Event organisers call on PM to widen criteria for $50m business events fund

Pause Fest founder George Hedon calling on PM to widen event funding criteria.

Pause Fest founder George Hedon is spearheading a small group of event organisers who say the federal government’s $50 million business event grant fund is ignoring small and medium sized events and conferences.

The group includes TEDxMelbourne and Sydney, startup festival Spark and technology festival Southstart.

Hedon wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week saying the criteria for the grant funding was “very narrow”.

“Given the current eligibility bar is so high, very few events in Australia will be able to fulfil the obligations and receive the support they need,” he said.

“In framing this program, the government has not fully considered the ongoing impact of the pandemic; in particular, in-person events should not be the only option considered for support.”

Hedon has previously applied for the funding but was knocked back as this year’s Pause Fest had made the switch to an online event.

Hedon says the funding criteria should be expanded to include online events, and see the minimum spend to be eligible for a grant reduced from $20,000 to $10,000.

While the current criteria aims at reimbursing companies who send delegate groups to conferences, Hedon would like to see event organisers allowed to claim towards their own expenses.

The program will support hybrid events but the emphasis is on encouraging in-person delegate attendance.

“It is not designed for medium and small events, it’s designed for monster events and that’s the most disappointing thing,” Hedon told CIM.

“The costs of putting on events are immense and that needs to be recouped through selling tickets, sponsorship etc but it has been a very dry year for us.

“While some industries are almost back to normal we [ther events sector] are no-where near there. And this grant was a beacon of hope as at least someone is thinking of us. But then to find out only the monster events are eligible. I feel that 95 per cent of events cannot apply.

“The smaller events are the ones that need the help the most as they are struggling a lot more. And they haven’t taken into account that events have gone online. I understand that they are driven by economic benefit [delegate expenditure] but we are living in a pandemic.”