A Head Start for Queensland’s creative community

The Honourable Leeanne Enoch MPWhile calling for the Federal Government to include arts and creative workers in the JobKeeper Program, the Queensland Government has announced a further $500,000 to support stART – a new quick turnaround grant program for Queensland’s independent creative artists, producers, designers, technicians and arts workers.

The announcement follows the Government’s earlier $10.5 million rapid, initial response to the impact of COVID-19 on the arts and cultural sector, in addition to other funding relief measures including support for the state’s Arts Statutory Bodies, and Major Performing Arts Companies. This brings the total amount of Queensland Government support for the sector so far, to more than $20 million.

“The COVID-19 crisis has significantly impacted Queensland’s arts, cultural and creative sector, and none more so than the state’s independent artists and arts workers when their contracts ended as gigs and performances were cancelled,” said Minister Leeanne Enoch.

“Throughout the pandemic, there have been countless examples of creative projects online, with artists leading the way to quickly embrace opportunities to innovate, create and engage audiences during this period of social isolation. We are committed to navigating a road to recovery, and following recent consultation undertaken by Arts Queensland, it has become increasingly clear that many independent artists and arts workers have fallen through the cracks.

“Alarmingly, many artists are ineligible for the Federal Government’s JobKeeper package, and they continue to face considerable uncertainty in the wake of COVID-19. I have written to the Federal Arts Minister on a number of occasions calling on this unfair exclusion of arts workers to be rectified.

“With the sector continuing to struggle, stART will help to support those in the independent sector, across multiple art-forms and communities, whose work is impacted by the closure of venues and social distancing rules,” said Minister Enoch.

The Minister said the Queensland Government was continuing to listen to the sector in finding new ways to support artists and arts workers while COVID-19 restrictions were in place. “The funding will be distributed through the Regional Arts Services Network (RASN) and other Arts Queensland funded small to medium organisations and allocated to each region on a population basis,” said Minister Enoch.

Suzan Williams Executive Officer of Stage Queensland Incorporated said that since March, over 1000 staff from 18 of Queensland’s major performing arts centres had been stood down. “The exclusion of this crucial workforce from JobKeeper is devastating lives and livelihoods right now and will have catastrophic long-term consequences for the arts sector,” said Ms Williams.

“Performing arts centres are fundamental to the broader arts ecology and it is critically important to keep these skilled workers attached to their venues, particularly in regional communities which already struggle to attract skilled specialised labour (eg. live production staff/technicians).”

Applications for stART will open soon. For more information, visit: www.arts.qld.gov.au for details.

Image: Minister for the Arts, The Honourable Leeanne Enoch MP – photo by Benny Doyle