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It has been a year of innovation and possibility along with devastating impact for Theatre for Young Audiences and Youth Arts – on freelance artists in particular, on arts in education, on tertiary pathways for young professionals in the arts. Along with immediate health risks and impacts on lives, families and communities, there is also a real impact on the health and growth of our sector. The children and young people we work with and for will continue to be impacted for years to come. We need to be prepared.

We have questioned more during this time – the systems we work in, the relationships we have with presenters, with ‘the market’, with society. We’ve examined inequality and the place of the freelance artist in the wider arts sector, and the artist in wider society. Our sector has been focusing on how to reach our audiences and also asking who our audiences are? How do we relate to children and families in these times? Where do we see the gaps?

Webinars, international conversations, roundtables, online showcases, online or hybrid festivals continue, an attempt at keeping artists practising and audiences engaged. The online and hybrid approach marks a change for audiences and for our reach generally, enabling greater access for some and making the gaps even more visible for others, including artists who may not be well paid for online work.

In Australia, we prepare to change, adapt and reshape as it seems likely that most international travel will not be possible for at least the next six months. We are changing the way we create and present work in the short term, and note it may have a long-term impact on the shape of our work.  Many festivals and venues are looking locally which is potentially good news for Australian artists.

We continue to take actions for even more difficult times ahead within the ASSITEJ sector and within society.

Theatre Network Australia  – ASSITEJ made a comprehensive submission to the Federal Government Arts Inquiry, focusing on the positive impact the Arts has on health, mental health, well-being, education and social and personal resilience for young people. You can read the full submission here.

Through our lobbying efforts and advocacy, including sharing the ASSITEJ Manifesto, we are calling for support to be given to the access to arts for all young people and pathways for young people to expression, from early years through to adulthood, in order to provide a scaffold for creativity and imagination in our future. Read it here if you haven’t read it in full!

Unfortunately, Australian delegates will not be attending the World Congress 2021 in Tokyo due to restrictions currently in place. In response, ASSITEJ Australia is creating a nation-wide sector video to share with our international community instead. This will be the first time we have celebrated the breadth of work and approaches in Australia to share with our peers and colleagues across the globe. Australian work is known to widely tour the world, and constitutes a large percentage of our cultural export, however, much of the innovative and experimental work that is created is rarely seen. This video will be a document of our collegiate and connected Theatre for Young Audiences and Youth Arts community. We can’t wait to share it with you in 2021.

Along with preparations in advocacy, collectivism and projects now, more than ever, we all need something to look forward to as well. In May 2021, the international children’s festival in Adelaide, DreamBig, will work with Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM) to focus on Theatre for Young Audiences and Youth Arts internationally.  There will be an ASSITEJ gathering at this festival.