The City Taskforce, a collaboration of 17 leading organisations and employers, chaired by Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes of the City of Newcastle, held its seventh meeting today via Zoom. The Taskforce was formed to develop a collaborative approach to the City’s response to COVID-19, from crisis to recovery and beyond. City leaders focused their discussion on advocacy for the Arts Sector, which has been crippled by the pandemic, through the fourth edition of The Newcastle Response; as well as youth unemployment and a case study on Industry Response Grants recipient, the Small Business Recovery Centre. The Taskforce also received the latest health and economic briefings, noting Australia is now in recession with a 7% fall in the quarterly GDP.
The Newcastle Response – Arts Sector
City leaders heard from Independent Creative Alliance Newcastle (ICAN) representatives Justine Cogan and Annette Hubber on the devastating effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the Arts Sector. During restrictions, the local community has been starved of participation in cultural events that unify us and contribute so heavily to the fabric of a diverse society. Newcastle and Lake Macquarie’s arts and recreation sector currently employs 1,100 people – down from 2,800 people year-on-year. Yet Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals 86% of people attend arts and cultural events, highlighting the Arts Sector’s important role in driving community and cultural outcomes.
The Newcastle Response – Arts Sector zeroes in on the need for the arts to be embedded in planning and development during the COVID-19 recovery phase to foster diversity, understanding, connection, compassion and reconciliation whilst building the next generation of creative thinkers and problem-solvers. There is growing support for increased public funding for the arts, to expand infrastructure, support young people, increase access to free or low-cost events and improve community health and wellbeing.
Policy asks of all levels of Government include prioritising investment in arts and culture programs and infrastructure, while the Taskforce calls upon the State and Federal Governments to provide more equitable access to grant funding for cultural infrastructure in gateway cities like Newcastle. This would help fund projects such as the Newcastle Art Gallery expansion, which is tipped to create 170 jobs. Currently, Newcastle is ineligible for funding through the State Government’s Regional Cultural Infrastructure fund and the Federal Government’s Regional Arts Fund.
Greater Newcastle Youth Employment Charter update
Seven organisations have pledged their commitment to prioritising training and career development opportunities for young people to combat Newcastle and Lake Macquarie’s 20% youth unemployment rate. City of Newcastle, NIB, Port of Newcastle, Hunternet, Alloggio, Samaritans and Castle Personnel have each signed onto the Greater Newcastle Youth Employment Charter. It is now open to all organisations across the Greater Newcastle Region to add their organisation’s name and take decisive action to improve outcomes for young people, many of whom have lost jobs or hours in the accommodation, food, retail, arts and recreation sectors as the hardest-hit by COVID-19.
Case study: Small Business Recovery Centre
The Small Business Recovery Centre, an initiative of long-standing not-for-profit organisation The Business Centre, was one of the successful recipients of City of Newcastle’s Industry Response Grants program. The Taskforce heard about the organisation’s plans to repurpose its King Street building for six months as a hub of support, safety, connection and advice for established businesses attempting to pivot and adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. The collaboration between The Business Centre, City of Newcastle and the Business Improvement Associations will see support services, general business advice, strategic planning and more offered to those who need it, free of charge. The Small Business Recovery Centre launches next week. City Taskforce members were encouraged to promote the opening to their networks.
Next up: The Newcastle Response – Innovation Economy
The next edition of The Newcastle Response will shift from short-term action to positioning the City’s strength and capabilities to contribute to long-term recovery efforts. It will offer local insights on big-picture, job-creating innovation projects such as the Astra Aerolab at Newcastle Airport, the John Hunter Health and Innovation Precinct and the University of Newcastle’s STEMM Precinct.
As the year draws to a close, the City Taskforce will look to continue its coordinated response to COVID-19 by incorporating the work program into the remit of the Strategy and Innovation Committee of Council.
Find out more about the City Taskforce - Industry Representation.