This past week has been a big one for the arts industry in Australia.
Actually it’s been a kinda big week in the life of Australia. For just a smidgen under half of the population our Federal Election results were a devastating blow to heartfelt values.
Australia had an opportunity last Saturday to address long term challenges with more than bandaids and two word slogans, and we rejected it.
Many had invested their emotions large in the hope of rebuilding a different kind of Australia. When the Coalition Government (the American equivalent of the Republicans with a little Tea Party throw in) seized government again, many people felt the kind of immobilisation that comes with being utterly stunned, alien in their own country. The comedown on Sunday morning was like a hangover without the booze. Hazy and stomach churning. A sense that you weren’t really sure where you had woken up and how the bloody hell Pauline Hanson had managed to climb into bed next to you.
The shock that so many Australians had voted via the lure of misinformation and personal tokens of added wealth weighed heavy. It still does. It was an especially potent sting for those who work in the arts and creative industries.
Perhaps the best way to describe the stark contrast in the arts policies of the two major parties in Australia is to say that one was a nuanced and respectful plan to support the arts ecology and bring to life the first National Indigenous Theatre Company; and the other was vaguely written on the back of a beer coaster and committed to bring to life a statue of Captain Cook on the site of cultural genocide.
For many in the arts the past six years had been an exercise in sheer survival as the changing whims in Canberra threw much of the industry into austerity planning and pitted many against each other. The arts industry woke up on Sunday morning with the understanding that this would all be repeated again. More job losses, more half made work, more living below the poverty line… less engagement with communities.
Does the industry have the resilience to do it again? What have we learnt from our first rodeo? How can we harness these longings and use them to communicate the value of the arts not only to the Federal Government, but also the State and Local Governments who support vital work across the country?
More importantly perhaps, how can we communicate this to people outside of the supportive bubbles we live and work in? How can we find the strength and resilience to have the difficult conversations? To adapt and flex without breaking the core integrity of our work?
The bubble has burst and we have in front of us the realities of this next term of Government. As the weeks move forward, and what many describe as grief dissipates, it’s time to look at the situation, not with the lens of what has been lost, but the view of ‘what can be done’?
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