• A scene from Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Bennelong. (Daniel Boud)Source: Daniel Boud
The arts sector was one of the first hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, and industry professionals say it's likely to be one of the last to recover. In the meantime, they're asking for support in their time of need.
Keira Jenkins

1 Apr 2020 - 3:16 PM  UPDATED 1 Sep 2020 - 1:32 PM

While Australians are turning to movies, television series, books, and music to get them through the Coronavirus pandemic and social distancing rules, arts practitioners are asking for more support.

Actor and singer/songwriter Elaine Crombie said the arts sector was the first to be hit by COVID-19, and will probably be the last to recover from the pandemic.

She said while the Government's Job Keeper support package is a good start, it needs to go further in protecting people in the arts who are out of work.

"You have to put your money where your mouth is when you're saying that you value the arts community," she told NITV News.

"You say you value dance troupes that open up grounds for football, conferences, festivals, all of that kind of stuff, but we need more detail in that support so that we know how best to bounce back from this once it passes."

'Keep in contact'

But Ms Crombie said she's heartened by the support she's seen from within the arts sector, and the connections being made online.

"Even though we're faced with COVID-19 and what it is and what it presents to us in this viral, scary, blanket making its way across the country we're still just going 'okay so we're all just going to check in with each other," she said.

"From a check in it becomes networks and 'that guy has launched a website that I could hopefully stream some stuff on, or Mooghalin is doing Mooghal Live now, they have a fee for artists to take over their Facebook lives, which is great."

First Nations artists have also been taking part in online roundtables, run by the Australian Council for the Arts every Friday afternoon.

The council's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts executive director Lydia Miller said the last roundtable attracted almost 200 participants.

She said it goes to show how important it is for people to connect to each other while we're distancing.

"If you can find various online digital platforms, that's really important, if you can phone your friends and colleagues, do that," she said.

"Keep in contact, that's really important because we're all in this together, we're all going through this together.

"By all accounts, it seems we've got six months to travel this journey together because of the nature of the virus and the rate of transmission."

'Saving my life' 

Ms Miller said it's not just about flattening the curve and looking after physical health but looking after ourselves mentally and spiritually too, through connecting.

"Our mental health is really important, what are the strategies we can look at to really address some of the anxiety we feel because we're not sure what's happening. 

"As well as spiritual health because we're really connected to our mob and it's a real challenge when you're taking care of Elders by staying away."

Actor Guy Simon said a lot of his upcoming projects were cancelled or postponed and the television series he was working on in March had to be put on hold because of the Coronavirus.

While he's been out of work, he said the online community has been his major support.

"Being an artist at the best of times is a very lonely thing, but with this, I'm feeling it," he said.

"I can't go talk to that person over there; I've got to stay here. The online community right now is saving my life and so many other people's."

Mr Simon said being in the arts is a 'real job' just like any other, and those out of work should be supported like other workers who find themselves out of a job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's a real job," he said.

"It shows right now with people binging their Netflix or Stan or Disney Plus. In times of crisis, the public turns to us to cheer you up, so it's got to be a real job, right?

"Start supporting us. Stand with us."

Ms Miller said there are even plenty of ways to support our artists through the Coronavirus, from home.

"There are many different platforms that have emerged," she said.

"There are books being made available online free of charge. Please read a book! Listen to music being streamed.

“Look at various organisations that are providing free concerts or dancers who are dancing online.”

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