Symphony Services Australia calls for an extension of JobKeeper beyond March 2021

AAR-SSA-Kate-LidbetterSymphony Services Australia (SSA) joins calls from other arts sector leaders for the Government to extend JobKeeper support beyond 31 March 2021 for arts and cultural businesses that can demonstrate ongoing impact from COVID-19. SSA provides support and services to Australian orchestras and other large, medium and small classical music organisations.

“Australia’s arts and culture sector has been hard hit by COVID-19. Performing arts companies have been grateful for the support offered by the Federal Government through JobKeeper and other stimulus measures,” said Kate Lidbetter, CEO of Symphony Services Australia.

“However, many will face a disastrous situation when JobKeeper ends in just a few short weeks. Australia’s performing arts companies want to keep making music and providing employment for thousands of highly skilled Australian artists.”

SSA supports Government decisions to protect Australians through the necessary lockdowns and restrictions. However the impact on arts and cultural institutions and independent artists has been severe.

Concert halls were closed in March 2020, and while most have re-opened in a limited capacity since then, they are subject to swift closure if community transmission rises in any state, and few are open to capacity. With high fixed costs, many performing arts companies face substantial financial stress when venues must limit patron numbers.

“JobKeeper has allowed many arts companies to support employees through a difficult time. Artists and administrative staff have all made sacrifices to ensure the survival of these culturally significant companies,” said Lidbetter.

“We call on the Government to extend JobKeeper for arts and cultural organisations that can demonstrate need, to provide a lifeline until the sector can begin to recover.”

According to APRA/AMCOS, the arts and entertainment sector contributes around $15 billion per year in GDP and employs close to 200,000 highly-skilled Australians. Australia Institute research has found that for every million dollars in turnover, arts and entertainment produce nine jobs while the construction industry only produces around one job.

Australia’s six symphony orchestras performed to over one million people in 2019 across over 2,000 events, more than 200 of which were in regional centres. Nearly 200,000 Australians attended free concerts by the symphony orchestras, and there were over 1,300 workshops, concerts or events dedicated to education.

The orchestras provided 2,644 jobs (2,115 of them to artists) and performed 290 works by Australian composers. They play an important role in mentoring and regularly collaborating with small and medium-sized performing arts companies, including residencies, co-productions and artist development opportunities.

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Image: Kate Lidbetter – courtesy of Symphony Services Australia