Australia’s creative and cultural industries and institutions are embedded in our culture, identity and economy. Australia is a cultural heavy-hitter in the world market, with Australian ideas, content, production and artwork recognised for its quality around the world.
Arts and culture make a strong economic contribution to Australia, and in 2016-17 contributed an estimated $112 billion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In addition, emphasis on the intangible benefits the arts and culture deliver to Australians was consistently presented to the Committee as being of unquantifiable value, delivered both within and exported from Australia.
The COVID-19 public health emergency (COVID-19) has brought into sharp focus the important role that creative content has in our everyday lives. Australians were suddenly unable to access live entertainment, go to the cinema, attend galleries and museums, watch an upcoming stand-up comic or enjoy a fringe festival due to the restrictions necessary to curb the spread of the virus.
Creative and innovative approaches have been taken by those in the arts community to pivot to new delivery methods as quickly as possible, providing a variety of new pathways to the arts. Galleries and museums have hosted virtual tours, engaged in social media outreach and light-hearted competitions; live music has moved to platforms like Instagram; the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has hosted Lockdown Laughs; the Sydney Opera House launched Stream; and many more.
Despite this pivot, the impact of COVID-19 on the arts sector, within Australia and globally, has been vast. The Australia Council for the Arts (Australia Council) stated that:
Venues have shut their doors with little or no notice, organisations have been forced to cancel their programs and activities, and hundreds of thousands of arts workers have had significant negative impacts to their immediate and future livelihoods.
At the same time, Australians have increasingly relied on the arts during periods of self-isolation and lockdowns as a result of the pandemic, accessing creativity and culture from home more than ever before, with streaming rates for subscription video-on-demand increasing by up to 45.5 per cent.
The changes and challenges felt across Australia’s arts and cultural sector have been brought to the forefront in the face of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The Committee set out to reflect on how Australians interact with arts and culture; the value they deliver; the impact of COVID-19; and ways to re-frame the national conversation around the arts to better support this vital industry.
‘Cultural and creative activity is increasingly recognised as an important component of economic growth’. The Bureau of Communications and Arts Research (BCAR) fact sheet ‘Characteristics of Employment and Business Activity in Cultural and Creative Sectors’, notes that in 2016–17 cultural and creative activity ‘was valued at $111.7 billion, an increase of 30 per cent over a decade. This equates to 6.4 per cent of Australia’s GDP in 2016–17’.
The BCAR splits the economic contribution of this activity into two components:
Component 1 is activity in industries which form the supply chains for cultural and creative goods and services. This component comprises gross value added (GVA) and net taxes on products of cultural and creative industries.
Component 2 is activity in other industries performed by workers in cultural and creative occupations. This component comprises cultural and creative activity being carried out by people employed in industries outside the supply chains defined in component 1.
The domains that contributed most to cultural and creative activity in
2016-17 were ‘design at $42.8 billion, fashion at $14.2 billion, and broadcasting, electronic or digital media, and film at $9.7 billion’.
In 2016-17 ‘these four domains contributed 68.2 per cent of cultural and creative activity with all other domains having had a much smaller impact’:
The largest contribution to cultural and creative activity was design. This domain increased by 7.3 percentage points as a proportion of total activity, from 31.0 per cent in 2008-09 to 38.3 per cent in 2016-17. Fashion, the second largest domain as a proportion of cultural and creative activity declined by 1.0 percentage point, from 13.8 per cent in 2008-09 to 12.8 per cent in 2016-17. The proportion of broadcasting, electronic or digital media, and film has remained relatively flat, moving from 8.5 per cent in 2008-09 to 8.7 per cent in 2016-17. Literature and print media, the second largest domain in 2008-09 at 14.9 per cent dropped to 8.4 per cent and became the fourth largest domain of cultural and creative activity in 2016-17.
Professor Stuart Cunningham and Dr Marion McCutcheon pointed out the:
…remaining cultural production domains (Visual arts and crafts, Performing arts, Libraries and archives, Museums and Music and composition) all generate considerably smaller GVA than the top four. They share, however, the high growth that characterises much of the creative and cultural industries, all 3.4 per cent per annum or higher and all greater than average growth in GDP.
