A pilot study on the mental health impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on arts and creative sector workers in Victoria, Australia.

We have shared some emerging findings over at The Conversation, “‘Parts of life will be damaged forever’ — arts workers describe the pandemic’s impact on their mental health.” 

Project overview

The arts and creative sector is the most affected industry by the government restrictions due to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). Galleries, museums, cinemas and concert halls have locked their doors, while multiple festivals have been cancelled. Work in this sector is extensively casualised; people often hold several casual or fixed-term contracts, and the COVID-19 restrictions has led to workers finding themselves with little or no income on very short notice. Jobs in the arts and creative sector have plummeted and more than 193,000 workers were found ineligible for the Australian Government’s JobKeeper scheme. The second round of Stage 3 restrictions in Victoria has further delayed the recovery of the industry.

The C19 x ARTS x DIGITAL LABOUR study seeks to examine how arts and creative sector workers are dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 in Victoria, Australia. This anonymous survey focuses on the experiences of performers, artists, writers, musicians, or similar creative or artistic roles across any genre.

We are particularly interested in: experiences of work interruptions; emotional and mental health impacts; using social and digital media to navigate emotional and mental health, seek other work (in or outside of the arts and creative sector) and find connections in isolation; and using social and digital media to continue performance work (for example, online performances and soliciting donations) and relationships with audiences.

Why this study?

The two rounds of COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria have severely impacted arts and creative sector workers’ ability to obtain an income. At the same time, some of these workers have devised creative ways to continue their work using social and digital media, via platforms including TikTok, Zoom, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and professional websites. Alongside the impacts of the restrictions on people’s emotional and mental health, the nature of performance and relationships with audiences are changing.

While statistics present data about the reduction or loss of work, there is a need for contextualised information about these workers’ experiences, particularly their emotional and mental health, during these unprecedented times. The data from this pilot study will help support advocacy initiatives by arts organisation as well as underpin potential policy submissions to the Victorian Government. We are also hoping that this is the beginning of larger project to capture the experiences of more arts and creative sector workers beyond Victoria.

Interested? We welcome participants who are aged 18 years old and over, live in Victoria, and identify as working (or having lost work because of COVID-19) in the arts and creative sector as performers, artists, writers, musicians, or similar creative or artistic roles across any genre.

Questions? Get in touch!

We are Jacinthe Flore and Natalie Hendry, Postdoctoral Research Fellows in the Social and Global Studies Centre, and the School of Media and Communication and Digital Ethnographic Research Centre, at RMIT University. You can get in touch via email: and .

A black and white image of a person standing on a stage to an almost empty audience
Image credit: Mark Thompson, Unsplash