By Kate Duncan – CEO at The Push Inc

Young people in the contemporary music sector have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

It is well established that our contemporary music sector was one of the first to be impacted by COVID-19 and continues to be one of the hardest hit. However, within this, young people have been the highest cohort to be affected through job losses – and are currently faced with complete uncertainty as to what a future career or pathway in the contemporary music sector looks like.

Since COVID-19 entered our shores last year, the youth unemployment rate has risen to 15.6% nationally. Young people are almost three times as likely to be unemployed as the general population. Australia’s Arts and Recreation industry is a major employer of young people, with 27% of the sector aged 15 to 24 years, and a large proportion working part-time and casually.

Young people are integral to the vibrancy and depth of Victoria’s creativity, both today and into the future. They are amongst the most exciting musicians on our stages and the most innovative recording artists and producers in our studios. They are the live music audiences at our festivals and events. They are the songwriters of the most streamed songs across the globe and are the game changers in developing new business models and ways of working in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Yet young people across our contemporary music sector have been noticeably missing from any targeted government support or response packages, with the majority of support being given to older, established industry stakeholders.

Which is why The Push with support from Youth Affairs Council Victoria is calling on the Victorian Government to Evolve FReeZA and increase the investment in young people within the contemporary music sector.

The Victorian Government’s FReeZA program is a youth development program that provides opportunities for young Victorians aged 12-25 across metropolitan, regional and rural Victoria to access live music events and other cultural, recreational and artistic events that are drug, alcohol and smoke-free in supervised and safe venues.

Since 1996, the program has played an important role in making Melbourne the live music capital of Australia, with more than 2 million young people having their first live music experience through the program throughout that time.

But with no increase in program funding for more than a decade – not even in line with consumer price index (CPI) – the program’s reach and depth is being affected.

This week The Push is launching a public advocacy campaign to Evolve FReeZA.

With support from the Youth Affairs Council Victoria, we are calling on the Victorian Government to restore adequate levels of funding in the program to ensure it can continue to support young people – our future music makers, audiences and creative industry practitioners.

As a sector, we must ensure that in our ongoing recovery to a COVID Normal world young people have adequate pathways and up-to-date programs to enter the arts, music and creative industries. The Victorian Government’s FReeZA program must continue to play a critical role in doing this.

We are encouraging past and present FReeZA participants, parents, friends and community workers to come forward and support this campaign.

By simply sharing your story, adding your signature or amplifying our message across social media, you can help us demonstrate the long-term, real life impact of the FReeZA program.

We hear daily from hundreds of people who started their career pathway or had their first live music experience through the FReeZA program. These are the stories we want to share.

To find out more and how you can support the campaign to Evolve FReeZA, visit: thepush.com.au/evolvefreeza.