Some years ago, writes Mark Williams, an international cabaret performer was told by a sensible Australian aunt: ‘All you’ll have at the end is a scrapbook and some memories.’
What is the risk-reward path really like for Australian performance artists? Williams says things are worse. Studies show that among professional artists and crews, the level of mental ill-health, suicidal ideation and suicide is nearly nine times that of the general population. In a stark reflection on the history of performers’ practice, Williams shows how government and industry services, in determining purely monetary rationalism, have unwittingly discriminated against those with individual specialised skills who work irregular hours in hard conditions at low pay because it is their vocation. 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’.