Why Do Entertainment Industry Professionals Leave Australia?
By Tom Warneke
I’ve recently returned home to Melbourne for a few weeks’ R&R and what’s struck me recently is the number of industry people trying to get overseas! In a country like Australia, a country known for best practices and its vibrant arts industry, why is a passport and the exotic lights of afar still the end destination?
Australians have always had a curiosity with the rest of the globe. With a passport take up rate of over ninety percent (gloriously juxtaposed to America’s under ten percent), Australians have always had a thirst for travel and adventure. It begins young. Where most people in the world are considering their university or job opportunities post high school, almost half of Australians are considering the gap year. While some will take this as a year off at home, a vast majority will venture, passport in hand, towards the world – exploring it and in a way, learning about themselves. This love of the globe doesn’t leave.
There are those in our industry that are constantly globetrotting. It warms my heart to travel to far flung places like Macau or Dubai or London or Las Vegas and start work, only to be greeted with a broad ‘G’day’ or hear a voice in the distance echoing something along the lines of “Oh yeah? This arvo, headed for a beer at the pub but anyway, smoko’s over, let’s finish the last few building notes then she’ll be right”.. Australians can be found just about anywhere. This special breed has made the global marketplace their home usually on mega shows or working full time for major venues and events organisations or as globetrotting technical experts, and they all share a commonality, that is, rarely are they in Australia.
You need not be an expat to be a globetrotting Australian, there are also those that simply dip their toe overseas every now and then – these tend to be performers, designers and technicians who are championing our national brand overseas – whether it be touring a dance piece or sending our state theatre company to Washington or London or a creative development in collaboration with Lima, Peru – these are our industry colleagues taking work that’s been baked and loved domestically to the world to show off the great stuff we can do as an artistic nation.
But the question remains; with an arts sector like we have in Australia and the markets the size they are: is overseas the goal or at the very least inevitable?
Australia has an amazing arts scene and (while somewhat under threat), a government funding program that is fairly benevolent to the development of new works and pieces. The biggest problem we have? We’re small! A country of 24 million people and sometimes over huge distances, our arts sector can only take so many theatre shows at one time. Our arts sector can only host so many festivals in one month or indeed, host so many bands playing side shows from those tours in one week. Our solution is simple – take the product, take the expertise and take the knowledge that so many Australian Arts and Entertainment workers have at a world class level and take our stuff to the world to show them what’s great.
In Australia where a flight from Melbourne to Perth or a flight from Melbourne to Singapore could often be comparative on price, it seems out of Australia is a no-brainer for many talented people and their works.
Economy of travel and tour is often no longer a barrier, so suddenly, six billion more people are accessible to you and the art form you work in.
So maybe it’s time to dust off your passport because the rest of the world wants to hear what you have to say. The barriers of expense, the tyranny of distance and the anxiety of the unknown are all largely dispelled – it’s time to head overseas.
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