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Monday, June 21, 2021

Indigenous artists miss out in Budget

Despite an uncertain art market, the cancellation of the visual art calendar’s major events and the loss of international tourist sales, already struggling Indigenous artists are among those to miss out in this years’ Federal Budget.

Media Entertainment Arts Alliance chief executive Paul Murphy said the Budget had relegated arts to the “expendable basket” and the pre-Budget $250 million assistance package was inadequate and poorly targeted.

“Most of that money is loans or insurance assistance and will do little to address the sector’s structural challenges,” Mr Murphy said.

“Arts and entertainment workers, already shaken by widespread ineligibility for JobKeeper payments, should be aghast that they have again been by-passed by a big-spending Budget that provides no roadmap for the sector’s restoration.”

The urgent need to support Indigenous artists through the economic downturn of COVID-19 was highlighted by a new Indigenous Art code, released months before the Budget.

Indigenous Art Code chair Stephanie Parkin said the new code had helped many Indigenous artists embrace new technologies and digital platforms and continued to help artists exercise agency in the sale and licensing of their work.

“The Indigenous Art Code also seeks to educate consumers to look for art centres, galleries and licensed product retailers who are members of the Indigenous Art Code.”

Ms Parkin said it was more important than ever for consumers of Indigenous art to purchase through ethical channels.

“A power imbalance already exists in some sections of the marketplace for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and artists become only more vulnerable in times of economic downturn.”

Arrernte artist and Canberra local Jenni Kemarre Martinello said most sales avenues were closed to her due to COVID.

“Galleries are doing their best and some sales are happening,” Ms Kemarre Martinello said.

“But you need to see the art and talk to the artists to understand the meaning, which you can’t do right now.”

Ms Kemarre Martinello said she was ineligible for JobKeeper and found Centrelink difficult to deal with.

“Centrelink can’t assess our spasmodic wages the way the tax system can,” she said.

“I try and explain how my income works, but they disregard it. Their guidelines are outdated.”

The Indigenous Art Code was created after a Senate inquiry in 2007 and seeks to provide a code of conduct, good practice and to educate consumers to ask the right questions to ensure artists are paid and treated fairly.

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