So, we artists are no longer ‘legitimate’.

I haven’t been this furious in a long time, and I’m loathe to use my blog to comment on politics. But not today. With the recent announcement that our fearless leader plans to scrap student loans to creative courses, this might be the angriest blog I will ever write and I am not even sorry.

By all means, if you don’t know about this outrage, click here and feel your blood pressure skyrocket. Go ahead. I’ll wait.


Now where the hell do I begin?

The Minister for Education and Training says that this is a “lifestyle choice”. Well guess what buddy? ALL CAREERS ARE A LIFESTYLE CHOICE, INCLUDING POLITICS. That’s right kids, follow your dreams, pursue your gifts and talents, but don’t even think about the creative side of life, that’s just a hobby.

The Minister goes on to say that “VET Student Loans will only support legitimate students to undertake worthwhile and value-for-money courses at quality training providers,”

Excuse me while I go throw up.


The gloves are coming off, pal.

So, we artists are not “legitimate students.”
Our profession will not “benefit Australia economically”.
You want to “encourage students to study”….by taking away opportunities for the next Hugh Jackman, Jackie Weaver or Tony Sheldon, to name a few?

First of all, do you have any idea how economically viable the arts are? Of course not, because you’re far more interested in raising your own salaries, spending millions on detention centres and giving the sports industry every cent they crave. You made even MORE cuts to hundreds of art forms recently, in turn GETTING RID OF VALUABLE JOBS and that STILL isn’t enough for you. Now you turn your blowtorch onto students, universities and educators (yeah, remember them?) who are the ones that are going to pay for your disgusting arrogance.
To call us not ‘legitimate students isn’t just offensive. It’s not just insulting. It is an affront to our whole profession. And yes, it IS a profession, despite what the naysayers bray.

By your logic, I don’t need to repay my current student debt for my Diploma of Music Theatre, because in your mind, I wasn’t a real student. That would make my life a hell of a lot easier as I audition in a world of star casting and the never ending cuts to my industry made by you idiots. Sorry, I can’t even be polite about this. They are dragging the very soul of society, because that is exactly what the arts are.
So we aren’t legitimate. We don’t contribute to society, you say?
Tell that to the acting students who spend hours upon hours after classes are done every single day on pieces of theatre which can cause people to re-examine their entire lives.
Tell that to the actors who learn empathy and human behaviour by creating characters. Tell that to the painters who pour their hearts into their artworks. Tell that to the makers of the film Blood Diamond, who used the film medium to draw attention to the issue of the diamond trade and caused a worldwide demand for conflict free diamonds. Tell that to the dancers who work their bodies into oblivion doing pointe work. Tell that to the cruise ship performers who uproot their entire lives for 6-9 months at a time, often relocating to the other side of the world just to bring joy to others. Tell that to the musicians who invest years into their chosen instruments, getting calluses and vocal fatigue so they can perform at your stupid political events, and often for free.

And tell that to me, a 24 year old actress two years out of studying who just completed an eight month contract performing theatre in education in schools around the country. Oh yeah, did you forget? Art teaches people. In this case, I was fighting the bullying epidemic on the front lines. Talk about how ‘illegitimate’ my work is to the children who came up to me after these shows in tears, saying that they now could see that they had the power to stop bullying, or sharing their stories of abuse with me.
But my work is a ‘lifestyle choice’, according to you, Minister for Education. Hilarious how as a minister for education, you are doing everything in your power to prevent it. You honestly think it’s easy, memorising 9, yes, nine different plays to perform on any given day, at any given time, in any possible combination, in any possible location at a moment’s notice? Nobody expects you to memorise every ridiculous speech you give. I’d like to see you political bigwigs educate children through theatre without talking down to them. Let’s watch as you keep your energy at the right level, never let it drop, all the while being focused on the story, your co-actor and the audience. All the while you have to be entertaining so they don’t lose focus, but never let it get out of hand and always, always, always focusing on delivering your message in a way they can interpret and apply to their own lives. And I am able to do this because of the training I received. Which was only possible because of VET fee help.
At the same time, I was constantly away from my home. My family. My partner. My dogs. My world. I put a lot of things in my life on hold because I believed in the message I was being paid to spread. To hear this utter BS about how this is not ‘legitimate’ causes more rage than I can describe.

