Blog by CEO, Ingrid Stonhill
If you look around your local town, you will see many small businesses affected by the coronavirus. Your supermarket will have depleted shelves and fewer customers. The cafe will have stood down staff because people are drinking coffee in isolation. The museum and art gallery are shut because the tourist buses have stopped.
Imagine if all those businesses, and more, were branches of one large, community enterprise that provided jobs and income for most of your town’s people.
That is life right now at Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation in Maningrida, West Arnhem Land. Every single element of our community organisation is financially and logistically impacted. And like the rest of the world, we are planning partially blindfolded for a future we can’t see.
Our response to the threat was swift as we suspended incoming tourist travel and postponed contractors’ visits. All non-essential travel in and out of Maningrida ceased. Our community’s health is our priority and with such a large population already impacted by sickness, overcrowding and the inability to self-isolate we have every right to be terrified of coronavirus’ catastrophic potential.
There’s been a flurry of brainstorming about how we stem the financial bleed so the artists, designers, construction workers, supermarket staff and administration officers can keep their families fed.
Take the Maningrida Art and Culture Centre, for example. MAC operates the Art Centre, the Bábbarra Women’s Centre and the Djomi Museum. It puts pay in the pockets of around 1000 local artists and designers.
MAC has responded to the coronavirus threat by:
- Ceasing purchases of non-essential supplies
- Stopping all up-front payments to artists and/or work-in-progress payments
- Reducing employment to core staff
- Only operating core program activities
- Suspending the recruitment of essential staff due to uncertainty with permits and travel.
Weekly tours operated by two major tour companies through MAC facilities have stopped, representing a predicted $500,000 decrease in annual revenue.
Upcoming exhibitions of our globally renowned artists’ work in Australia and overseas have been cancelled along with annual art fairs. Galleries and art collectors are putting purchases on hold.
We have clever people running our businesses. They are investigating every imaginable online platform and virtual reality experience to bridge the divide to their audience. But that platform is crowded as small businesses jostle for space and tune up their loudest voices.
And Telstra services, or disservices, are proving a big, fat, immovable barrier to online progress. Over the last few weeks, we have had extended internet blackouts at any time of the day with no notice, shutting down mobile phones, the internet and EFTPOS.
While it would be nice to bunker down with good books and patchy Netflix access, that won’t feed our families. So how can you help:
Follow our Facebook and Instagram channels and share our posts. Here are the links to our channels:
Donate to the Bàbbarra Women’s Centre. We have DGR status so all donations will be spent on essential requirements to keep the community safe, and they are tax-deductible https://babbarra.com/support/
Shop for our products through our online stores:
Lobby Telstra on our behalf to improve its services to Maningrida. Here’s how you can make a complaint https://www.telstra.com.au/support/account-payment/make-a-complaint