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Australian Arts Get $250m Rescue Package

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Australian arts organisations are diversifying income streams in the wake of Covid-19 just as the federal government announces a $250 million rescue package for the struggling sector.

The announcement included a $75 million seed investment to reactive productions and tours, $90 million show starter loans, $50 million for local screen production and $35 million for supporting sustainability of sector-significant organisations.

The new grant and loan programs will roll out over the next 12 months to different parts of the arts sector to support the $112 billion creative economy and the more than 600,000 Australians it employs.

Organisations in the arts and entertainment industry have looked to diversify income streams including providing accommodation or regular online performances in a bid to become more economically-sustainable in the wake of Covid-19.

Prime minister Scott Morrison said the commercial arts and entertainment sector was one of the first sectors to be impacted by the pandemic and one of the last to come out of hibernation as social distancing restrictions are eased.

“These measures will support a broad range of jobs from performers, artists and roadies, to front of house staff and many who work behind the scenes, while assisting related parts of the broader economy, such as tourism and hospitality,” Morrison said.

“This package is as much about supporting the tradies who build stage sets or computer specialists who create the latest special effects, as it is about supporting actors and performers in major productions.”

Related: Ailing Australian Arts Sector Calls for Life Support

▲ Woodford Folk Festival organisers were looking at adding year-round campground to diversify their income stream like other Australian arts and entertainment organisations.
▲ Woodford Folk Festival organisers were looking at adding year-round campground to diversify their income stream like other Australian arts and entertainment organisations.

Morrison said he would seek approval from national cabinet to give the entertainment industry greater certainty about the timetable for them to be able to re-activate their business, so they could better plan their path forward.

Thousands of live events have already been cancelled across the country however some organisations took a different strategy; Falls Festival were planning an all-Australian show to overcome quarantine issues while trivia, pub choir and individual performers moved online until shows could resume.

Queensland’s Woodford Folk Festival organisers were looking at adding year-round accommodation to bolster their event held in late-December.

Woodfordia executive director Bill Hauritz and general manager Amanda Jackes said like every other organisation, they were still very much in the “middle of all this” and would make a decision about the event in August.

“You’ve heard us say that the margins between profit and loss for Woodford Folk Festival are so narrow as to be unsustainable,” Hauritz and Jackes told festival attendees.

“It seems pandemics, or bushfires or droughts or floods will happen⁠—we’ve taken a big hit on three of those in the last six months.

“During this pause we’re studying to make Woodfordia more financially robust, so we don’t find ourselves flying so close to the sun, so often.

“We’re investigating alternative sources of income for the organisation, including the possibility of opening Woodfordia as an inspired campground and we need to raise funds.”

In coming weeks, the guidelines for the grant and loan programs will be released and the members of the Creative Economy Taskforce will be announced.

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