And what about the other sides of the industry? Like theatre and musical theatre, some of the most underrated arts forms in existence. Why is it that we only ever seem to get the same old revivals of Annie and The Lion King? The masterpiece that is Next to Normal, about mental illness, was pulled just weeks before it was due to premiere in Sydney. It was cast, rehearsed, designed. How many productions will need to get cancelled of Jekyll and Hyde before we finally see it? Why was the Imported Artist Agreement not renewed, taking away opportunities for Australian artists? The current production of Aladdin has two Broadway performers. My Fair Lady brought people from the West End. Other productions like Wicked and Anything Goes cast non-actors in lead roles. Several years ago, while exceptional performers were on call for roles in Rocky Horror, the producers sought to cast people with at least 10,000 Twitter followers. No joke.

Of course, Matilda is doing very well. “Matilda is just what Australian musical theatre needs!” all the reviews crowed. But let’s look a little closer. Matilda, written in 2010, premiered on the West End in 2011. It’s written by the great Tim Minchin. By the way, he’s Australian. It’s based on a beloved book and movie, and was a smash hit in both London and on Broadway.

Why did it take five years to come to Australia?

Seriously, think about it. Tim Minchin is an iconic figure in our ever-shrinking arts industry. Matilda is by Roald Dahl, one of the number 1 children’s authors out there. Nearly every kid has read the book or seen the movie. From a business point of view, there’s pretty much no way in the world it could fail. And leaving the financial side out of it, this is still a fantastic piece.
Nobody in this country outside of our industry seems willing to bring out new and exciting theatre. Or heaven forbid, invest in our OWN pieces. Ever heard of The Hatpin? Or LoveBites? Yes, those are two wonderful contemporary Australian musicals you’ve never heard of.
When a successful Broadway/West End production finally jogs sweatily behind the bandwagon and arrives on our shores years later, it’s normally an exact replica of the original stagings.We’re rarely allowed to direct freely or come up with original designs. Of course we get the odd exception. Like my old nemesis Love Never Dies. Remember that trainwreck of a show? You know, the show Broadway rejected? The one that’s STILL not gone anywhere? The one with a terrible script, and insults the audience and characters every second? Millions of dollars were burned into trying to make that show worth looking at. Hundreds of invited, and non-paying patrons flooded into the Capitol Theatre and patted themselves on the back for supporting the arts, when every waking minute seems bent on destroying the entire industry. And I have just about reached my breaking point.

Of course, we have independent theatre companies like Squabbalogic and Sport for Jove, truly brilliant companies that bring exciting, fresh and innovative theatre. But they struggle for funding.

Where’s the government support for them, if they are so brilliant? It’s nowhere. And it’s independent theatre that’s saving the industry right now.

We pour our hearts and souls into our work and we do it all with the majority of the world patting us condescendingly on the head and saying “Isn’t that cute?”
We do it every day knowing we are setting ourselves up for rejection. We do it knowing that we are being critiqued on our looks and marketability. We do it knowing there is no guarantee of success. We do it knowing our country’s government and culture is fighting us tooth and nail every step of the way. But we do it because that one “yes” makes it all worth it. We do it because we believe in the arts. We do it because we’re courageous and make the hard choices that society needs to keep moving. We do it because we want to make a hat, where there never was a hat. We do it because without the arts, life has no meaning. And you are selling everything we do short.

Before I wrap up, I want to plead with everybody in the industry, and everyone who loves the arts to flood the email feedback line with emails. We have GOT to fight this. Contact the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Don’t take this lying down. It’s time to stand up for the industry because without us, we wouldn’t have one. Click this link ( and let loose at them. We only have until October 23rd.
Let’s begin.


135 thoughts on “So, we artists are no longer ‘legitimate’.

  1. Tony Studans

    I am a “mere” observer of the human condition. I am not what one would call particularly “of the arts”……..I even lost my marriage because I could never understand The Arts. However, I see it a valid place of human expression, and all civilized cultures have an active arts component. But there is one thing in the DNA of the Liberal Party The Arts community never sees. Some arts funding actually comes from high-worth individuals who are either members of the Liberal Party or are aligned with it…..yet they would deny Government funding? Why? Here is a theory I have; the media, that is TV, Radio and newspaper/magazine journalists almost always are required to be members of the Australian Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance – The AMEAA. This has traditionally been a militant and Lefty organisation for as long as I can recall. It absorbed Actors Equity and the Australian Journalists Association in the 90s, I think. If the natural inclination of artists is “progressive” or “left”, which it commonly is, it is certainly reinforced in the Liberal collective mind if the one controlling union body for The Arts as a whole actively supports the Labor Party and has delegates attend Labor Party National Conferences…..and makes campaign donations at election time!

