Advocacy in the lead up to the Victorian State Election
As the peak body representing the interests of dance and dancers in Victoria, Ausdance VIC is working to make sure the voice of dance heard in the upcoming state election campaign. We recognise that the dance community is not usually top of mind when politicians and hopeful candidates are thinking up policy ideas. However, this Victorian election we remind current and future members of the state parliament that “We Dance, and We Vote!”
In December 2021 Ausdance VIC conducted a sector wide survey. We are grateful for the hundreds of responses from individuals and businesses across Victoria who told us what was important to them. Your voice has determined the key priority areas and key issues that we have advocated to political parties and candidates.
Following consultation sessions with members in August, we have contacted all parties in the upcoming election with with policy recommendations. We have invited party officials, policy makers and candidates to meet with us, deepen their understanding, and take action to support dance.
Below are excerpts from the formal letter sent to political parties, current ministers and candidates.
Ausdance VIC believes dance should be recognised as a performance art that can be appreciated by a large audience. We also see dance as a legitimate career pathway for aspiring dance artists, as an expression of diverse cultures, and as a health and recreational activity for many Victorians.
Dance is a popular pastime in Australia and it is well supported by audiences. The Australian Council for the Arts has reported[i] that around six million Australians, approximately 30 percent of the population over 15, attended live dance events in 2019, and eight percent participated in regular organised dance activities.
Australian dance is known for its vitality, diversity, and distinctive styling across many popular genres, from hip hop to ballroom. We also know that dance is an important cultural activity for First Nations people. Nearly a quarter of Indigenous Australians participate in dance for cultural and spiritual nourishment. Dance supports quality of life in Indigenous communities and is an important cultural component of reconciliation and national healing[ii].
For young Australians, dance provides a creative outlet that supports self-confidence and physical wellbeing[iii]. Dance is also a proven helpful tonic for both physical and mental health. Rhythmic movement is a powerful mode of self-healing for both body and mind that is useful in dealing with the negative health impacts of an ageing population[iv]. Dance is also a major contributor to the creative industries economy; in 2018-2019, the performing arts (including dance) contributed more than $2 billion in value added GDP[v].
Priorities for Dance
Our members understand the important contribution that dance makes to the economy, to positive health outcomes, and to fostering cultural harmony and diversity. The results of our 2021 survey clearly show that health, access, education and training, and investment in cultural diversity are top of mind for the dance community. Key priorities that emerged are below:
|Proactive recognition and support for dance in the delivery of positive and sustainable physical and mental health outcomes for all Victorians||Increased support for dance in the community as a method of encouraging diversity and connection that fosters greater cross-cultural engagement and healthy communities.|
|A greater commitment to promoting and supporting the mental health benefits of dance and the use of dance as a therapy in relation to diseases of ageing, such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease||Greater awareness of the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on dancers, dance creatives, dance teachers, instructors, and sector personnel|
|Improving affordable access to dance performance and participation for all Victorians||Increasing opportunities for equitable participation to support dance diversity|
|Increased investment and incentives to support the development of infrastructure and dance activities in regional and remote areas of the state||Expanding accessibility and programs through targeted investment such as the successful Get Active Kids Program[vi]|
|Investment into updated resourcing for dance education in schools, and training for school-based dance teachers||Address insecure work and precarity for professional workers in dance|
|Dance organisations and studios to be included in the creative venues category in relation to sector placements within pandemic lockdown rules||Funding to support the exploration of a regulatory framework for the dance industry|
|Development of stronger, recognised pathways and accreditation for dancers and dance teacher training through Skills First funding||Development and maintenance of venues/cultural infrastructure that supports the safe dance performance standards.|
|Support for progressing the dance element within Creative Victoria’s “First Nations First” Creative State strategy||Invest in cultural infrastructure that supports dance creation such as suitable facilities within government schools and public buildings.|
|Greater recognition and support for culturally centred and diverse dance expression for marginalised communities||Opportunities for social dance – Rock’n’roll, Ballroom, etc – to expand its reach into all parts of the state|
To build on these insights we conducted a series of open, online consultations with members In August to develop policy recommendations. Policy initiatives we welcome are:
- The development of secure education-to-employment pathways that link dance education in school and VET environments to university entry and identified career opportunities in dance.
- The development of identified and consistent standards of accreditation for dance education, particularly for dance instructors.
- Expansion and extension of schemes such as Get Active Kids Program which provided subsidies for eligible families to encourage children to participate in physical activity. Ausdance VIC was centrally involved in assisting the Victorian dance community to access Get Active Kids and the voucher scheme proved very popular. Over 2400 vouchers were issued for dance in 2021, with a value of $489,000, putting it in the top five Get Active Kids activities in the state. We know that similar subsidised vouchers would also benefit other communities that have limited access to dance and other activities; for example, CALD, First Nations, across regional and remote Victoria, people living with a disability or other factors that impact their ability to engage.
- Government must do more to acknowledge the economic, social, and health impacts of the pandemic on arts workers, including creatives and other professionals in dance. The pandemic brought to the fore issues of precarity and insecure low-paid work that keep arts workers in relative poverty and preclude them from accessing the benefits of secure work – superannuation, regularised contracts, holiday pay, sick leave, and long service leave[vii]. The federal government’s consultative body, the Australian Skills and Industry Committee has identified insecure employment as a major impediment to the economic viability of the performing arts. For many of our members, precarity is linked to the critical issue of access to mental health support for dancers, creatives, and dance professionals.
[i] Australia Council for the Arts (August 2020). Creating Our Future: Results of the National Arts Participation Survey, Australian Government, Canberra.
[ii] Dunphy, K., & Ware, V. A. (2019). Dance and quality of life for indigenous communities in Australia. In Dance and the Quality of Life (pp. 495-512). Springer, Cham.
[iii] Bond, K. (Ed.). (2019). Dance and the quality of life (Vol. 73). Springer.
[iv] Hewston, P., Kennedy, C. C., Borhan, S., Merom, D., Santaguida, P., Ioannidis, G., & Papaioannou, A. (2021). Effects of dance on cognitive function in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Age and ageing, 50(4), 1084-1092.
[v] Trembath, J., & Fielding, K. (2020). Australia’s cultural and creative economy: A 21st century guide.
[vi] Get Active Victoria, Kids Voucher Program (2022). https://www.getactive.vic.gov.au/vouchers/
[vii] Eltham, B., & Pennington, A. (2021). Creativity in Crisis: Rebooting Australia’s Arts and Entertainment Sector after COVID, The Australia Institute.