Victoria locks in arts funding to 2021 as it builds coronavirus plan

The federal government, through the Australia Council, should immediately roll over funding for arts organisations for the next year as a first step in dealing with the coronavirus shutdown, says Victoria's Creative Industries Minister Martin Foley.

And he hopes Thursday's meeting of state and federal arts ministers will come up with a financial package and other policies to safeguard precarious jobs in the sector for the next month, while a longer-term plan can be hammered out.

"To sustain things for a month is not beyond our collective effort," he said, while adding that he sensed goodwill at the federal level to protect the cultural sector.

NGV director Tony Elwood and Creative Industries Minister Martin Foley.Credit:Darrian Traynor

Victoria already rolled over funding earlier this year, extending programs to June 2021. But many organisations in Victoria relied on both state and national money, and some relied entirely on federal grants, Foley said.

In Victoria the cultural sector is measured at $23 billion, with 280,000 jobs; many of which are now "hugely at risk".

"Not all are precarious but a huge number are," Foley said. "It's a sector almost as big as manufacturing. It is the economic mainstay of our current economic position and when we do come out of this it needs to be one of the sectors that forms our future."

But the coronavirus shutdown is an "artistic and cultural tsunami", he said.

As well as guaranteeing a year's funding for the 162 organisations shortlisted for Australia Council grants, the federal government has the ability to exercise welfare and industrial powers to support artists and the other arts sector workers whose work depended on cancelled performances and projects or shuttered venues and festivals.

And screen projects needed a specific plan to keep the industry in Australia viable.

"We need to respond here and now," Foley said. "We need breathing space for a plan."

If they were looked after, artists could help others through the coronavirus shutdown.

"It's not quite singing The White Cliffs of Dover, but it's that kind of thing."

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