It’s time to reignite the arts, and the Australia Council shows how

The Australia Council's new RE-IGNITE framework aims to assist artists and organisations to open their doors, return to business, and visualise the sector's new future.
It’s time to reignite the arts, and the Australia Council shows how Image: Shutterstock
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Gina Fairley

Friday 5 June, 2020

In March, the Australia Council launched the much needed Resilience Fund, providing more than $5 million to support the livelihoods and operations of Australian artists, creative and cultural organisations affected by the impact of COVID-19.

Now, as our sector prepares to re-emerge from lockdown, many find they have to navigate the complexities of state and territory restrictions, alongside bolstered health and safety practices, for a COVIDSafe sector.

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To help in deciphering the government guidelines, and to answer industry-specific questions with expertise, the Australia Council has launched a one-stop shop resource, RE-IGNITE, to make it easy.

The portfolio of resources will be rolled out as a two-part response: Re-activate, which supports jurisdictional compliance and was launched this week; and Re-imagine, which seeks to influence the national response to COVID-19 and ensure that arts and culture are part of the conversation. It is expected to roll out mid-June.

Jade Lillie, Australia Council’s Head of Sector Development said: ‘Getting the creative workforce activated again is critical to the success of the industry.

‘We have spoken to well over 100 organisations in the last two weeks. One key barrier identified through these conversations is the lack of access to expert health advice and how to make decisions whilst knowing where to go for guidance and information. The nuanced path of our sector is also proving difficult to navigate – how these regulations apply to each artform, sub-sector and unique context,’ she said.

The aim of the RE-IGNITE resource has been to offer clarity.

‘We have released it in stages for that reason; time is of the essence at the moment, and each day the context and environment are changing,’ Lillie explained.

TO DO, OR NOT TO DO?

The resource is relevant to all parts of the arts and cultural industries, whether you are an individual practitioner, a producer, presenter, small to medium or major arts organisation.

Created as a practical, user-friendly guide it steps through what is needed to confidently comply with the government guidelines to recommence practice and welcome audiences.

It complies with the existing requirements of stage two and three of the Federal Government’s Three-Step Framework.

The Re-activate resource is offered as a simple flow chart that moves through a suite of tick-box steps – from one to six. It prompts what needs to be considered and offers links to resources to arm the sector with answers,’ Lillie said.

In the current environment where trust is paramount, Lillie said, ‘We are confident with the piece of work we are putting forward.

‘The biggest gap people have identified is access to expert health advice, so that they are able to open in the right way. We have been in constant contact with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and Chief Medical Officer group, directing those questions from the sector and to then have them answered. We plan to also publish them on our website as a Q&A resource,’ she added.

The AHPPC is comprised of all state and territory Chief Health Officers and is chaired by the Australian Chief Medical Officer.

Lillie said that creating the resource has been testament to how agencies can work together, sharing information and providing access to specialist advice.

‘It is not about reinventing every wheel but offering a bit of a collective space to bring the great work of many people in all those areas together under one resource.’

Lillie put it simply: ‘We are better together, and we are in this together, so every step of the way the Australia Council has had the artists, organisations and the sector front of mind – and we will get there.’

COLLABORATIVE RESOURCE FOR A BETTER FUTURE

The second part of the RE-IGNITE resource is Re-imagine, an industry-wide plan that considers a future beyond the national Three-Step Framework for a COVIDSafe Australia.

The plan will position arts and cultural activity at the heart of the nation’s recovery. The focus is on Step Four and Five of the national plan, offering conditions under which arts and cultural activity is both possible, and viable.

Lillie explained: ‘It is about moving from responding, to how we can thrive in next phase of our COVID response.

‘We have an opportunity to take with us the things that are working well and leave behind the things that are not working, and we are looking forward to leading a conversation with the sector in terms of what that might look like,' she continued.

‘We also know that communities have been engaging with arts and culture throughout COVID-19 to stay connected – we look forward to supporting communities across Australia to come back together, through arts and culture, when the time is right.’ 

This phase is also about honouring the role that arts and culture have played through COVID-19, and to ensure the narrative around the value of the arts and culture receives national prominence.

Lillie said that the creation of this framework has involved many conversations with peak bodies, state jurisdictions, health and other stakeholders. This will continue to happen from July to September when the Australia Council is engaging with the sector for their contribution in planning for the future.

‘The sector we knew pre-COVID is no longer. We have an opportunity to reimagine and create the sector for the future together: What do we need to know to do that? Qhat are the barriers to achieve that? And how will we get there?’

She encouraged all to be part of the answers.

To stay abreast of sector development and resources, Lillie advised signing up to the Australia Council’s mailing list by contacting: recovery@australiacouncil.gov.au to received a regular communication specific to the sector’s re-emergence.

Visit the Australia Council to access RE-IGNITE.

About the author

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW.

Twitter: @ginafairley
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