Simon Burke, Ambassador for Actors Benevolent Fund of NSW, announced that the STA Fund was officially available to support our fellow artists working in live theatre. The STA fund offers assistance for members of the theatre community, actors, creatives, designers, technicians and writers, suffering from financial distress as a result of a mental illness.
The event on Wednesday 1st August hosted by Currency House, also saw Simon Burke launch the latest Platform Paper by Mark R. W. Williams, Falling Through The Gaps; Our artists' health and welfare.
This timely book examines the results of the two studies carried out by Victoria University (2015), and Equity Foundation commissioned from University of Sydney (2015). Both reports revealed alarming levels of depression and mental health related issues directly resulting from the unique working conditions of people in the live entertainment and theatre industries.
Williams publication shows how government and industry services, in applying the principle, ‘A fair go for all,’ have unwittingly discriminated against those who work irregular hours in hard conditions at low pay because it is their calling, Williams calls for more flexibility in public services, whole-of-life planning and self-awareness in early training; and sees opportunities, particularly in social capital housing. Without a home to come home to, he says, our artists today ‘are in terrible danger of falling through the gaps’.
The two studies revealed alarming statistics that prompted the need for the establishment of the STA Fund. Depression is some five times higher in the performing arts than in any other sector. This is largely due to most artists in live performance earning an annual income well under the poverty line a situation that requires them to often juggle several jobs to make ends meet. The financial insecurity, uncertain employment, low pay and in many cases, highly trained actors and creatives working for no pay at all in the independent theatre world, has fuelled the situation. Members of the arts community were found to have three times the level of sleep disorders than those of the general population, symptoms of anxiety ten times higher and high rates of suicide attempts and alcohol abuse. The loneliness of being separated from friends and family on long tours also added to the incidence of depression and related illness. In recent months the revelation of sexual harassment, abuse and bullying in the sector has added to the crisis.
Following the speech by Mark Williams a Q&A was held with Williams and Burke and Sally-Anne Upton the President of the Victorian Actors Benevolent Trust. Katharine Brisbane was the host for the Currency House function which was held in the Seminar Room of Dentons Legal in Sydney.
The STA fund was first announced by Diana Simmonds at the Sydney Theatre Awards in January 2018 and is a joint initiative with the Awards (STA), and Actors Benevolent Fund of NSW the administrative body.
Anyone wishing to apply for assistance from the STA Fund can find the form on this web site under Find Assistance - STA Fund.
Donations can also be made on the Actors Benevolent Fund web site under
Falling Through The Gaps; Our artists' health and welfare by Mark R.W, Williams can be purchased through Currency House http://www.currencyhouse.org.au/