August 24, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier

As childcare providers get a cash injection to replace revenue within days of being closed to most children in one Australian state, events continue to be cancelled or “postponed” to next year in earnest, with no additional targeted Government support offered nationally.

The cancellation of Canberra’s spring festival Floriade was announced yesterday, while over the last week, Byron Bay Bluesfest was cancelled for 2021, the Melbourne Writers Festival cancelled all of its live events for this year, offering just 10 digital sessions, and Splendour in the Grass quietly “rescheduled” its 2021 festival to July 2022, which, in reality, means organisers will be back on their usual winter event schedule to present their first festival in three years in 2022. As one Facebook commenter put it, “At least my daughter will be old enough to drink now ..she turns 18 in Jan I think she was 15 when I bought the tickets”.

And this doesn’t even touch the thousands of business events that should be taking place. A quick look at ICC Sydney’s What’s On page reveals a tiny glimpse at some of the carnage. Some events still appear to be scheduled to go ahead while Greater Sydney will be in a confirmed lockdown, after it was extended for a fourth time on Friday until the end of September. And given the state is unlikely to be at the 70 percent vaccination rate required by the Doherty Institute’s modelling to start opening up by the end of September, it also seems unlikely events will be snapping back from October 1. In fact, as anyone in the industry knows, events never “snap back” which remains part of our misunderstood problem within wider context of Government support.

Other events on ICC Sydney’s calendar have been rescheduled to 2022. At least one will skip an outing to the centre completely, announcing dates for MCEC in 2022. No doubt some 2021 events will go ahead virtually, much like children of essential workers continuing to attend childcare.

A check-in with the venue sheds more light, in the 2020/2021 financial year, ICC Sydney delivered roughly 50 percent of the events they would expect to deliver in a normal year – using their last non-COVID impacted financial year in 2018/2019 as a comparison – and of those, almost 50 percent were delivered either as hybrid events or fully virtual, leaving only around 25 percent of what would be delivered in a usual year staged in a fully face-to-face environment, over the last financial year. Given the length of Sydney’s current lockdown in this new financial year, it’s possible next year’s results will be more heavily impacted than this year’s.

And again, this is but a taste of what’s being lost. There are likely to be hundreds or thousands of other corporate, association and invite-only events not publicised that are being quietly cancelled or pushed into next year as the rest of this year looks untenable at worst and woefully uncertain at best, with Australia’s two largest cities in lockdown with rising cases. Yes, rising vaccination rates are a balm which gives us hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but our tunnel is a lot longer than the childcare tunnel.

So, the question remains, how much does the industry have to haemorrhage before anyone with the purse strings notices? Or are we collateral damage? Are we going to bleed out completely and be resurrected at some future point in time to pull off the Olympics in Brisbane in 2032 with some rusty skills and an experience vacuum?