The Youth Arts Sector in Australia is suffering from successive government funding cuts. COVID has brought this deficit to a head and I'm worried that as we rebuild our lives, our young people are going to be the biggest losers.
📷 Jack of Hearts Photography, The Secret World, 2019
This article exists for two reasons:
I want you to sign a petition, which I've linked to below...
I want to chat about the purpose of opportunity in the COVID recovery.
Opportunity should not be the result of a surplus. It's not just something that certain types of people should have when the times are good. Opportunity is for those moments when everything falls apart, it is the pathway out. Without it, we are totally diminished as a society.
YOUTH ARTS & OPPORTUNITY
Opportunity is the currency of youth arts. Youth arts organisations are in the business of crafting opportunity for their young patrons. Extraordinary opportunities that allow them to step into the lives of others through stories and images.
It follows that young people who are exposed to the arts receive a host of opportunities for social development. This includes opportunities to:
Improve learning outcomes across all curriculum areas.
Connect with peer support networks, impacting mental health and wellbeing.
Access to a career development pipeline that fuels all industries (not just theatre and film).
These are opportunities that are, unfortunately, not available to all young people but most organisations are working hard to fill the gaps and many new ones, like Matriark, are working to support this too. As far as any of us are concerned, access to youth arts is not a privilege, it's a necessity.
Okay youth arts = good. So why talk about undervaluing opportunity if we all agree that it’s important?
Because, we’re all living through a global pandemic with a looming recession on the horizon. We’ve become justifiably introspective, looking after ourselves and worrying about our own lives and livelihoods. And, while many of us will come out of this experience rattled but capable of recovering, I’m worried our youth arts sector may not.
In the midst of this drama, The Australia Council for the Arts has defunded five of Australia’s biggest youth theatre companies. This was a decision made in an attempt to balance support to other malnourished parts of our arts ecology, but ultimately is a decision spurred by successive cuts to arts funding by the federal government.
Funding in the arts IS opportunity, and that opportunity is drying up. This isn’t something that’s just happened now, in the past 10 years more than 25 youth arts companies have had their government funding taken away. COVID, as is the case with many of our societal issues, is a compounded blow to an already fragile system.
Some might argue that everyone is hurting now: "we’re all in this together, so just suck it up". But that attitude presumes that we’re just going to be able to pick up where we left off, and the simple truth is, we won’t.
A DIMINISHED AUSTRALIA
Youth arts isn’t a pet project of us who are passionate about it. Every youth arts worker I know is in this because they believe that we are all better off when young people are given the opportunities I listed above. We all know that a post-COVID Australia with a diminished youth arts sector, is a diminished Australia.
My partner and I are having a kid in September (a sentence I'm still grappling with...). I think about her life a lot... who will she be? What type of world is she coming into? Whatever the answer, I want her to have access to all the opportunities I had and more. I want organisations like Shopfront Youth Arts and ATYP to be available for her to learn creative chops, meet likeminded people and grow. I’m sad to think that these opportunities might be diminished by the time she’s old enough to experience them.
All this to say, SIGN THIS PETITION started by Fraser Corfield from ATYP… let this government know that our young people need them to step up and protect their future, this is non-negotiable. Let’s collectively value opportunity.