What is a contract?

“A contract is a like promise. Get it in writing.”

A contract is like a promise between people. It is an understanding, a deal between two or more people or organisations to do certain things. Each person or organisation who agrees to do something in a contract is called a party.

An agreement, or a contract, says what you and the other person or organisation have agreed to do. It is a written list of the promises you have made. The best form of contract is written on paper and signed by each party.

Some examples of contracts include:

  • Entry forms: when you enter your work into an exhibition, festival or competition
  • Consent / Release forms: when someone wants your permission to show images of you or your work in public
  • Gallery agreements and publishing licences: when showing work in a gallery, or if your work is published
  • Funding agreements: when you receive funding
  • Studio agreements: when working in a supported studio or a program run by an organisation

Why is a contract used?
A contract is used when people or organisations have agreed to do something together. A contract is often used to:

  • say what is expected of you
  • say what you expect of the other person or organisation
  • protect each other’s needs and rights
  • make each party more responsible for what that party promises to do
  • say what happens if a party does not keep its promise.

What should you do before making a contract?
Before making a contract:

  • Make sure you understand what is promised to you and what you are promising. You have the right to ask that a contract is explained to you with simple words before signing it. You could also ask someone you trust to read it and explain it to you.
  • The contract and any explanation of its meaning should meet your communication needs. You have the right to ask that a contract is provided in alternative formats, such as:
  • Braille
  • large print
  • Auslan interpretation
  • Make sure that the contract really protects your interests.
  • Only make promises which you can keep.
  • Write your contract down and make sure that everyone involved has signed it.
  • Get legal advice, to make sure that the contract is a good one for you.

What happens if you or the other person, organisation or party does not follow the contract?

  • If a person, organisation or party does not keep its promise they are in breach of your contract.
  • Learn how to protect yourself if an agreement has been breached in Taking action: what are the legal steps?

Summary

  • Make sure you understand what is promised to you and what you are asked to promise before agreeing to anything.
  • Ask questions and get legal advice if you don’t understand a document.
  • A good contract should say:
  • what you and the other party needs
  • what you and the other party promise to do
  • what responsibilities you and the other party have
  • when each party will do the things it has promised to do
  • what will happen if a party does not keep its promise
  • You have rights if the other party to the contract does not keep its promise.

Legal tips

  • Never sign anything that you don’t understand.
  • Never sign anything that you don’t agree with.
  • Do not promise something that you cannot provide.
  • Put your contract in writing.
  • Always keep a copy of all documents that you sign
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