    So the Liberals really do see The Arts community as a bit of an enemy. It didn’t help things when a cavalcade of media celebrities actively participated in Gough Whitlam’s Its Time TV ad campaign.

    Under the mask of cutting VET fees for dodgy educational institutions….which had to be done, as it was yet another debacle of a Labor programme – good idea, terrible management and poor implementation. If you think that’s a harsh call, remember the Pink Batts debacle; the Petroleum Resources Rent Tax and the Super Profits mining taxes that yielded next to nothing in revenue;
    the BER, the school building programme that wasted billions….and our education system is still slipping by world standards. The Liberals do have a Budget problem; the Budget deficit was zero at the 2007 election when Kevin Rudd won. The deficit climbed to $240 billion when the Liberals returned after Rudd/Gillard, and Australia is paying $40million A DAY in interest on the deficit.
    No wonder the Government is hell-bent on cleaning up bad and costly programmes like the VET scheme. The Gonski plan, the NDIS and the NBN were unfunded Budget timebombs designed to give the Liberals massive headaches if Labor lost an election. So now the Deficit is around $340 billion. The Liberals DNA compels it to shrink the Budget make decisions on what is essential and, sadly, what is not. Add to this a disinclination to support those traditionally seen as of a Left persuasion (like tertiary students, environmentalists and the like), and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (they lost funding too!) to see what would happen with funding.

    For The Arts community to successfully be on the receiving end of continual Government assistance from both sides of politics, it needs to be seen as politically neutral. It needs to get its own union to concentrate on representing the individual artists and stop getting involved in politics itself. It should cut all ties with the Labor Party, because it is doing itself a disservice during those times of Liberal Government. I think John Gorton was the only Liberal Prime Minister who understood arts funding, and Malcolm Turnbull probably personally donates to various arts causes, but the arts community should have a re-evaluation of how it presents itself to the world. Creating an aura of the purity of The Arts, separated from politics of any kind, is probably worth looking at. The Arts industry needs to find neutral DNA and make itself appealing to everyone, to stop being for the elite and to stop being so politically Left.

    “Pester Power” applied to your local MP only works during election cycles. The whole approach to funding of The Arts needs a huge attitude shift by the artists themselves, the community and government together.

    That’s my 2 cents worth as an outside observer, not particularly “arty”, but one who sits in the centre of Left and Right, wishing that everyone could pull their weight and do what’s best for Australia.

  2. Krystle

    You listed everything but writers – the very people who create stories to illustrate and perform. Never the less, I agree. F**k the Australian Government. We plan on moving to Europe for this very reason. The government make every attempt to discredit our professions. It’s wrong. You don’t even need a degree to be a politician. Writers (as all artists do) work double time. I just finished work and will now work through the night to meet a publishing deadline for tomorrow – when I will then spend the next two days working on my final assesment for the coursework component of my honours degree… I’m so exhausted right now. To read blasphemous bull like this just infuriates me.

  3. Pingback: The arts will survive | AbStar921 – Musical Critic

  4. Jane puzey

    Does anyone know who Fabiola Gianotti is?
    Well she is a particle physicist and is Director General at CERN. She only decided to study physics after finishing school she was an Art major and also studied music and philosophy first. Her words.. Science and Art are the foundations of human existence.
    They go hand in hand and life cant exist without them. Think about that.. .Art or Artists are like theorists.

  5. biscuit man

    Have you considered that the reason these courses are no longer funded by taxpayer loans is because they’re not economically viable?

    You can only name a few successful and profitable artists because, get this, there are very few.

    The “starving artist” stereotype exists for a reason. “I hang around on da deviant arts” isn’t a job, and showing people who won’t hire you isn’t a career either. These “artists” tend to end up in low paying hospitality jobs, through which their student loans are never paid.

    To pretend otherwise is disingenuous. Your long winded diatribe reeks of unwarranted entitlement.

