Australian Bushfire Crisis – A Live Music Office Update

Photo by John Wardle

The devastating bushfires that crossed the east coast and other states over the summer and last year caused not only loss of life, property, infrastructure, habitat and wildlife, but also shut down regional economies, with the tourism, cultural and hospitality sectors critically affected.

With these regions declared safe and tourists encouraged to return, the Live Music Office has been on deck since early January, listening to artists, industry, and venues on the ground through this time and providing industry, agencies and government with updates where regional issues have been communicated.

Issues being experienced by the music and hospitality sector in these regions include:

  • Artists: Widespread loss of employment across peak season
  • Venues: Significant loss of business and visitation
  • Festivals: Cancellations of events ( Falls Festival, VIC, Cobargo Folk Festival, NSW)
  • Music Industry: Agents and industry booking events across the region losing work / commissions / still processing admin from cancelled gigs and managing drop in future performances
  • Future bookings in abeyance as visitation drops and residents manage impacts
  • Whilst some artists may have income protection on public liability and instrument insurance, this isn’t coming through on feedback
  • A number of South Coast NSW and VIC artists have lost property and musical equipment
  • Many artists impacted are offering their services for fundraising events despite lost income in peak season
  • Agricultural Shows cancelled include Berry, Cobargo, Candelo, Albion Park, Kiama and Bowral
  • Local Government venues also lost in the Bega Shire

Many venues have used social media to keep their community connected as bushfires arrived. The following quotes tell some of these stories.

Dromedary Hotel Tilba, 31 December 2019 at 07:41: With Tilba surrounded by several large and fast-growing fires, we have closed the pub and are focused on making sure our staff, family and friends are out of danger. We will post updates when we have them. #staysafeeveryone

Air Raid Tavern Moruya, 31 December 2019 at 11:17: The Air Raid will not open this evening 31 Dec due to bush fires.

Eden Fishermen’s Recreation Club, 2 January at 10:57 : Members and Guests are advised that due to the ongoing situation in the area and the forecast for the coming days the decision has been made to cancel the raffles and entertainment scheduled for both the venues for Friday and Saturday nights. We apologise for any inconvenience cause, please stay safe and we will see you again in the near future.

Club Narooma, 31 December 2019 at 13:53: No NYE celebrations tonight at the Club due to the fires. Please keep safe everyone.

Currarong Bowling & Recreation Club, 31 December 2019 at 08:44: Please share this to get the word out.. unfortunately the Melbourne band Catfish Voodoo can’t make it on Saturday 4th January due to fires between Melbourne and Nowra. Hopefully we will get them during 2020.

Bottlerocket Bar Nowra, 4 January at 12:40: Due to the uncertainty of today – Saturday 4th Jan, We will be closed. Please stay safe and a massive thank you to all the people out there fighting these fires – you are all heroes.

Postmans Tavern Nowra, 4 January at 16:38: We opened our doors today to accommodate air conditioning, water & food for anyone that needed it, unfortunately due to the safety of our workers & patrons we have now closed, stay safe xx

Harvest Bar Milton, 3 January at 13:37: C L O S E D // We will be closed until further notice due to the current bushfires surrounding our beautiful home & the forecast conditions over the next few days. Please stay safe & be prepared

Corrigans Cove Resort – Batemans Bay, 8 January at 14:49: We regret to advise due to the current bush fires we will not be opening for lunch or continuing our entertainment throughout January. Our restaurant will still be OPEN 7 days a week for breakfast and dinner as usual. Our thoughts are with our community at this difficult time, and our doors are always open for anyone who needs a hand. Thank you.

In February 2020 the Live Music Office set up a survey for the Shoalhaven, Shellharbour and Illawarra informed by the associated work being done by South East Arts and Other Regional Arts Development Organisations (RADO) in NSW.

As the Shoalhaven Illawarra and Shellharbour aren’t serviced by a RADO, John Wardle from the Live Music Office and Tina Broad from Songmakers who both live in the Shoalhaven established the survey to ensure this badly impacted region is also represented by consistent data collection at this difficult time. A map of the south coast region developed by the Live Music Office early in January shows almost 100 venues that cancelled events over summer, including three destroyed by fire.

The Live Music Office has been connected with Music Victoria as well as the Municipal Association of Victoria and Creative Victoria on supporting the Victorian community, and has available the survey template for industry nationally to assess fire impacts on their creative communities. Through Music Victoria we have also provided input to the development of the Australian Music Industry Network (AMIN) guide to presenting bushfire benefit events with regards to respecting and supporting musicians providing their services to fundraisers.

Looking to recovery, a number of funding programs for events to support tourism and visitation have been made available from federal and state governments.

These include:

  • $10m in Federal Government Regional Tourism Bushfire Recovery Grants
  • NSW Government’s Tourism Recovery package $1 million regional events program
  • Victorian Bushfire Recovery Regional Events Fund with grants of up to $20,000 available for eligible events

Support for the community and music industry includes:

  • Support Act Wellbeing Helpline – 1800 959 500
  • Mental Health Line – 1800 011 511
  • Lifeline – 13 11 14

APRA AMCOS is providing support for members and licensees – Members can talk to them about how they might be able to offer support. There’s a dedicated phone line in case members need assistance. Please call on 02 9935 7879 between 7.00am and 7.00pm AEDT.

This piece was written by John Wardle from the Live Music Office.

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