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The big picture: public expenditure on artistic, cultural and creative activity in Australia

Arts citizen participation Arts funding Cultural industries Government expenditure Creative economy Cultural policy Australia

This report establishes a baseline understanding of the quantum and trends in expenditure on culture by all levels of government over the last decade. It presents findings and opportunities based on meaningful comparisons between different years, levels of government and areas of expenditure.

The report looks at more than a decade of expenditure on arts and culture by the three tiers of government in Australia (2007-08 to 2017-18).  Current and credible data sources have been utilised and it is the most comprehensive study of its type. It identifies some basic international comparisons and, by synthesising available data, enables meaningful comparisons to be made now and into the future between different years, different levels of government and different areas of expenditure. One of our hopes is that people will realise the value in capturing, analysing and disseminating relevant data to ensure an even clearer picture of the funding environment and return on investment in all its forms.

As the first output of an ambitious research agenda, the report provides new insights and also raises many questions. Future reports are focused on impacts and benefits; changing production, consumption and distribution dynamics; and global shifts in cultural policy.

Key findings:

  1. Australian public expenditure on arts and culture reached its highest point in 2017–18, while fluctuating during the previous decade (using adjusted figures). Cultural expenditure is not matching population growth. Per capita public expenditure on culture has dropped by 4.9 per cent over the decade 2007–08 to 2017–18, and expenditure as a percentage of GDP remains below the OECD average.
  2. From the ABS and MCMO-SWG dataset, local governments and state and territory governments have increased their per capita expenditure on culture. Local governments have increased per capita expenditure by 11.0 per cent while state and territory governments have increased per capital expenditure by 3.9 per cent. The federal government is committing 18.9 per cent less expenditure per capita to culture than it did a decade ago.
  3. Responsibility for cultural expenditure is split more evenly between the levels of government than it was a decade ago. As a proportion of the total, the federal government now contributes 39.0 per cent, down from 45.7 per cent, state and territory governments contribute 34.8 per cent, up from 31.9 per cent, and local governments contribute 26.2 per cent, up from 22.4 per cent.
  4. Capital expenditure is typically a minor part of the total cultural budget, significantly outweighed by expenditure on recurrent activities. However, it is increasing as a proportion of the total. Between 2007–08 and 2017–18 capital expenditure per capita increased by 47.6 per cent, while recurrent expenditure per capita decreased by 11.7 per cent.
  5. Federal, state and territory government expenditure on culture is split fairly evenly between three overarching categories: Film, Radio and Television (32.5 per cent);
  6. Museums, Art Museums, Archives, Libraries and Cultural Heritage (37.7 per cent); and Arts (29.7 per cent).

Opportunities for governments

Opportunity 1: Introduce greater strategic collaboration between all tiers of government with clear recognition of the increasingly significant contribution of local governments to cultural funding.

Opportunity 2: Identify steps to maintain a commitment to meeting the long-term per capita average of the last decade as a minimum.

Opportunity 3: Consider measures and incentives needed to boost cultural expenditure to average OECD country levels within the next decade.

Opportunity 4: Provide clearer policy leadership to ensure outcomes of cultural expenditure are better communicated.

Opportunity 5: Ensure current and accurate data about cultural spending by government is freely available.

Opportunity 6: Given that significant capital expenditure on cultural assets may come through government programs without a specific cultural focus, identify opportunities to ensure investment decisions are made using relevant cultural expertise and that these opportunities are made more visible across the sector.

Related Information

The big picture 2 https://apo.org.au/node/316609

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Insight Research Series, Report One