The Arts Beyond 2020: A Cultural Plan
Numerous inquiry participants put forward a national cultural plan as an avenue to better support the arts. A New Approach (ANA) set out that a cultural plan would be a way to coordinate public and private investment and provide vision:
A National Arts, Culture and Creativity Plan (NACC Plan) is a practical way for the Federal Government to facilitate more coherent and effective public and private investments across these industries, as well as legislative, regulatory and policy settings. A NACC Plan will assist with the cultural and creative industries’ recovery, while supporting employment and economic growth.
Associate Professor Shane Homan drew attention to the two national arts blueprints which have existed over the past 25 years in Australia, Creative Nation (1994) and Creative Australia (2013). Associate Professor Homan advocated for a ‘contemporary policy document that produces a cohesive set of directions’, rather than disjointed funding initiatives that perpetuate industry silos.
Access Arts Australia drew attention to the Australian Academy of the Humanities September 2020 working paper, which set out how a ‘National Arts, Culture and Creativity Plan would inform more coherent policy settings and investment at all three levels of government’. A national plan has significant sector-wide support, with numerous inquiry participants suggesting it could be modelled after the National Sport Plan, ‘Sport 2030’.
Arts West Alliance suggested that:
A National Arts and Culture Plan should dovetail with state and territory government plans to ensure cooperation between layers of government, and be developed with leadership from the Australia Council for the Arts and in consultation with the wider arts and cultural industries.
Theatre Network Australia (TNA) drew attention to the ‘existing infrastructure and comprehensive industry networks’ which the Australia Council for the Arts already supports, and suggested that:
Council’s strengthened research team, its transparent, arms-length peer assessment processes, and its cooperative working relationship with the Office for the Arts puts it in pole position to drive the development and delivery of the National Arts and Culture Plan.
The Chamber for Arts and Culture Western Australia (WA) asserted that the current lack of a national cultural plan means that layers of Government work towards an ‘incoherent and unco-ordinated set of programmes’. They were of the view that a national cultural plan could create ‘clarity within the shorter terms of Government, and also the opportunity to create some fundamental bi-partisan agreement around a longer-term vision’.
The ANA recommended some next steps for the development of a cultural plan:
The current Parliamentary Inquiry into Cultural and Creative Industries and Institutions has provided up-to-date industry intelligence to inform the next steps for a NACC Plan. Following the Inquiries’ report, ANA recommends the Federal Government establish an independent process to draft a NACC Plan, drawing on both evidence presented to the Inquiry and the formidable body of current data and research that is publicly available.
Establishment of a National Indigenous Arts and Cultural Authority
The Australia Council for the Arts currently supports an interim website for the National Indigenous Arts and Cultural Authority (NIACA) (working title). NIACA is a proposed peak body for First Nations arts and culture, which is currently under consultation. The Australia Council for the Arts is presently acting as an interim secretariat to the First Nations arts and cultural sector and is conducting national consultations on the proposed development of NIACA. While the final model for how NIACA would be formed or funded are unclear, respondents to a consultation survey run by Australia Council for the Arts ‘were clear that a NIACA should be First Nations owned, led, and run’.
Ms Merindah Donnelly, Executive Producer of BlakDance, drew attention to the potential value that the establishment of NIACA would bring to Closing the Gap priorities.
…what we really need is a national Indigenous arts and cultural peak body that can really effectively ensure that a national and coordinated approach to self-determined Indigenous culture and arts is part of the conversations around things like the refresh of the Closing the Gap. I guess we were really asking what evidence all those levels of government can provide us in demonstrating that this priority is being resourced to actually happen. We're also trying to draw a link to the very obvious way for us in our industry—to support the development of a national Indigenous arts and cultural peak body.
Further, Ms Donnelly added that BlakDance experienced the bureaucratic complexity of having to be familiar with a range of policies across Australia, stating that it is:
…somewhat limiting to be a national organisation that needs to navigate every states' and territories' different policies or, if they don't have a policy in place, navigate their funding mechanisms.
