Bushfire Impact Survey – Report Summary

What started as a regional initiative to assess the impact of the bushfires on the arts sector in the south east has informed both State and Federal responses. South East Arts’ bushfire impact survey, which received 101 responses from our region, was replicated by 5 other Regional Arts Development Organisations in NSW. The Live Music Office also used the survey to assess the impact in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven area, with a particular focus on the music sector.

The report from our bushfire impact survey was picked up by Regional Arts Australia and tabled at Federal meeting attended by Minister Paul Fletcher and Adrian Collette CEO of Australia Council for the Arts, while Create NSW have used the report in advocating for arts recovery in bushfire affected areas to NSW Premier and Cabinet.

The majority of respondents to the survey were from either Bega Valley or Eurobodalla Shires. The most common impact was loss of income through cancelled performances, workshops, exhibitions and employment, closed retail outlets and visitors leaving the region.

The summer period would normally be one of the main times of year when artists and arts organisations in the region generate income from gigs, exhibitions, retail sales and box-office, providing services and events for the peak tourism market.

Additionally, various venues that are usually available for arts and cultural activities were used to house evacuation centres and emergency services activities.

In towns such as Cobargo and Mogo, creative business enterprises lost property, equipment and stock. Eight artists/sculptors lost workshop/studio spaces and, in some cases, their homes, though this figure is only an indication from those who were in a position to respond to the survey.

Many of the arts organisations in our region are volunteer run, providing professional artists and musicians with the infrastructure and events to bring audiences into the region. The personal impact of the fires means that many people don’t have the time, energy or ability to provide this volunteer support – a situation that could continue for many months and impact on renewal of the tourism market.

Many of the not-for-profit organisations who manage museums, heritage sites and arts organisations are eligible for small business loans or support to help pay for costs associated with the clean-up and reinstatement of a small business or organisational operations.

Beyond the loss of materials, spaces and income, the devastation of the environment will continue to have a profound impact on the arts and cultural community. Many creative people in the region draw inspiration and ideas for their practice from the unique natural landscapes, flora and fauna. Many responses reflected this loss and the emotional strain it has caused.

South East Arts is continuing to use the results from the survey to advocate for support of the regional arts sector, with a focus on the potential for cultural tourism and participation in creative activities to contribute to the recovery process.

There are numerous funding opportunities to support artists and arts-focused initiatives in response to the bushfires, with more rounds opening regularly. As of the start of March some of the current rounds relevant to the arts and cultural sector include:

  • Service NSW has a comprehensive list of a range of Disaster Assistance which includes Loss of Income Disaster Recovery Allowance which is relevant for artists with an ABN and appropriate evidence of income loss – HERE
  • Destination NSW has recently announced the Micro Event Funding round to support smaller, community-based events in Regional NSW areas impacted by bushfire, as well as their annual round of Flagship Event funding – HERE
  • Coordinaire is inviting local groups and organisations to apply for Natural Disaster Community Grants to deliver grassroots community-focused health and wellbeing activities – HERE
  • Create NSW have their Small Project Quick Response grants that a number of local organisations have already successfully secured funding for bushfire response projects – HERE
  • Regional Arts NSW have a similar Quick Response Grant that now includes applications for creative recovery projects – HERE
  • Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade have a new Australian Cultural Diplomacy Grants Program: Bushfire Renewal Round to focus on supporting the building, rebuilding and promotion of the creative industries in bushfire-affected areas of Australia – HERE
  • Austrade have new Regional Tourism Bushfire Recovery Grants, though eligibility is limited to Local Government Authorities and Regional Tourism Organisations, so talk to your local council in relation to this round – HERE
  • Service NSW is taking applications for the recently announced NSW Small Business and Non-Profit Organisation Grant of up to $50,000 – HERE

    This is by no means a comprehensive list and South East Arts is keen to know of other areas of support for the arts and cultural sector, so we can pass on to our networks.