Prepared by Support Act Chair, Sally Howland

I acknowledge as I write this that I am on the land of the Wurundjeri people, the original custodians of the land known as the Kulin Nation. I pay my respects to Elders past and present, and acknowledge the significant cultural contributions of First Nations peoples. 

Last year I wrote of our expectations of another tough year for the industry, given COVID’s continuing impacts. Sadly, we were not wrong. Any hope of returning to some semblance of normality during this year were dashed when the Delta strain emerged. And yet, here we are, in November enjoying what we hope will be our post-COVID lives.

There are few words to describe exactly how our industry has been decimated. The good people at the I Lost My Gig Collective estimate an average of $64 million in lost income per month since the pandemic struck. This equates to somewhere in the order of $880 million which has evaporated since March 2020. Numbers tell us one thing, but it is the human cost which we feel so keenly. Livelihoods lost, a sector which is bleeding talent and a seemingly inexorable rise in mental health conditions.

The work that we have been able to achieve this year in providing COVID-19 Crisis Relief Grants and the development and delivery of a range of specialised Prevention, Education and Training Programs would not have been possible without the financial support of the Federal Government (through the Office of the Arts), together with the immeasurable generosity of individuals and companies across the spectrum of the industry. Personal shout outs to Mannys, StageKings, Hilltop Hoods, Powderfinger, Michael Gudinski and Mushroom Music, CrewCare, Fender, JB Hi-Fi, the Alberts Group, Netflix, YouTube, ARIA PPCA and APRA AMCOS.

All up, revenue from major donors, corporate sponsorship, community fundraising, multi-year donors and our very own Ausmusic T-Shirt Day generated a shade under $4.1 million. We are completely overwhelmed by the response and the confidence this has demonstrated by the industry in doing what we do. We take this accountability with the seriousness it deserves.

The Federal Government funding has been received in three tranches:

  1. $10M received 1 May 2020 – commenced during FY 2019/20 and exhausted during FY 20/21.
  2. $10M received 25 May 2021 – already exhausted during this current financial year.
  3. $20M received 23 August 2021 – due to be exhausted by 31 December 2021.

At the heart of what we do, is simply to help and support our friends and colleagues in music, when they need it. The call to action from the Government and industry enabled us to support 2,540 service users this year to the tune of $8 million. By way of comparison, we helped 389 people to a value of $1.1 million the year before. I should add, that so far in FY 2021/22, we have provided more that 7,000 grants totalling $15.2 million. This includes performing arts workers whose ability to work in live performance was equally impacted by COVID (funded by the Federal Government)

To say that this funding was welcome, completely downplays the desperation and hopelessness felt by so many. We are just grateful that we were in a relatively privileged position to help. As we look to the next 12 months, we need to recognise that our operating environment has some uncertainty. For example, we do not expect the Federal Government funding to continue beyond December 2021. Should COVID continue to play out, impacting the ability for the industry to return to 100 per cent capacity, then the demand for our services will continue but without the equivalent financial means for us to deliver. This issue has the full focus of the Board.

During the course of the year, we engaged Cerisa Grant our First Nations Community Engagement and Social Worker, in response to our historical lack of traction in reaching that cohort. Since then, we have supported 319 members of First Nations music and performing arts communities, distributed $700K in grants, established the Yarning Strong web series on mental health and set up a dedicated First Nations Support Line.

The other key pillar of our work centres on Prevention, Education and Training with respect to mental health. A suite of six programs was delivered this year to thousands of industry practitioners – from Mental Health First Aid training delivered to crew, artists and music workers to Gimme Shelter, a tailored program for artist managers.

As we go to press, the industry is having its own #metoo moment. Not before time. We look forward to playing a role as part of this expected cultural change to deliver gender equity, banish discrimination in all its forms and build working environments based on fairness, equity and trust.

In closing, a massive thanks again to all our donors – large and small. We could not do this without you.

To Clive and his team, who work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the wolves from the door for so many, my deepest thanks. And to my revered Board colleagues, thank you for your time, your energy and for your support.