TYA and COVID-19 in Australia

How are artists, audiences, children and young people, governments responding to the crisis in your country? 

We are in general lock-down in most states and territories. The numbers of infections and deaths are low in comparison to other places, and the increase in infections is slowing. So our immediate health is seeming less at risk than before.

Our Independent artists and freelancers are suffering the most from loss of employment and stability. Arts companies are looking at huge financial losses with some potentially being forced to close, depending on their resources. Government subsidies have stepped up and new arts initiatives are being offered to assist businesses across sectors, freelancers and casual workers which could be the lifeline they need. However, in bad news, four more Theatre for Young Audiences and Youth Arts companies have been cut from Australia Council for the Arts in the recent funding round with only one new youth company funded. This further damages our entire sector which is incredibly hard-working, dedicated, widely touring and deeply committed to children and young people as an audience that is seriously under-served and under-valued in our country. 

The Arts community are amazing – so much kindness and sharing of anything from food and toilet paper (!) to resources and grant opportunities. Children are at home and there are lots of resources to help parents entertain and keep kids occupied. But vulnerable children are very much at risk. 

Are there innovative or interesting new initiatives being created? What are the best practices in this new environment? What is inspiring you at this time? 

Social media resource groups, zoom meetings and events, live streaming, free webinars, activities and creative tasks to do at home– all this is the same around the world. In Oz we have ‘treasure hunts’ like the Bear Hunt or the Rainbow Trail, where people put teddy bears and rainbows in their windows so kids can find them as they walk through the neighbourhood. 

An example of an initiative that is created for this time: House of Muchness have created an interactive creative portal for kids around the world: https://www.artatatimelikethis.net/

What is your national centre doing to respond to the current context?

Theatre Network Australia and ASSITEJ Australia send out email bulletins to members when new information around funding and support come through from State and Federal Governments https://www.tna.org.au/frontnews/.

We have resources and updates listed on our website  https://www.tna.org.au/library/. We are advocating constantly at a government level for increased funding to support freelance artists and small to medium companies in particular. We are in constant communication with other peak bodies and joining with them to share information to the arts sector and more broadly to media and the general public.  We are all friends and keep in contact through a huge range of events and zoom groups – our activism is very eclectic. 

What practical offers do you have to share? (These could be offers relating to the wellbeing of artists under lockdown, examples of research which is being done to measure impact, new projects which are being curated online, etc.)

Youth Arts companies around Australia have met to discuss the particular impact of the virus on their companies and programs and especially on their young people. The group of over 40 decided to complete a survey to collect the data specific to their situation and share with TNA for advocacy. 

Many companies are having daily zoom meetings with staff who are all working from home to ensure well-being and safety. Those of us who work with freelance artists are ensuring regular meetings with them also. We are all having many conversations and actively planning for a future we hope will be brighter.

ASSITEJ Australia: https://www.tna.org.au/what-we-do/assitej-australia/