The Australian government has announced a A$250m (£138m/€153m/$172m) support package for the arts and cultural sectors, which have been decimated due to the COVID-19 shutdown of venues and live events.
The Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF), which represents Australia’s largest live event businesses, welcomed the move and particularly the A$75m seed investment to reactivate festivals, concerts, tours and events. Grants of between A$75,000 and A$2m will be available
The package also includes A$90m in government-backed concessional loans to fund new productions, along with A$35m in direct financial assistance to support Commonwealth-funded arts organisations, and A$50m to assist local screen production.
In addition, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is set to seek approval from the National Cabinet on Friday for a clear timetable for reopening theatres and local productions to offer the sector some certainty on restarting work again.
Morrison also intends to create a taskforce to oversee the implementation of the support package.
LEIF, which was recently formed to support the COVIDSafe reactivation of events with live audiences across Australia as restrictions are eased from July, is working with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee to develop nationally approved high-level principles for a safe return to live entertainment and sport at large venues. It is also working with State and Territory Governments’ Chief Health Officers to tailor those principles to meet each State and Territory’s needs.
LEIF chair James Sutherland said: “Today’s announcement by the Morrison Government is a great start to getting the sector back on track. I thank the PM for recognising the serious business of entertainment that employs hundreds of thousands of jobs and makes a significant contribution to the Australian way of life.”
Live Performance Australia, which earlier this month proposed a A$345m plan to support the arts and entertainment industry, has also welcomed the new funding measures that aim to help the sector recover over the next 12 months.
Evelyn Richardson, the chief executive of the peak body for Australia live entertainment industry, said: “COVID-19 has caused significant damage and disruption for our industry: performing arts companies and venues closed overnight; performers, production and technical staff and crews were without work or stood down; and companies and organisations were left with no alternative sources of revenue.
“JobKeeper has been an important support for those who have been able to access it. However, many in our industry have suffered devastating income losses, along with the many businesses, which rely on our industry, including across the tourism and hospitality sector.
“That’s why the measures announced in this package, which reflect our industry’s unique characteristics and the challenges it faces, are so important. They also recognise the significant economic contribution that our commercial sector makes to Australia’s economic and cultural well-being.”