House debates

Monday, 24 February 2020

Private Members' Business

Backbone Youth Arts

1:07 pm

Photo of Terri ButlerTerri Butler (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Environment and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes:

(a) the importance of grassroots youth arts organisations, including Backbone, based in the electoral division of Griffith;

(b) that for thirty years Backbone has helped young people find purpose, develop skills and contribute to our nation's culture; and

(c) that despite Backbone's success, the Government has cut its funding, and the organisation now faces closure; and

(2) calls on the Government to urgently commit to restore funding to Backbone.

One of Queensland's only youth arts organisations, Backbone, has had its funding slashed by the federal government despite its success. Backbone is a much-loved youth arts organisation based on the south side in Brisbane, and for 30 years it's been helping people find purpose, develop skills and contribute to our nation's culture. Eighty per cent of the young people that go through Backbone's doors move into employment. It's an incredibly successful organisation in helping younger people find employment. But despite this success the Liberal National government has slashed all the federal funding to Backbone and, as a result, the organisation for the past several weeks has been fighting for its survival. Backbone has relied upon federal arts funding, receiving $100,000 each year, but their recent application was rejected.

Sadly, under the Liberals and Nationals it's situation normal for Queenslanders to miss out on their fair share of federal arts funding. Queenslanders make up approximately 20 per cent of the nation's population, but we receive only around 13 per cent of the Australia Council arts funding and even less of the former communication and arts department grants. Only 2.82 per cent of those grants went to Queensland in 2018. The Morrison government should step up, cancel these cuts and fund this important community service. The Morrison government should not cost-shift this service onto other spheres of government. But the Liberals and Nationals have rarely seen arts funding that they didn't want to cut. No wonder people were mortified when the government decided to get rid of the arts department and diminish the standing of arts in the Commonwealth government. I'm grateful to the shadow minister for the arts for standing up for small-to-medium organisations. The shadow minister has acknowledged that Backbone plays an important role in the local community and has provided a great service to local kids. I thank him for calling on the Morrison Liberal-National government to reverse their decision to cut Backbone's funding.

Backbone's Artistic Director and CEO, Katherine Quigley, has been an absolute champion for her organisation and its track record throughout this very trying time. She has told me that Backbone is one of the few remaining youth arts organisations of what was once a thriving sector in Queensland. It delivers vital employment, capacity building and training to young people and creates safe spaces for those who are experiencing difficult times. She says the organisation is a vital stepping stone and that it has been so for many artists and cultural leaders now working across Australia. She says:

What we do is preventative mental health, it is creating opportunities for kids to get busy, to be creative and to find likeminded peers to create extraordinary experiences for their communities.

In the six years I have worked at Backbone, I have seen a rapid increase in the number of young people who report debilitating mental health, but through participation in our programs that connect them to accepting and non-judgemental communities, we literally turn their life around.

Having a place to call home and feeling connection to a greater purpose and community literally saves lives and creates not just jobs, but lasting and successful careers.

Isn't that the truth? At a time when there is less community cohesion it seems than ever before—when there is so much disconnection, so much alienation and so much isolation amongst young people—people are crying out for opportunities to participate, and to be able to participate in culture, in something that's engaging and that's fascinating, brings people together. It brings them into the public square and gets them out of their homes and into a community setting. You can tell from the success rate alone—80 per cent of kids that go through this organisation's doors end up in employment—it's reminiscent of Youth Connections. It's reminiscent of those great programs of the past through which people found ways through following their own interests and their own fascinations to become connected in the community. That then gives them confidence, it gives them connection and it gives them capacity. That's what this organisation does.

That's why I call on the Morrison Liberal-National government to reverse these cuts and fund Backbone in full—not year to year but on an ongoing basis. This is an organisation that contributes to the arts, that is Queensland based and that has a track record of success. It shouldn't have to be writing grants every year just to make sure its very limited operations are able to continue. I call on the government to give Queensland its fair share of arts funding, both at the elite and the grassroots levels, and I call on the government to recognise that Queensland's young people desperately need opportunities like those that this organisation provides.

Photo of Rick WilsonRick Wilson (O'Connor, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is there a seconder for the motion?

Photo of Julie OwensJulie Owens (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion.

1:12 pm

Photo of Julian LeeserJulian Leeser (Berowra, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to arts organisations in my electorate, particularly to the community theatre groups. Community theatre is the engine room for the performing arts. Community theatre prepares future performers for their career in helping local people access the arts and in helping us connect with ideas and themes in a way that only the arts can do. I think for example of a young person discovering Shakespeare in a book who sees a play brought to life locally, discovers the humour or the tragedy of the play and is moved by it in a way they otherwise wouldn't have been. I'm lucky to have many community theatre groups in my electorate. Some groups have been established entirely for young people; others have casts of all ages working together to put on productions.