  6. Lauchlan Gillett

    As someone who has worked in the TAFE sector for over 20 years I have seen the profliferation of courses in many areas including the arts. Much of this growth has not been driven by a need from the community but by education institutions working to ensure their survival. I would suggest the same is true of many degree level courses offered by universities. So, in my opinion, the governments funding reforms have some legitimacy. What is sad though is if only the arts are the target of this process.

    1. AbStar921 Post author

      There’s nothing wrong in theory with trying to overhaul these programs to weed out those who simply take advantage of people. What I’m not ok with is being told that our profession is a ‘lifestyle choice’ and is not ‘legitimate’. The other problem is that fine institutions like the Actors Centre are inevitably going to be caught in the crossfires here.

  7. Diannebaines

    It took my eldest son,an author living in Canada to wake me up to the appalling apathy of the Australian government particularly in the realm of the arts. He left the country obstensibly for that reason. Shame on our government for its thinly veiled hypocrisy.

    1. John Andrews

      Agree. Education has become the growth industry of the last forty years as well as being corrupted by privatisation and commercialisation.

  8. Kay

    It is all part of the psychopathic plan to control us. Without the arts there is no beauty and no freedom of expression. This is another step in the manipulation and dumbing down of us by the psychopathic lizards running the show. Our freedom to express MUST be fought for. Looking forward to seeing some of the art flowing from this bullshit.

  9. Kåre

    This quote from former president John Adams (1797-1801) puts all of this in the perspective it deserves:
    I must study politics and war so that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.
    John Adams

  10. Ann Palumbo

    As I’ve suggested on a previous occasion to a well-known politician. Take all the art off the walls, turn off all radios, tvs, close movie and every other theatre, dance and music studios shut down all access to media for a week and then lets see how important the arts are to the functionality of this society!

  11. Marina Godess

    My daughter pursued her dreams of be coming a ballet Dancer & I supported her which meant for me as a single mother, working in 2-3 teaching Jobs. While my taxes were paying for the Ministers’ salaries & overseas trips ( all Work-related, of course) , I could never see my daughter’s choice as illegitimate. I believe the comment , especially coming from someone in charge of Education & Training, is a disgrace & shows the lack of understanding what the harmonious education actually involves.
    Shame on you, Minister.

  12. Margi Wade

    My favourite quote regarding funding for the arts comes from Winston Churchill, who responded when asked why money being used to fund the arts was not instead being used for the war effort “what then are we fighting for ?” It is interesting that a party whose members can afford to go to the Ballet & the Opera should make such a decision. As an unpaid carer for my darling sister who has acquired brain damage, my days of going to the Ballet or the Opera are long gone. I can’t even afford to see Tex Fxcking Perkins, I digress that’s a whole other rant.

    1. Robyn Grove

      Unfortunately, it is a common misquote. According to records of all his speeches, Winston Churchill did not say that. What he did say on 30 April 1938, in a speech to the Royal Acad­emy was:

      “The arts are essen­tial to any com­plete national life. The State owes it to itself to sus­tain and encour­age them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the rev­er­ence and delight which are their due.”

      There is much info on this misquote, meanwhile here is one source:

      1. Catherine

        Exactly Robyn…I wish people would stop using this bogus quote – it undermines their credibility and doesn’t do the cause any good

  13. Malcolm

    Agree with your blog…this country is going backwards. I was studying at Metro Tv last year and loving it. Just finished part 2 of a screen course and was looking forward to doing the next one but of course Metro TV is no longer here after 25 years. Its where Nicole Kidman started out. Needless to say the Mad monk cut their funding. ( won’t mention his name..)

  14. Hanna W

    Can you please give more information about the feedback line, do you mean we only have until October 23rd to give feedback? Are they asking for specific submissions? Where would I find further information about this? Cheers

  15. steve

    Too much whingeing becomes counter-productive. Yes, art is a legitimate occupation. No, dodgy “colleges” replacing TAFE and accessing VET are usually not legitimate. I knew what to expect when Jimmy the (unwitting?) spruiker for the gambling palaces tried to blame the lockout laws for the death of live music that happened last century. That’s what happens when you blindly join in any whinge going around: you get manipulated by the rich and powerful (AHA in Jimmy’s case).

    1. KC

      When Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favor of the war effort he simply replied then “why are we fighting”

      1. Catherine

        Except that’s a bogus quote…not that I don’t agree with the sentiment…but it’s still bogus…he never said that… it a useful quote to use in any argument…undermines your credibility

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