Inner West Independent

Inner West Councillors clash over addressing community arts sector concerns

Marrickville Town Hall

The Inner West Arts and Music Recovery Summit was held at Marrickville Town Hall. Photo: Facebook

By ERIN MODARO

Two arts recovery motions tabled by Greens Councillors at a recent Inner West Council meeting have been struck down, with both motions falling to an 8-7 vote against. Inner West Councillor Liz Atkins brought forward a motion that would push for the introduction of a fixed income support scheme for artists, after the idea was presented during the recent Inner West Arts Recovery Summit.

Councillor Atkins said that “arts practice should be recognised and treated as a legitimate occupation by governments, deserving of the kinds of support that other industries rely on,”, as they pushed for the advocacy of artist wages to the federal government.

The motion called for the Inner West Mayor to write a letter to both the Arts Minister and the Special Envoy for the Arts, pushing for a fixed income scheme for artists to address financial insecurity in the arts sector.

Fellow Greens Councillor Kobi Shetty raised a motion for an inquiry into the efficacy of council venues for hosting and supporting arts events in the Inner West, after inadequate spaces for arts events was flagged as a popular concern among summit attendees.

“Greens councillors have taken immediate action in response to what we heard at the summit because we know our arts and music sectors don’t have months or years to wait for decision-makers to take action” Cr Shetty said.

Labor Councillor calls to wait for report on Arts Recovery Summit

Both motions were opposed by Labor Councillor Chloe Smith, who voiced concerns that the council was taking “preemptive” actions before the official report detailing the outcomes of the summit is released by council in August.

“A piecemeal approach of councillors submitting individual motions based on their experience of the day doesn’t do justice to the Summit’s intentions or our commitment to the sector” Cr Smith said to City Hub.

Cr Smith says she “wholeheartedly appreciates” other Inner West Councillors bringing forward motions that respond to concerns from the summit, but says “with respect to my fellow councillors, we don’t always know best, particularly with a sector as complex and varied as the arts”.

Cr Chloe Smith

Councillor Smith attended the arts recovery summit, and calls for analysis of official report before action is taken. Photo: Facebook

“Given the enormity of the task at hand, it’s critical that we get this strategy and our short and long term responses right.”

Cr Smith said that addressing the concerns raised at the summit “will require a long-term, comprehensive, and well-considered approach in partnership with government, business, and the arts.”

Summit hailed as a success

The Inner West Arts and Music Recovery Summit was hailed as a success by the Inner West Council, including Cr Atkins, who attended the event. As well as the wide turnout from politicians, musicians and council members, the structure of the summit provided a unique opportunity for discussion that has been praised.

“The people in the room were a diverse group from the arts sector who are engaged with the subject matter and have been directly affected by COVID and lockdowns” Cr Atkins said.

“This is the way we should do policy.”

Other attendees also praised the outcomes of the summit, as Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne said in a statement that he has “real enthusiasm about what Tony Burke MP and the Albanese Government can do to breathe new life into Australian culture”.

“The Inner West will be the beating heart of this change” Mayor Byrne said.

Federal Minister for the Arts, who was a keynote speaker along with the Inner West Mayor at the summit, tweeted that the event was an “important forum as we recover post-pandemic”.

As identified by Cr Atkins, issues presented at the summit included improving the amount of viable spaces to conduct arts initiatives, as well as cementing financial security for artists and performers. Other discussions surrounded the concept of expanding Dine and Discover vouchers from the state government, as well as potentially re-zoning some red tape areas in the Local Government Area.

Cr Atkins regarded the form of discussion as a viable way to approach de-amalgamation talks in the community, saying that including “something similar to the Arts Summit… could give us a lot of great input to be put to the Minister”.

Both Greens Councillors expressed disappointment about the council’s dismissal of motions created to directly address issues that were presented at the Arts summit, after the summit was deemed successful.

“It is disingenuous to hold a summit and put out a media release, then oppose policy measures that artists and musicians have said they need” Cr Shetty said.

“Voting against the [motions] sends a message that Labor Councillors are more concerned about appearing to be doing something rather than trying to solve any real-world problems.”

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