23 Aug 2017by msup msup
Simon – Respected actor, super advocate
Simon, member since 1987
Simon Burke AO, one of Australian’s well-known and respected actors, has been a performer since he was 12 years old.
‘I consider myself pretty lucky in that I’ve never earned a cent from anything other than performing,’ says Simon of his 43 year-long career. ‘It’s a sad indictment of our profession that this of itself is considered to be an achievement.’
Having been a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) since 1974, Simon has been an advocate of the union, and in turn superannuation, for many years. He served as Federal President of the Actors Equity section of MEAA from 2004 -2014.
‘I’ll tell you a story I often share,’ says Simon. ‘Back in 1986, I remember Equity (MEAA) visiting the cast I was performing with to talk to us about the industrial campaign to introduce superannuation for performers.
‘I was a young actor in my early 20s, so superannuation meant nothing to me. But, as I was leaving the meeting, I overheard one of our senior cast members, in his 70s, talking to the Equity representative.
‘”This is fantastic, thank you so much, finally!” he was saying. Then he added: “What sort of difference will it make to my retirement?”
‘The Equity rep responded by saying “Well I regret to say almost none at all as it’s being introduced as you near the end of your working life.”
‘This really hit home and made me think,’ says Simon. ‘That’s when I started becoming an active member of my union, and part of this activism was encouraging fellow performers to appreciate this hard-won introduction of super.
‘It’s so vitally important to think ahead about your retirement, especially in the years when your earning potential is highest.’
When super was made compulsory, Simon says it felt like the Government was recognising his profession.
‘As performers, we live very chaotic existences,’ says Simon. ‘It’s a profession full of uncertainty and often long periods of unemployment, and super seemed like a very tangible way of legitimising what we do.’
When super first became compulsory, it was written into the contracts for all performances he was cast for.
‘Without generalising my profession, as performers are usually so far away from the business side of things, you really do have to be vigilant about super,’ says Simon. ‘I might have 30 to 40 different employers in a year, and you need to make sure super is included every time.’
‘There have even been a couple of instances where I’ve had to teach employers about it, or at least get my agent too!’ laughs Simon.
As for retirement, performing is something Simon will probably always do in some form or another, but he’s glad his super will be there to help when he needs it.