Ms Donnelly considered that BlakDance would ‘benefit significantly’ from the coordination and self-determination facilitated through the NIACA. The establishment of NIACA was also supported by TNA, Performing Arts Connections, City of Sydney, and First Nations Performing Arts Sector.
The Committee recommends that, noting the significant short and
long-term impacts of the COVID-19 public health emergency on the arts sector, the Commonwealth Government develop a national cultural plan to assess the medium and long term needs of the sector.
The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government encourage each level of government to develop and administer strategies to grow cultural and creative industries within their own jurisdictions. The levels of government should liaise regularly, and place a strong focus on rural, regional and remote support for the creative and cultural industries
The Committee further recommends that the Commonwealth Government direct the Productivity Commission to inquire into the legislative arrangements which govern funding of artistic programs and activities at all levels of government. The Productivity Commission should consider barriers and opportunities for artistic programs to be established at the different levels of government.
About the Inquiry
Objectives and Scope
On 26 August 2020, the Minister for Communications, Cyber Security and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, referred the Inquiry into Australia’s creative and cultural industries and institutions (the inquiry) to the Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts (the Committee).
As part of the inquiry, the Committee looked into:
the impact of COVID-19 on the arts;
economic and non-economic benefits of creative and cultural industries and institutions;
policy delivery across the layers of government; and
ways to enhance innovation and the use of the digital environment in the arts.
The Committee heard the strong concerns of many working within Australia’s creative and cultural industries and institutions regarding the ongoing impact of COVID-19.
A media release announcing the inquiry was issued on 27 August 2020, calling for submissions to be made by 22 October 2020.
As the first stage of its inquiry, an online survey was launched on 27 August 2020, which invited individuals working or volunteering in creative or cultural industries to express their views on ‘The State of the Arts’. The survey closing date was 22 October 2020.
The survey received 4,871 responses and included both free-text and multiple-choice questions. Respondents were not required to complete all questions. A survey summary is available at Appendix D.
The Committee also invited submissions from more than 200 arts industry bodies, agencies, institutions, academics, think tanks and individuals.
The inquiry received 351 submissions and 46 exhibits, which are listed at Appendix A and B respectively.
The Committee held 4 public hearings, and a list of witnesses and organisations may be found at Appendix C.
The Committee thanks all those who participated in the inquiry for so graciously giving their time to provide evidence of their experiences to the Committee. The Committee acknowledges that it has been a devastating time for those working in Australia’s creative and cultural industries, and that it can be difficult to set these experiences out.
The first-hand experiences of those in Australia’s creative and cultural industries gave an invaluable insight into the pressures felt since the onset of COVID-19, but also the commitment and passion of those engaged with the arts.
Chapter 2 sets out an overview of the major artistic domains; the current arrangements supporting Australia’s creative and cultural industries and institutions, including policy delivery; the role of the Australia Council and the Office for the Arts; how coordination between layers of government operates; and the role of the private sector in the support of arts and culture.
Chapter 3 examines the value of the arts, drawing out their economic and non-economic benefits. The contribution to employment and gross domestic product is discussed alongside the role of the arts in shaping and preserving Australia’s cultural identity; supporting the mental health and wellbeing of Australians; and enhancing social cohesion.
Chapter 4 discusses the impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency on the sector, drawing on evidence from submissions, hearings, and survey responses. The impact on employment, and the need to adopt a digital focus, innovate and future-proof Australia’s creative and cultural industries and institutions; crisis relief and mental health support to artists, crew and music workers; and Commonwealth Government support provided to support Australia’s creative and cultural sectors is highlighted.
Chapter 5 explores the role that the arts plays in the current education policy landscape, drawing out the potential to transition education from a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM), noting the benefits of STEAM to the future job market and the broader long-term benefits derived from arts in education.
Chapter 6 outlines next steps for the arts beyond 2020-21, and outlines the benefits of introducing a national cultural plan. The unpredictable arts landscape of 2021 and onwards will likely be impacted by COVID-19, and this chapter explores the sustainability of the arts sector.