Many of the conversations now are about re-opening our industry safely, along with conversations about re-building it so that it is better and fairer than before COVID-19. If you are feeling like you are swimming in a thick soup of unknowns, conflicting information and worry about our future, you are not alone! There is a lot of different and confusing information, so we have pulled together a few things we are aware of, and things that you could keep following up yourselves.
State vs Federal guidelines
The federal 3 step guidelines are considered a guide for the states and territories to use. The state guidelines are what you need to abide by. Step 3 only allows opening up to 100 people, and our sector wants to know when we can have 500, 1000, 2000 people at an event. The Principal Medical Adviser in the Chief Medical Officer Group at the Department of Health, Dr Catherine Kelaher, advised the arts industry roundtable this week that while they are working on that, they won’t make it public until they see how the other 3 steps work. But it is underway.
The varied state timelines mean that different state and territory governments and arts agencies will be doing their own work.
The key thing is that for the foreseeable future, all workplaces (apart from schools) must enforce the restriction of 4m2 per person as well as 1.5m between each person.
It is also worth planning how to deal with reinstated tighter restrictions if a second wave of infection occurs. Are there re-closing procedures to plan now?
Audiences will be the most cautious about returning to large events and festivals. There is also a financial concern, with consumer confidence generally low. So even if you can safely put on a performance, it might take time to regain audiences. Here are some recent stats:
• Voxpop Labs/ ABC poll shows only 12% of Australians would be comfortable going to a large events.
• Out of 635 people polled by Arts Hub, 45.2% said they would wait a month from the time restrictions are lifted before attending a live event with 13.1% of readers stating they would only wait one week.
• Patternmakers and WolfBrown (with support from the Australia Council and state agencies) are studying audience sentiment and will publish results soon. Subscribe to updates here.
Presenter intentions: PAC Australia
Performing Arts Connections Australia did a straw poll of its presenter members, and found that 60% have “Rescheduled the majority of performances into 2021 and are ALSO still planning to stage some or all of the performances that were already programmed for 2021”.
Protocols for reopening spaces
Guidelines for how to safely reopen venues are being developed by various industry groups, and are sometimes referred to as protocols. This is what we are aware of:
• The Australia Council is developing industry specific protocols for reopening.
• Live Performance Australia is developing a best practice ‘restart’ and response plan, for live performance – due in the next 4 weeks. They have two working groups: Live Events Industry Forum and Live Theatre Industry Forum. (The Australia Council is involved in this work to maximise collaboration).
• TNA is involved with a reopening working group in Victoria and other states will have similar working groups. We can help find contacts if you need.
• Safe Work Australia has comprehensive information on COVID-19 in relation to workplaces, including working from home. For example it has details on “How often should I clean?” and “What if there is a case of COVID-19 in my workplace?” It has downloadable resources such as a checklist for workplaces.
Risk Assessments and Work Health and Safety
Eliminating the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by arts workers and audiences comes under the existing WHS laws. Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws require you to “take care of the health, safety and welfare of your workers, including yourself and other staff, contractors and volunteers, and others (clients, customers, visitors) at your workplace”.
Safe Work Australia strongly recommends undertaking a Risk Assessment of your workplace, as part of an overall ‘COVIDsafe’ plan. This will include a risk communication plan, for outbreak management and contact management.
The National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) has been set up “to help minimise and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 on jobs and businesses, and to facilitate the fastest possible recovery of lives and livelihoods.” It has resources including a 14 page Planning tool to help businesses reopen.
Independent performing arts workers
All employers, even sole-traders, will need to make sure they are doing everything they can to eliminate the risks of exposure to COVID-19. We are aware that this crisis is overwhelming for independents (whether you are an employer or a worker). TNA will continue working with colleagues in peak bodies and government departments to source specific help for the small to medium and independent sectors.
Access for people with disabilities and others with different needs
In a crisis it is more important than ever to remember ALL of the people in our sector including those with disabilities, parents with babies, etc: as workers, artists, audiences and participants, and to remember that the Disability Discrimination Act still applies. As our sector works on reopening while providing physical distancing, we have to ensure that equal access is provided at every stage (some examples):
• communicating new programs and procedures (useful forum here);
• traveling to a rehearsal or performance and parking;
• wayfinding and accessing new entries and exits and emergency exits;
• sanitising, bathrooms and baby change facilities;
• food and beverage changes to seating and serving;
• sitting in different parts of the theatre, sometimes with companions;
• sightlines, captioning, Auslan interpretation, audio-description;
• and remember access to backstage as artists and workers with disabilities.
Please feel free to contact us if you need any further advice or information.