and COVID-19
- Australia Council - COVID-19 response
- Those who enrich our lives need our help now: Melbourne Age editorial, 20 March 2020.
- NAVA: Industry Advisory Note: COVID-19 Response
20 March 2020
As we are all very aware, the arts and live performance have been devastated by the impact of COVID-19, along with the rest of the community.
Any businesses that practice in the arts sector, be they for-profit or not-for-profit, big, small or individual, must be included in the upcoming economic stimulus package. In the dance sector, there are studios, performance companies and individuals who have had their work lost or diminished to the point of closing down. Any government stimulus for business must include arts workers, and take account of issues such as rent and mortgage assistance, freezing of utility bills, and rapid responses by Centrelink, including the abandonment of waiting times.
With so many independent practitioners in dance, we implore all governments to find ways to support individuals and sole traders through this crisis. Artists have always been extremely resourceful in sustaining their practice through normal times. Their opportunities for other work though, have now diminished to the point of non-existence and, despite their many creative resources, the financial and artistic consequences for them are dire.
Eventually, the pandemic will pass. We don’t know when. When it does, the creative industries, and especially the arts, will be the leaders in reviving the spirits of the community and working with all Australians to restore society and the economy. Everything possible must be done to ensure that artists are actually around to do so.
If you want to contribute to Ausdance's knowledge of the impact of COVID-19 on your practice, please complete this survey.
For further information contact:
Paul Summers, Ausdance National President
Mobile 0417 925 292