Arts nation: an overview of Australian arts - 2015 edition

4 Mar 2015

This paper provides evidence as a catalyst for informed discussion about arts and culture in Australia.

Executive summary

Australians value the arts.

A growing number of Australians believe that the arts make for a richer and more meaningful life; they influence how we express ourselves, our creative thinking and new ideas. Understanding the scope and impact of the arts in an Australian context is complex. This first Arts Nation report provides a starting point for that exploration at a national level, and will continue to develop over time.

New analysis using the internationally recognised wellbeing valuation approach is one way of calculating the value of intangibles. It suggests that people who engage with the arts have higher life satisfaction. This is a significant finding given the level of engagement by Australians with the arts.

Nearly all Australians consume at least one form of art and half participate in arts creation each year. Geographic location does not impact on arts engagement as much as you might expect and creative participation has increased amongst some groups with historically lower levels of participation. The 44,000 practicing professional artists in Australia predominantly have portfolio careers, with just 17% working full-time on their creative practice.

The arts are deeply embedded in the cultural sector, and cultural activity makes a substantial contribution to the Australian economy. Cultural activity contributes $50 billion to Australia’s GDP, comparable to the GDP share in the USA, including over $4.2 billion from the arts. Expenditure on culture by Australian governments in 2012–13 was $7 billion including over $1.3 billion on the arts. Important to note is that the main source of income to the arts is consumer spending, for example, ticket sales for performing arts events generated $1.5 billion in 2013.

Private support for the arts continues to grow, most significantly from private donations. Arts organisations are experiencing rapid growth with the major performing arts companies seeing an 81% increase between 2009 and 2013. Crowdfunding is a small but growing area for Australian artists to raise smaller amounts with a higher than average success rate.

Exploring the way international tourists spend their time in Australia has highlighted the growth in arts tourism. There has been 19% growth over the past four years, with 2.4 million international visitors to Australia in 2013–14 engaging in arts tourism. More than one in four international tourists visit galleries or museums, similar to the levels in the UK and USA. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts are cherished both at home and abroad. Nine in ten Australians agree that Indigenous arts are an important part of Australian culture and audiences for Indigenous arts are growing.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists are proportionally more likely to be nominated for a major Australian art award or participate in an international arts event. The Indigenous visual arts sector is a major contributor to the arts economy and responsible for some of Australia’s most valuable works of art.

This snapshot in time affirms the significance of the arts in the lives of Australians, as well as our international profile. Central to this is our unique position as home to the world’s oldest continuous living culture.

Publication Details
Published year only: 
Subject Areas
Geographic Coverage