Hornsby Gang Show is an example of one of these which is entirely cast by young people in our community. Since beginning 47 years ago, Hornsby Gang Show has trained hundreds of scouts and guides in all aspects of stagecraft, acting, singing, dancing and behind the scenes skills such as lighting and prop building. The theme for this year's show is 'Wonderstruck!'. People who are key to making the productions a success each year include Rebecca Canty, Lauren Webb, Julia Ralton, Taylor Herbertson, Erin Whyley, Kathleen Walker, Ellen Hopkins, Steph Vorreiter, Nikki Pearsall, Georgia Muxlow, Ben Adam, Cam Hose, Simon Gray, Yvonne Barton-Leach, and, of course, my friend Penny Becchio.

Sydney Youth Musical Theatre is another community theatre group based in my area that has been set up to give young people the opportunity to explore and develop skills in theatre and to develop the desire and ability to achieve the highest standard of excellence in musical theatre. They have been producing shows since 1979 and draw in young people from right across the Sydney region. This year Sydney Youth Musical Theatre's senior show will be Kinky Boots in July with Tom Kelly and Dominic Lee-Lindsay in the lead roles.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives

Sitting suspended from 13:15 to 13 : 25

The show will be directed by James Tolhurst, with Callum Close as the musical director and Cameron Beart as the choreographer. The Sydney Youth Musical Theatre was founded by Jan Knight OAM. Its leadership includes Chrissy Stimson, Bruce Bartle, Sarah Dolan, Belinda Escott, Paul Harmon, Adam Haynes, Evan Jones, Grant Leslie, Craig Pinkerton, Karen Smith and Jeremy Zalewski.

The Dural Musical Society is led by Eddie Bruce and attracts actors of all ages. Its more experienced actors invest their lives in teaching and mentoring younger generations in the performing arts. This year they have Ali Baba and the Forty Thieveslined up for their audiences. It's a traditional pantomime which will feature puppetry, slapstick humour, singing, dancing and mime. Some of the people who make the Dural Musical Society such a special institution include John Nawotka, Judy Clarke, Julie Scargill, Laura Murdocca, Camilla Bellstedt, Hugh Humphreys, Julian Floriano, Julie Bruce and the Rowe and Koorey families.

The Normanhurst Uniting Church Musical Society has been entertaining crowds for over 40 years. It was established not only to entertain the local community but also to raise money for the church and for local charities. Donations to local charities over the years have amounted to over $50,000, with donations to groups like Hornsby Lifeline, Fusion, the local church and local Christian education associations. I want to acknowledge Lyn Drabsch, Trevor Sharpham, Kent Blackmore, Ian Baker, Ian Wesley, Chloe Long, Mel Hogan, Ed Corbett and Rich Ferraro. In June this year the NUCMS will be performing She Loves Me, a musical about the manager of a perfumery in Europe looking for love. John Hogan will play the role of bachelor Georg and Jess Ferrero will play the character of Alamia Balash.

The Hornsby Musical Society was founded in 1958 and is one of the oldest musical societies in the electorate. In April this year their performance of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical will open. The show is being directed by Jordan Anderson, with Koren Beale as the musical director and Lauren MacKinnon as the choreographer. The title role of Carole King will be played by Elisa Vitagliani. In October their second show for the year, Holiday Inn, will be performed. It will be directed by Lauren Oxenham, with Brendan Flanagan as the orchestra director and Ben Gibiec as the vocal director.

The Berowra Musical Society was formed in 1986. The society attracts membership from all parts of Sydney. They put on shows in May and October and present a Christmas pantomime every year. In late May they are going to perform Camp Rock: The Musicalat the Berowra Community Centre and will have performers from age eight and up. The show is being directed by Kelly Horrigan, with Michael Howell as the musical director and Monique Harris and Samantha Lee as the choreographers.

Finally, there is Brooklyn Theatre in the Park, in my electorate, founded in 1999 by Ray Bontoft and Peter Hughes. People like Gary Robertson, Ian Allan and Di Bowles help make Brooklyn Theatre in the Park sing for one night in November every year. It is a genuine community theatre organisation that involves everyone in Brooklyn.

I say to all the community theatre organisations in my electorate: thank you for your service, and 'break a leg' for your next productions.

Photo of Rick WilsonRick Wilson (O'Connor, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Sitting suspended from 13:29 to 16:00