20.08.2020Arts and Culture Taskforce meeting – a conversation with Andrew Abbott

On 6 July, Committee for Melbourne’s Arts and Culture Taskforce was briefed by Andrew Abbott, Deputy Secretary in the Victorian Government Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions on the support the Victorian government has been able to offer to the sector, which has been so badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Andrew also flagged some longer-term planning for the State’s creative industries, which contribute so much to the State’s economy and social cohesion. Our Taskforce has opened a dialogue with Creative Victoria to provide input into the future planning process.

Andrew has responsibility for the Creative Industries, Tourism, Sports, Major Events and Racing portfolios and is also the Chief Executive of Creative Victoria.

Andrew acknowledged that the COVID-19 crisis has presented unprecedented challenges to the creative sector and outlined a series of rescue and recovery packages that have been developed by the government to support the sector in the short and medium-term.

However, there continues to be a great deal of uncertainty about the timeframes for easing restrictions and opening up of cultural and creative activities across Melbourne and Victoria. In this context, Andrew also highlighted the opportunity to make ambitious reforms for the sector going forward. Reform and innovation in the sector are especially important given that difficult economic circumstances and depleted government revenues might be experienced for some time. Andrew highlighted that digital and other innovative initiatives will need to be considered in future, as the economy transitions following COVID-19.

The taskforce met again on 19 August, chaired by the Committee’s CEO Martine Letts. We discussed reforms for the sector that could be proposed for consideration by governments with Michael Hudson from Creative Victoria. Michael provided an update on the work being done to support the industry and invited the taskforce to consider revisions and prioritisation of its recommendations to the Victorian Government’s Creative Industries Strategy 2020-24 which were lodged in late 2019. Whilst the launch of the final strategy by the Victorian Government was due in June, this has now been postponed to allow for consideration of the issues that have arisen from COVID-19.

Whilst the pandemic poses significant challenges and disruption to the arts and culture sector in Melbourne, the taskforce discussed opportunities to capitalise on innovations (such as digital technology) that might apply in the recovery efforts for the sector and the opportunities for partnerships and collaboration across the sector.

The taskforce identified a need for a clear roadmap for reopening of the economy, to allow for the sector to plan, particularly for the performing arts to recover. The taskforce also discussed ambitious and systemic reforms that might benefit the industry in the long-term. The Committee is optimistic that its members can grapple with the challenges and assist with unique and innovative ideas for the future of the arts and culture sector. The ideas from the meeting will be provided to Creative Victoria and the taskforce will continue to meet with government to provide an ongoing dialogue through the recovery efforts.

If you have any questions or require any information about the Committee’s Arts & Culture Taskforce, please contact Leanne Edwards, Director Policy and Research, Committee for Melbourne on ledwards@melbourne.org.au

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