Adelaide Festival co-artistic director Rachel Healy has seen the effectiveness of double-vaccination mandates for audiences in Europe and desperately wants to institute them next March, but the festival isn’t allowed to.

Key points:

  • The SA government is not mandating vaccines to attend public places
  • The Adelaide Festival wants to be able to ban non-vaccinated patrons
  • Venues may bring in their own rules

As a statutory authority, it is at the behest of the state government and needs a directive from SA Health to bring in compulsory double-vaccination rules, as WOMADelaide and other arts events have already done.

That is not coming anytime soon, according to Premier Steven Marshall.

“As I’ve said right from day one, we’re very loathe to make anything mandatory in South Australia outside of one, a recommendation from the National Cabinet, or two, the Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier,” he said.

“The fact is, we’re very satisfied with the vaccination rate in South Australia.”

Professor Spurrier said mandates can be very heavy-handed and were most important in vulnerable areas like aged care and hospitals.

“There’s a lot of power in individuals being able to make the decision to protect themselves and protect other people in the community.”

Premier Steven Marshall has shied away from implementing vaccine mandates on the public.(ABC News)

Those running the Adelaide Festival are disappointed with the government’s stance.

But interim executive director Kathie Massey said it had not given up the fight yet.

“The Adelaide Festival supports fully-vaccinated venues,” she said.

“As a hirer of venues for the Adelaide Festival’s various events, we will be liaising with venues about their COVID management plans and encouraging a united approach to adopting fully-vaccinated, or medical exemption, policies.”

Venues may make own decisions

There could be a breakthrough in part coming from the Adelaide Festival Centre.

It is in a similar position to the Adelaide Festival, being a statutory authority and guided on vaccine mandates by authorities.

However, Adelaide Festival Centre chief executive Douglas Gautier said the centre was making plans and “looks forward to sharing more news soon”.

“We know how important vaccinations are for our community and are making plans so that future vaccination requirements for audiences, artists and staff are well-managed, with health and safety front of mind,” Mr Gautier said.

Adelaide Festival Centre chief executive Douglas Gautier says an announcement may be made soon on his venue.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

State Theatre Company executive director Julian Hobba said the decisions the Festival Centre made would also have a direct impact on its future productions.

“Along with the entire entertainment industry, which is so dependent on our ability to keep performing in a safe environment, we strongly encourage everyone in the community to get vaccinated and have relayed that message strongly particularly through the launch of our 2022 season.”

Vaccination show wrapping up season

State Theatre Company South Australia is nearing the end of a successful season of the stage show Eureka Day, a story of the angst created over vaccinations in an American school.

It opened the season to howls of protest from some on social media.

“There’s been a little bit of argy-bargy on social platforms, people are presuming that the play will be heavily anti-vax and so little Facebook wars have erupted on our social media,” artistic director Mitch Butel revealed.

State Theatre Company artistic director Mitchell Butel.(Photo: Brett Boardman)

“It looks at the topic from various points of view and ultimately it says that the differences in those points of view are the result of those peoples own insecurities and fears, so it’s actually a very compassionate play.”

Actors Caroline Craig and Glynn Nicholas on the set of Eureka Day, which touches on the thorny issue of vaccinations.(Supplied: Jessica Zeng)

However State Theatre, like the rest of Australia, cannot get away from the debate raging around vaccinations.

Although it cannot make vaccinations mandatory, all involved in Eureka Day and the company itself have been double-vaccinated.

That is not the case everywhere, with some shows dropping performers for not getting the jab.

“I know that’s happened in some of the commercial musicals that are happening around the country at the moment where artists have not wanted to get vaccinated for either personal or medicals reasons and some of those productions have said their goodbyes to those artists as a result of that,” Mr Butel admitted.

With no mandate in place, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can buy tickets to the show which runs until November 27.

Last month, WOMADelaide announced it would require those attending to prove their COVID vaccination status. 

This month, the Adelaide Oval, Entertainment Centre, Adelaide Convention Centre, Hindmarsh Stadium and the Adelaide Zoo announced they would be introducing vaccine mandates for those eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Adelaide Fringe Festival, which runs from February 18 to March 20, said it would be up to hundreds of venues to decide on any vaccination demands for shows.

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