Visual arts

Putting the arts on the agenda at the Jobs and Skills Summit

The Jobs and Skills Summit is an initiative of the Australian Government (through the Department of Treasury) held in Canberra on 1-2 September.

The Summit brings together trade unions, employers, civil society and governments to address our common economic challenges. While a platform for discussion and reform to emerge from the pandemic may seem like a great idea, there is a huge problem: the arts are underrepresented in this big picture.

In a statement, Adrian Collette AM, CEO of the Australia Council for the Arts, wrote: “We know we need to address current skills and workforce gaps as a matter of priority, providing targeted training to rebuilding the creative workforce and ensuring the sector continues to thrive.

“We need to build confidence in careers in the creative sector and better equip young creatives to apply their skills across sectors, responding to future demands and disruptions. We need to consider training pathways from early years to employment and then to new opportunities opened up by transferable skills,” continued Collette.

We must break down the false dichotomies between the cultural and the commercial, between “the arts” and the creative industries.

Adrian Collette, CEO of the Australian Council

Read the Australian Council’s submission to the Jobs and Skills Summit.

Collette points out that the creative skills acquired through the arts are already embedded in the workforce and the economy. “These skills are key to supporting economic growth and have been integral to Australia’s fastest growing industries over the past decade. Before COVID-19, creative employment was growing at almost twice the rate of the Australian workforce,” he said.

“As we retool for the jobs of the future, creative skills are becoming increasingly valuable. We cannot take their many benefits for granted.

Sector Call to the Summit

Media, Entertainment, Arts Alliance (MEAA) Chief Executive Erin Madeley will represent the union’s more than 15,000 members at the summit. She said that “low pay and job insecurity, combined with poor health and safety (in its psychological and social forms as well as physical) caused by long working hours and a culture of ‘show must go on’ , shorten careers and lead to skills shortages in cultural industries.

Creative workers have often been trapped in a system that does not recognize them as employees and excludes them from the industrial relations system.

Erin Madeley, MEAA Executive Director

It’s a point echoed by National Association of Visual Arts (NAVA) executive director Penelope Benton, who said: “With the exception of those in government jobs, most workers in the visual arts, crafts and design are not protected by unions and the price structure. .

“Unlike performing arts practitioners who benefit from fee and salary increases through their awarding process, NAVA is unable to enforce the payment of adequate fees for visual artists, artisans and self-employed arts workers,” she continued, adding that the lack of stability is resulting in a flight of experienced artists and arts workers from the visual arts and crafts industry.

Similarly, Madeley said she would present MEAA’s position that “lack of access to the bargaining system, uncertainty of self-employment and gigs, lack of minimum wage and rights mean that the sustainability of these industries is threatened”.

“There is a persistent pressure to perform work at paces that compromise their ability to dedicate themselves to creative and media work. We know that over 60% of performing arts workers earn less than minimum wage through their creative practice.

Governments have a key role to play in setting standards and ensuring pay justice.

Erin Madeley, MEAA Executive Director

NAVA suggested to the Summit that a reward rate for the visual arts, crafts and design sector be established, a rate which includes standard entitlements (including a superannuation for gig workers and portable long-term leave) recognized in the national labor relations system.

Addressing the impact of funding cuts on arts jobs

Collette said the skills and abilities of our creatives are “among those least likely to be automated and are increasingly in demand.”

“Half of all Australian artists apply their creative skills outside of the arts, with these transferable skills seen as essential to business success and solving complex problems. Employers have identified a greater need for 21st century skills – creativity, originality and initiative, and analytical thinking and innovation,” Collette said of the need to support and value skills and jobs in the arts.

But Peter Lenoy, Managing Director of UMI Arts, says: “It is very difficult to plan strategically for the future when there is no guarantee of funding.

“While we are the only fully Indigenous-run leading arts and culture organization for Far North Queensland, we have lost two major sources of multi-year government funding over the past four years. This has strained our ability to provide training and skills development to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, cultural practitioners and communities in Far North Queensland.

Lenoy believes that “there needs to be a plan that ensures First Nations-led arts organizations like UMI Arts receive funding on an ongoing basis. Funding cuts equates to fewer employment outcomes for First Nations arts workers.

NAVA and Lenoy agree with their suggestion for the Summit to “create a First Nations Workforce Development Fund to address the current challenges faced by public galleries in recruiting and retaining First Nations staff.” without secure long-term funding”.

An eroding sector, where lack of funding remains a catalyst for its demise, is front and center for Lisa Cahill, co-chair of the Australian Craft and Design Centers (ACDC) network and CEO and artistic director of the Australian Design Centre.

His message for the Summit was: “We urgently need an increase in the funding available to support the work and skill development of individual artists through mentorships and training, project grants and scholarships and for the purchase of specialized studio equipment, which can be a significant problem for artists working in specific material disciplines.

She said the craft and design sector – usually small to medium – has “experienced major destabilization” due to reduced funding and huge changes in the vocational and higher education system for the practice. of crafts and design in Australia, putting the industry on the edge.

Cahill’s suggestion to the Summit includes investment in higher education funding for creative courses, support for universities and TAFEs to expand the provision of professional practice units for all arts students, and fee reductions. tuition for arts subjects.

To this, Cahill added a call for the creation of a business course to increase the number of qualified production and technical personnel in the visual arts, crafts and design – one that recognizes a mix of skills, including art manipulation, museum practices, lighting, rigging, AV, carpentry, sewing, painting and plastering.

The MEAA reiterated statistics provided by a 2017 report by the Australia Council, which found that artists’ average income from all their jobs – creative and non-creative – was $48,000, 21% lower than the labor average.

Creative income accounted for just over a third of that amount, totaling just $18,800.

Collette added in his official statement about the summit this week: “Creative workers are the original gig workers, many work freelance and under contract across multiple jobs, and our regulatory and support settings need to develop a new flexibility to combat these forms of working.

“The cancellation of festivals, literary events, live performances and art fairs has had a devastating effect on job stability, and many highly skilled creative workers have left the arts and crafts sector. Culture. Many artists have also considered abandoning their artistic practice.

“To nurture Australian arts and creativity, and to reap the benefits across the industry and the country, investment is essential,” Collette concluded.

The summit is designed to feed into a white paper to be released later this year.