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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Local artist calls for living wage

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Creatives need the community to get behind them.

That’s the message from Emmy winning and three times Grammy nominated recording artist, Toni Childs. Her petition calls on Liberal treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, to provide a living wage to performing artists.

The impetus for the international artist, who became an Aussie resident a few years ago, came when speaking with a colleague’s mother.

‘Why is there no package for the arts community?’ she reflected.

‘Why is a 15-year-old who works part time in a supermarket getting subsidised, but we aren’t? It upset me, because this is my life. For 40 years, I have been making music. I make a living out of what I do.’

Toni believes that the government doesn’t really understand how the arts sector works, particularly how independent creators curate their livelihoods.

Last year, Toni toured 52 regional theatres in three months to raise money for her music-driven theatre production, It’s All A Beautiful Noise. This has been in development since 2014.

When COVID restrictions hit she was four shows into a 17 date tour that had to be shut down.

She says, ‘There are some disconnects in understanding how we work. It takes eight months a year to book, and if you are working internationally, it can be up to three years in advance’.

Artist protection

‘Who is there to protect us?’, asks Toni who has been assembling musicians, comedians, event promoters, actors and other performers to get behind the petition to tell politicians the very personal story of who artists are, and what they do, and how the COVID restrictions have hurt them.

‘They need to see the personal face of our community and have a real conversation.

‘We are an essential service – about five per cent of our industry make millions, but there are so many who are doing their art – the majority who just make a living. They are in every single town. They are the fabric of life. When the fires hit recently, they were the ones who stepped up to play benefits and raise money for the victims.’

Toni believes the creative community around the country needs to align to send the message to Canberra. ‘Jimmy Barnes put out an open letter to 1,000 different artists about this – we need to merge and come under one banner. We need about another eight months of support onwards from the September JobKeeper/ JobSeeker cut off. We won’t be able to earn money ourselves until venues are allowed to take 300 people – you can make a living on that – but there will be a glut, as it’s the same starting time for everyone.’

While there has been no response as yet from Josh Frydenberg, manager of opposition business for the Labor Party, Tony Burke, has shown his support for the campaign.

‘The Department of the Arts doesn’t even have the name on the door – that doesn’t acknowledge the amount of money we generate. Imagine if we took away music and storytelling – what would life look like?

‘We need your support. We pay taxes. We show up. We bring joy and energy to our crowds, and now we need your help.’

The petition is online.

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  1. Toni Childs has been a great talent and has benefited greatly from that.
    Like all artists who have found a niche in society, where good a living can be made pursuing their love of what ever their interests may be. Good luck to them, but it’s a bit rich begging for a handout because their chosen avenue is no longer required.
    Fifteen year olds forced to work in supermarkets is a shameful situation, I’m sure they would rather be singing and dancing.
    Art , is not an essential service ! … Nor, I must add, is the services of catholic priests, currently ripping off the public purse in the name of the pope.
    Cheers, G”)

  2. I presume that ” when you saw god in the supermarket ” Toni, she/he was looking down on the 15 year old part time worker, as well as yourself.
    Love is answer.

  3. If you are watching tv, Netflix, any streaming service for that matter, listening to music, or watching old video clips or old recordings of theatre on YouTube during lockdown. I would think that would be your proof that the arts are an essential service.

  4. Streaming music! Almost free. Trouble is that
    copyright gets ripped off [stolen] by Google &
    friends. All the Art Forms cop it & there’s no
    way we can find a comparison with a singer
    songwriter’s pay-loss [ie; $$$] to a part-time
    worker of any age. (If I’m a carpenter I’m not
    stolen from. A plumber’s safe so’s the fruit
    seller, mechanic etc). Most writers, well
    published, also have Google to deal with.
    Theft is theft. I’m a writer of over 50 years &
    ‘social media’ [freeloading] does as it likes
    with what I’ve created. Toni’s a great talent
    & her songs & presentations are ‘her work’.
    Her listeners – you could say – employ her
    because she is an iconic woman who has
    chosen to be part of Northern Rivers as
    well as the world. Toni pays tax. That tax
    supports the public through good & tough


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