3 September, 2020
The last six months have been especially tough for the performing arts community, and the impact of COVID-19 has drastically affected the mental health of thousands of Australia’s creatives. But thanks to the incredible support of the general public – both long-term arts supporters and first-time-donors – Arts Centre Melbourne is sustaining the performing arts industry through the COVID-19 crisis.
When we first closed our doors, Arts Centre Melbourne had to make the heartbreaking decision to cancel nearly 500 performances and refund over 50,000 tickets. Beyond our institution, thousands of individual artists, production technicians, front-of-house workers, arts administrators and other employees lost work.
Others can only wait in limbo for restrictions to lift and curtains to rise once again. We knew that so many would be struggling, so called out to our community for help by donating to the Arts Wellbeing Collective.
“When COVID happened, I lost all my gigs, and my casual income too. Being able to call and access free mental health treatment, when I needed it, was invaluable.” Dorienne, user of the Support Act Wellbeing Helpline
The Arts Wellbeing Collective (AWC) was created in 2016 to support the long term mental health of all Australians working in the performing arts. An Arts Centre Melbourne initiative, the AWC comprises a consortium of arts and cultural organisations working together with subject matter experts, performing arts practitioners and clinical psychologists to create evidence-based initiatives for our industry.
During lockdown, these services became even more necessary – specifically the Support Act Wellbeing Helpline – which provides free, confidential 24-hour counselling to those that need it.
When called on to support this initiative, the generosity and support of our donors left us speechless. Thanks to community support, we have now raised over $500,000 for the Arts Wellbeing Collective, enabling us to expand the initiatives available through COVID-19 crisis and beyond.
One of these initiatives is Mental Health First Aid training – teaching practical skills that can help support a colleague, friend or cast-mate who’s experiencing a mental health crisis, like trauma or suicide, or other mental health problems like anxiety and depression.
Thanks to the incredible supporters of the AWC, we will be able to train and accredit at least 100 more Mental Health First Aiders through brand new online training. Importantly, all courses and materials are made freely available – which is highly unusual for an accredited course of this kind.
“I can’t stress enough how important mental first aid training is. Everybody should experience that training. It saves lives.” Participant, Mental Health First Aid course.
The generous support we received means we are able to develop further resources like videos, support guides and new online wellbeing toolkits for people in the performing arts. Each toolkit is being developed in collaboration with artists and arts workers, which importantly provides meaningful paid work to people in the performing arts industry whose other forms of income have stopped.
“When COVID-19 hit, it felt like every resource, program and initiative that we had in the pipeline was suddenly needed yesterday,” says the Arts Wellbeing Collective’s Head of Program Tracy Margieson.
“Every resource we create is developed in collaboration with many, many performing arts workers – sometimes more than 200 people will contribute to a resource! Being able to engage our community in meaningful work that contributes to our collective rebuild and recovery is one of the greatest gifts from this appeal."
At Arts Centre Melbourne, we’re proud to be part of a community of people who care about the creative industries. For many of those affected by the COVID-19 crisis, the messages of support from our donors have been an incredible source of solace.
“Over lockdown, a bunch of us in the arts felt like what we do doesn’t really matter to anyone. But all you had to do was jump on the fundraising page and see the incredible support flowing in and read all the words of encouragement. I just wanted to say Thank You.” Matt, Musical Theatre Performer
What’s even more heartening, is that donations are coming from several first-time donors. We’re glad to know while our community is unable to gather and see remarkable experiences happen in the theatre that so many of them consider the performing arts as something worth fighting for.