Victorian and South Australian arts workers who travelled to New South Wales for various productions before lockdown have lost their jobs and are now unable to return to their home state.
MEAA, Australia’s largest union for creative professionals, has begun sharing the stories of affected members on social media and is urging the public to sign a petition calling on the Victorian and South Australian Governments to bring the workers home safely.
The petition states: “Their applications to return home have been ignored or rejected without reason. They are now facing many more months of separation from their loved ones, with no job, income, or guaranteed accommodation.”
Among those stranded is performer Jasmine Vaughns, who travelled from Victoria to Sydney in May to be in the cast of Come From Away. But shortly after the show opened she was stood down.
Exemption to return to Victoria was denied
“I applied for an exemption to return to my home in Victoria three-and-a-half weeks ago,” she said. “My application was denied and I am now going through the taxing process of re-applying all over again. My only reason for being here was for work, and now I have no work here.”
Performer Zelia Kitoko travelled from Victoria to Sydney in January 2021 to commence a contract with Hamilton.
“I was stood down on June 26,” she said. “My mother in Melbourne has been unwell and I am her only child and carer. I have not been able to return to her after many attempts and six weeks of waiting with minimal communication or clarity. It’s been a very invalidating and incredibly stressful experience.”
Performer Deirdre Khoo made the journey from Victoria to Sydney in early May to be in the cast of Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s Once.
“A few weeks after the NSW stay-at-home orders, I was stood down,” she said. “By this time the Victorian borders had shut to anyone in NSW. I have not only lost my capacity to generate income, but also the ability to get back home to Victoria, where I am a resident.
Living in Sydney, paying bills in Melbourne
“I have moved into a colleague’s nan’s place but am still paying rent and bills in Melbourne.”
“These are just some of the many stories we are hearing every day” said MEAA Equity Director, Michelle Rae.
The union convened a virtual town hall meeting last week to hear from stranded performers and crew.
“We were absolutely inundated with stories of mothers separated from their children indefinitely, performers experiencing serious mental health issues, and many more facing severe financial hardship,” Rae said.