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La Mama Theatre
Photograph: Mat ConnolleyLa Mama Theatre was razed, is rebuilding, now faces drastic cuts

Many of Melbourne’s arts institutions have lost their funding – here’s how you can help

Written by
Stephen A Russell

Fate can be way too cruel. After raising enough funds to rebuild after a devastating fire last year, Melbourne’s beloved La Mama Theatre, some 53-years-old, was facing an uncertain future in the face of savage funding cuts that have kicked the arts sector while it’s down.

Nobody denies the city’s major arts venues and events had to be shuttered for public health reasons during the COVID-19 crisis. But with individual creatives already unsure of what personal assistance they can receive, the alarming news that many of Melbourne’s significant bodies will have their four-year Australia Council funding cut makes the dire situation much worse.

Other high-profile institutions left reeling included game-changing youth theatre companies Polyglot and St Martins Youth Arts Centre, literary magazine Overland, and arts organisation West Space. Unable to generate revenue from ticket sales, and with little to no government support likely in the near-term at least, now more than ever is the time to tip in a little if you can to help out our cultural hubs.

Richard Watts, chair of La Mama’s management committee, says Friday’s drastic news was a real shock. “With hundreds of theatres and galleries closed across the country and thousands of artists and arts workers unemployed, now more than ever it’s important to support the people whose work – books, TV programs, films and music – are keeping us entertained while we're in lockdown.”

He added that those artists and arts venues are going to need our help directly, “especially since the Australian Government, unlike governments in Germany and elsewhere, have failed to target the arts sector with dedicated and industry-specific bail-out programs.”

You can donate to help La Mama support Australian playwrights, actors, directors and crew here.

Established in 1954, Overland is a stalwart of our literary scene, so it’s particularly grim to see it lose out. You can help by subscribing here.

A champion of Melbourne’s contemporary arts scene, West Space finds itself particularly hamstrung given it’s in the middle of moving out of its former Bourke Street venue and building a more accessible home in Collingwood. You can support them here.

Innovative kids’ theatre company Polyglot just turned 40 also recently moved to the Abbotsford Convent, so chip in if you can by donating here. And you can assist St Martins and their brilliant inclusion scholarships here.

With the Federal government so far unwilling to support the arts with an industry-specific rescue package, it may well rest on our shoulders to help out in any way we can.

In need of some creative inspiration? Why not try out these drawing classes thanks to the NGV?

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