The Arts and bush-fire recovery

The performing arts sector cares deeply about the collective impact of this summer’s bushfires.

The Arts and bush-fire recovery


In a typical year, we tour performances and run arts education programs across rural Australia.  How we adapt and adjust our engagement in fire-affected regions will be informed by our engagement with the communities, well ahead of our arrival.

As an immediate response, arts organisations are supporting fundraising in several ways.

The State Theatre Company of South Australia , for example, has donated subscription packages to benefit concerts/galas: the Showcase ‘SA 4 SA’ gala, and the Cudlee Creek Bushfire Concert organised by the National Motor Museum.

The company began the year with a Welcome to Country on Monday for the first day of rehearsals for their first 2020 show DANCE NATION, and are asked the 100 or so artists and donors attending to wear yellow (as encouraged by the CFS ‘Shout Outs’). They organised a big collection and posted the event across their social media channels to keep encouraging people to give, and they will continue to collect throughout the show’s season.

Opera Australia donated $10,000 to the NSW Rural Fire Service from the proceeds of their New Year’s Eve gala and  Sydney Opera House front of house staff are continuing to undertake bucket collections in the SOH foyers after Opera Australia performances while staff donations are being collected at the front desk of the Opera Centre in Surry Hills.

The Australian Ballet has gathered donations at multiple Sydney Opera House performances, and The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra asked audiences attending their Christmas performances of Noël! Noël! at City Recital Hall to dig deep, raising donations for the Rural Fire Service (RFS) and For Australian Wildlife Needing Aid (FAWNA).Sydney Theatre Companyaudiences toThe Beauty Queen of Leenane also gave generously in support of the NSW Rural Fire Service and the company will continue to collect donations during the season of their next productionThe Deep Blue Sea with proceeds going to the Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and recovery fund.

Arts organisations are donating their ticket income and many artists are also donating their time and talent to support bushfire benefit concerts. On the 7th February, more than 50 of Victoria’s leading singers and musicians will come together to support bushfire relief. Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, in their response to the devastating bushfires, has announced an additional performance for The Bush Concert on the 1st February, with all proceeds from ticket sales donated to support SAVEM – South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management – the response and recovery agency working with Primary Industries Regions SA (PIRSA) within the State Emergency Management Plan.

On the 17 Jan Black Swan State Theatre Company's Associate Producer, Zoë Hollyoak teamed up with State Theatre Centre of Western Australia to host a Bushfire Relief concert bringing together Perth’s own local bands and DJs to raise money for the NSW Rural fire service.

Melbourne Theatre Company
is donating all proceeds from their programme sales during the season ofHome, I'm Darling and collecting cash donations at Southbank Theatre to help support communities and animals in need. All money raised will be distributed equally between the Victorian Bushfire Appeal and Wildlife Victoria.

Sydney Symphony Orchestra has collaborated with Sydney Festival to fund raise for bushfire relief at their annual Symphony Under the Stars concert, at Parramatta Park. They will be collecting donations for the Red Cross, as per the request of the NSW Rural Fire Service and the RFS, and have invited the Orchestra’s musicians to donate their concert fees to the fundraiser as well.

Similarly, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra will dedicate its first Sidney Myer Free Concert on Wednesday 5 February to those affected by the bushfires. All funds raised at the event will be donated to the Australian Red Cross.

The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra will join the Australian Chamber Orchestra to perform at the City Recital Hall’s ‘Music for our Country’ benefit concert on 30 January, and they along with Musica Viva Australia will leverage their marketing might to grow ticket sales. 100% of ticket and bar sales will be donated primarily to the @redcrossau (40%) and @wireswildliferescue (40%), and also to a number of other charities (20%).

More initiatives are in the works. Opera Q has quietly continued to support one of their staff members as he volunteers to fight fires in northern NSW, while they — along with several other Queensland arts organisations — are progressing plans for a Brisbane fundraising event.

The Queensland Ballet Community will be donating all proceeds from QB Dance Classes on Saturday February 22nd. This will be a morning of classes that will cater to all ages and abilities and will have some marketing push starting next week.

The proceeds will go towards a voucher to which are a preferred supplier that supports the work ofThe Rescue Collective.

The purpose of The Rescue Collective is to source and then distribute funds, food, and urgent medical supplies to carers, animal hospitals, animal welfare centres etc; essentially the supply 'specifically' what is needed to where it's needed.

The voucher will be converted to specific emergency animal supplies and distributed to carers supporting the devastated wildlife across Australia

Artists and arts educators are also invited to register with the Creative Recovery Network, a specialist service provider of culture and the arts within the emergency management sector. This organisation manages a network of specially trained creative practitioners available to respond and work in communities impacted by disaster. Importantly, they support local artists in affected communities to help lead recovery.

National Advocacy for Arts Education are working to support The Banksia Initiativean informal cross-disciplinary alliance of researchers, educators and artists providing information, strategies and resources to support classroom teachers and communities in recovery from the bushfires. 

Research shows that arts-based therapies in the aftermath of disasters reduce rates of distress, depression, and anxiety and increase hope, feelings of well-being and safety, and overall confidence.

Rebuilding from the fires is as much about supporting people and our natural environment as constructing buildings and roads. The arts, with its deep engagement in the human experience, can make a significant contribution to how communities process this unparalleled natural disaster, helping to understand their ‘story’ and to rebuild a sense of place and shared resilience. In the longer term, the arts also have the potential to support economic recovery through stimulating creativity and new ideas as well as tourism initiatives. These needs and opportunities will take time to uncover.