MONDAY 30 MARCH 2020
As the Australian arts sector endures devastation wrought by COVID-19 and national organisations await today’s news of Four-Year Funding outcomes from the Australia Council for the Arts, representatives from state and national literary associations are calling for additional federal funding to the Australia Council, and a swift expansion of the Australian Lending Right Schemes (ELR/PLR) to digital formats.
The National Writers Centre Network, First Nations Australia Writers Network and the Australian Society of Authors join colleagues across the creative, cultural and entertainment industries to call upon the Australian Government for a targeted stimulus package, including additional funding for the Australia Council for the Arts to boost capacity for an effective disaster response.
We commend the Australia Council for its announcement on Wednesday 25 March that it will re-purpose approximately $5 million of existing uncommitted funds into a suite of new relief programs to support the arts sector through the coronavirus pandemic. We welcomed the Australian Government’s 22 March announcement of its second stimulus package that expands eligibility to income support payments for individuals up to a new time-limited rate, and business payments extended to small-to-medium not-for-profits such as arts organisations.
Further targeted funds are still required to support the survival and recovery process of this unprecedented disaster, without which the livelihoods of many artists, arts workers and organisations may never recover – particularly writers, for whom funding remains staggeringly low.
“Writers in Australia survive in an already-precarious environment,” says Jessica Alice, Director of South Australia’s peak literary organisation Writers SA. “The majority of writers rely on a combination of publishing and casual work, such as teaching and speakers appearances, and other short-term contracts that are increasingly under threat as the pandemic causes event cancellations and business closures.”
“From literacy initiatives, to booksellers and publishers, to writers centres and festivals, the entire literary ecosystem survives on a delicate thread that will now be tested like never before,” says Alice.
“Authors and illustrators are last to be paid in the publishing supply chain and will feel the impact of COVID-19 well beyond the next six months,” says Olivia Lanchester, CEO of Australian Society of Authors. “We’re forecasting a slowing of acquisitions, scarce international rights sales and poor royalties in late 2020/early 2021 for a group already on extremely low earnings.”
“Longer term investment in writers, via the Australia Council, is important for recovery. In addition, author’s earnings are inextricably linked to the retail sector, meaning the saving of bookshops is key. If independent bookshops don’t come back from this, authors will be further devastated.”
Australia’s literary sector applauds the recent announcements from local and state governments committing new funds to both artists and organisations. A federal funding injection for the arts is now needed to support writers and artists through this disaster and recognise the cultural and economic value that writers bring to Australian life.
“Writers have some the lowest incomes of all arts workers despite their contribution to our economy, a contribution that goes over and above their physical book sales,” says prominent Australian author Sophie Cunningham. “Writers festivals and book weeks make healthy contributions to the cultural tourism industry, but writers have now lost these forms of income in a few days and even hours.”
“Yet it is books and words that many are turning to in this time of crisis. Our community needs writers, and we, in turn, need support from that community.”