What next for events as lockdown lifts in Melbourne?

A view of Collins Street Melbourne in peak hour during COVID-19. Victorians have endured the most severe COVID-19 restrictions in the western world

The announcement of the easing of restrictions in Victoria by its Premier Daniel Andrews, from midnight on 28 October, has been welcomed by Melbourne residents, who after enduring 111 days of lockdown had little appetite or patience for more of the same. But what does its mean for those of us who work and have businesses in the events sector? EventOrganisers spoke with some of the business leaders who have worked to get consultation with the Victorian government, to get events going again.


Simon Thewlis: Owner of Event, and founder of the #SaveVictorianEvents initiative.

“We welcome the loosening of restrictions however, there is still no mention of business events, or discussions happening about getting business events back up and running. Small business events should be able to start at the same time as hospitality venues, which is Wednesday, but we are yet to hear anything from government.”

Claudia Sagripanti: Chief Executive of Exhibitions & Events Association of Australia (EEAA)

“The EEAA is extremely pleased to see Melbourne is enjoying its first day out of hard lockdown with retail and hospitality restrictions lifted as of midnight on 27 October. We congratulate the State of Victoria for being able to emerge out of the second wave of Coronavirus cases that resulted in the recent hard lock down of the state. There are of course a number of measures in place designed to limit the spread of coronavirus still in place.  We await the next stage of the lifting of restrictions that will see business events to return as soon as the trigger points and thresholds are met by the public health authority advice.”

Gab Robinson: CEO of Harry the hirer, who fronted the video that the company recently put out on behalf of the Victorian events sector.

“We are encouraged that the government has finally begun to re-open the hospitality and retail industries. Though overdue, this is a step in the right direction and shows intent to allow the State to resume business.

Unfortunately, for the event and exhibition industry zero progress has been made. Major outdoor events, such as the Melbourne Cup will be run without crowds and this appears to be the case for many months to come. Indoor business events and exhibitions have also been forgotten with no substantive planning towards their safe and controlled re-opening.

The industry is unable to hold on much longer. We are in desperate need of a gradual and safe re-opening of the events and exhibition industry or, as a secondary option, targeted government support to ensure the survival of the industry’s key suppliers and businesses.”

Kate Smith: Founding Director of WALDRONSMITH Management, and Chair of Meetings & Events Australia

“It is with some relief we see Victoria easing its restrictions from this week. It’s a much-needed boost to the general wellbeing of Victorians, who have experienced the most restrictive conditions over the past months.  We cannot underestimate the impact this has had on our social fabric and businesses over this time.

It is a welcomed step in the right direction for our colleagues in tourism and hospitality to enable them to commence business again –  albeit with some restrictions still in place.

However, the events sector is yet to have a roadmap confirmed that will enable us to re-start business safely and progressively. We are calling on the Victorian Government to collaborate with our industry leaders to address the needs of our sector as a matter of urgency, so we can start to plan and deliver events that will save jobs, businesses and contribute to the economic recovery of the State and our country. I believe all of us in the business events industry are speaking with one voice on this matter.”

Matt Pearce: Director of talk2 Media – Organisers of The Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event (AIME)

“The hardest part of living through the 110-day lockdown in Melbourne, outside of the obvious social and family impact was the apparent lack of ongoing consultation with industry.

During the last 3 months, there has been precious little said about industry and the economy and so we are now anxious to get out from under the coattails of health and have proper consultative discussions about how industry can drive us away from the economic cliff we are facing.

We all know that business events have a very strong and integral role to play and so clear, sensible and concise guidelines as to what can open, when and how will help us start the long and slow road to recovery. Event Organisers need to be at the table to help inform government as these guidelines are created. If there is consultation, transparency and a sensible approach, we can have events up and running quickly.”

Bruce Keebaugh: CEO of the Big Group

“It’s great for businesses and for Victorians to be finally moving forwards, which is the most important thing. It looks like we have control of the numbers in terms of cases, which means the contact tracing is keeping up, and we’ve got to step out of lock-down

This doesn’t really speak to the major events and weddings sector, which is disappointing. However, I what I believe we now have to do is take these first couple of steps, lean in to the outdoor and indoor density quotients that we’ve been given, and then hopefully by November we see those numbers rise.

Ideally, we can then follow a pattern as New South Wales has done, to eventually lead us to 300 people indoors and more. It’s a start of a phased approach and I don’t think we can ask for much more at the moment.”