Recognise Artists as Workers

Recognise Artists as Workers

7 November 2022
Petition to
The Hon. Tony Burke MP (Minister for the Arts and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) and
Signatures: 8,246Next goal: 10,000
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Why this petition matters

As part of the new National Cultural Policy, we the undersigned call on the Government to: 

  • Establish an Award rate for the visual arts, craft and design sector that mandates the adequate payment of artists and arts workers for their work and includes standard entitlements as recognised under the national workplace relations system.
  • Extend the small claims jurisdiction in the Fair Work Division of the Court to assist artists to resolve disputes without recourse to costly legal proceedings.
  • Introduce or trial a basic income scheme for artists and arts workers to address the financial instability caused by intermittent, periodic and project-based nature of working in the arts.
  • Ensure Centrelink recognises the professional work of artists and arts workers as employment-seeking activities.
  • Amend the Superannuation Guarantee Act to include visual artists, craft and design practitioners.
  • Increase funding through both the Australia Council for the Arts and the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support (IVAIS) program for artists, galleries and organisations.

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How to support our campaign

Background information
Later this year, the Federal Government is launching a new National Cultural Policy. A founding principle of the new policy framework is recognising artists as workers.

Currently, many visual artists and arts workers are underpaid, with little opportunity to negotiate their fees and wages.

When visual artists and arts workers ask to be paid for their work, and paid decently, it is because the people behind the artworks and experiences that audiences across Australia love, deserve to be compensated for their time and labour. It is time to recognise artists as workers.

That’s why NAVA is amping up the pressure to ensure a legislated Award for the visual arts, craft and design sector is included in the new policy. We need your help to ensure Arts Minister Tony Burke honours his commitment to support artists as workers and celebrate their role as the creators of culture.

Why an Award?
Awards are legal documents that outline the minimum pay rates and conditions of employment. There are more than 100 industry or occupation awards that cover the majority of people who work in Australia, including live performance artists and arts workers under the Live Performance Award.

Currently, the lack of regulation, continuity and clarity through a legal framework for the visual arts means many employers, employees and artists themselves, find it difficult to determine and negotiate appropriate rates of pay for their work. The recommended payment standards set out in NAVA’s Code of Practice continue to be voluntary, rather than mandatory. This leaves the door open for exploitation in many forms: from the underpayment of artists by government funded arts organisations, to the use of digital content without appropriate remuneration. Read more.

What would an Award for the Visual Arts look like?
NAVA’s newly revised national Code of Practice for Visual Arts, Craft and Design (the Code) provides important pay guidelines for employers of artists. Developed through extensive consultation with artists, arts workers, sector networks and advisors across the visual arts, craft and design sector, the Code offers a useful starting point for the development of a legally enforceable Award framework.

After that, NAVA recommends the Government undergo further consultation with the sector and engage appropriate legal and industrial expertise. The Live Performance Award provides a good example of the kind of depth that needs to be included. 

Industrial Rights
Ongoing inequities for visual arts, craft practitioners and designers stem from the lack of adequate definitions of ‘artist’ and ‘art work’ in the rules that govern industrial relations and work conditions. An Award should go hand-in-hand with a set of bespoke visual arts workforce laws to streamline the current patchwork system in which many arts employers are forced to work. Read more.

About the campaign organiser
The National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) is a membership organisation which brings together the many voices of the contemporary arts sector to improve fundamental conditions of work and practice. We do this through advocacy, education and the Code of Practice. For further information on NAVA visit  

Media enquiries

Image: Nadia Hernández, 2022.

Support now
Signatures: 8,246Next goal: 10,000
Support now