On Monday the Albanese Labour Government announced its intention to establish a new federal body - the Centre for Arts Workplaces.

Formed as part of a $300 million funding boost for the sector, the new body will be empowered to receive complaints from artists and other creative industries workers and crack down on sexual harassment, bullying and exploitation within the sector.

The new body will have the power to withdraw government funding for organisations that fail to meet minimum standards in providing a safe workplace.

An offshoot of the Australia Council, the Centre will target businesses with no proper workplace procedures, provide advice on standards of pay, safety and welfare, develop codes of conduct and facilitate referrals to authorities.

“All Australian artists and arts workers have the right to safe and fair workplaces. That doesn’t just mean physically safe workplaces. It also means a work environment that’s free from harassment and bullying’ said Arts Minister, Tony Burke.

Individuals and organisations receiving government funding will be required to adopt and adhere to new workplace safety standards, with the Minister acknowledging Australian artists are workers.

‘I think that’s something the previous government forgot. We need to ensure that they are properly paid for their work.’

When contacted for comment MEAA Communications Director, Mark Phillips, said ‘multiple studies, going back to #meToo, suggest all across our industries there’s a long tradition of bullying, harassment, gender and racial discrimination.’

‘These are intense environments where demands on employees are high. People are competing and desperate. Employment models and powers structures mean workers are afraid to speak up as individuals – you’ll never work in this town again – that sort of stuff.’

‘That’s why our Union is so important. Anyone who works in the sector knows; wages are low, sexual harassment and exploitative practices are rife.’

'Monday’s announcement is a ‘really welcome development. The acknowledgment that cultural workers are real workers is pleasing, as is the commitment to use funding power to force change – that’s powerful - when current and future funding can be withdrawn.

We need to emphasise though, this new body should not be seen as overriding or replacing existing workplace safety laws – it’s an extra tool, an extra layer. It must not be seen as superseding state-based or federal laws.’

We look forward to seeing the detail, particularly around the role of Unions and how the Centre for Arts Workplaces will interact with existing regulators.

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