Earlier this month the federal government announced they would be cutting student loans to creative courses. The other reforms fell into the category of protecting students and making study life better for them; but pulling the plug on over 400 courses in the arts and entertainment industry has attracted heavy criticism. And with damn good reason too.
There goes professional writing and editing, photography, acting, dance, musical theatre, production design, performing arts, jewellery making, live production design and other highly creative and rewarding avenues.
The education minister, Simon Birmingham, has come to the alarming conclusion that most of these creative arts courses should no longer receive government support in the form of student loans. But for the more ‘socially accepted’ job opportunities, these are still encouraged and backed up 100% by the government. The end result sees only 13 of the 70 previously supported arts and creative courses eligible for government support. Funding for the student loans in the remaining creative programs has also been capped at $10,000, compared to $15,000 for agriculture and engineering. Insanity? Yes.
“Currently there are far too many courses that are being subsidised that are used simply to boost enrolments, or provide ‘lifestyle’ choices, but don’t lead to work,” Birmingham said.
The changes, which are set to come into action January 2017, have caused an uproar in the industry. Many high profile artists are pretty unhappy with the fact the federal government has described their careers as a “lifestyle choice”, including ARIA award winner rapper Illy, who’s taken to Twitter to blast the government for it’s ridiculous policy decision.
As a professional writer in the music industry myself, and being surrounded by people who make a living doing what they love creatively, I’m disgusted that our way of life and passion is essentially rejected – -when artistic careers should be developed and nurtured.
ArtsPeak, an unincorporated federation of national peak arts organisations, is highly opposed to the changes:
“Training is just as essential in the arts as in other industries and enables graduates either to establish their own cultural businesses or to be employed by others,” spokesperson Tamara Winikoff said in a statement.
Students, industry professionals and anyone else opposed to this stupidity is invited to contact VETStudent Loans to strongly urge that these changes be void. I’ve taken the liberty to include a fantastic letter a friend has written in, who is a graduate of the Arts herself and a respected musician within the industry:
To Whom It May Concern,
I am a graduate of the Arts, and I work in the Youth community sector, where we use art, music, visual communication, social media, and a wide range of other strategies to engage our young community members and better our community. I am also a former VET-Trainer and college Branch Manager, and I’ve also been a professional working musician for the last 15 years.
I am very disappointed with the information I read here. I am extra specially gob-smacked by the decision to cut VET funding to the Diploma of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Visual Arts Industry Work. (What?!!!)
Cutting VET funding to Arts courses is essentially taking a sledge-hammer to the Arts. We should be encouraging and nurturing the Arts, not erecting these sorts of barriers to people’s professional artistic careers.
I’d like to make a comparison between educational funding and employment outcomes in the Sports vs Arts sectors:
I’m from Western Sydney. Apparently Trent Merrin from the Penrith Panthers earned $750 000 this year. In comparison, the Concert Master of the Penrith Symphony Orchestra (Antonia Todorova, in case you’re not sure) is not paid at all, yet the PSO regularly performs to sold-out concert halls, and invests a good chunk of time in delivering educational concerts for children. On an even larger scale, a principal player in this country’s largest professional orchestra, The Sydney Symphony Orchestra, earns approximately $130,000p/a.
A quick spot of internet research shows me that the Australian College of Sport and Fitness remains fully VET-FEE funded, with payment plans as little as $29 p/week to obtain a Diploma-level qualification here, yet an incredible list of fifty-seven Arts courses have just had their VET funding axed. Can you see the imbalance here?
Who is responsible for determining that sport is more important for our economy than art? As a musician I recognise the value of fitness, and of supporting competitive sport and sporting entertainment. It’s valuable for us as people, and great for our community and economy. Surely however, I don’t need to remind you of the countless studies which have verified that children who study music have higher academic results, better mental health, higher mathematic ability, greater control of their angry or violent emotions, and a better sense of well-being and personal accomplishment.
The playing of classical music has been shown to reduce violence in public places, a strategy which has been employed around the world for a long time, read here. On a local level, other studies have shown that Sydney venues with live music experience less alcohol-fuelled violence.
Compare this to the weekly news reports of high-profile football personalities who have deliberately physically hurt one another (or members of the public, or their wives/girlfriends) have driven vehicles whilst on drugs and alcohol, have simulated fornication with dogs and been a general menace. When was the last time there was a national Australian news story about a symphony musician on a steroid-bender who smashed his car into a pole after bashing his girlfriend? (Oh I’m not saying that doesn’t happen at all…but don’t make me draw up a comparison chart, because it won’t make the Sports Industry look very pretty, and I’m not out to make enemies of sports fans, or sportsmen).
What I’m saying is, and I could go on and on, is that cutting VET funding to Arts courses is one of the worst possible decisions that could have been made, and is likely to severely affect our communities, our economy and our Nation as a whole. I urge that you consider this letter in reviewing how funding is distributed to Artistic qualifications for Australians.
Sincerely, Suzanne (Rexy) Yasa.”
If you want to say your bit about the cuts to creative courses, don’t be shy! Email VetStudent Loans today.