The benefits derived from Australia’s creative and cultural industries and institutions can be considered through both an economic and non-economic lens. Economically, cultural and creative activity was worth an estimated $112 billion in 2016-17. While the non-economic influence of the arts in Australia is more difficult to quantify, it plays a vital role in ‘identity and national pride and how we represent Australia to the world’.
Australians are strong supporters of arts and culture; in 2019, eighty-four per cent of the population aged 15 and older acknowledged the significant positive impact of arts and creativity. Research by A New Approach (ANA) stated that ‘middle Australians’ held a strong belief that Australia should support the arts due to the public value the arts and culture provide. Further, while not all art forms appeal to all people, 98 per cent of Australians engaged with the arts in some form.
Inquiry participants put forward the view that art is at the heart of Australia’s culture. David Woods stated that: ‘Art doesn't just benefit identity and wellbeing and community, it is these things and without it they all suffer’.
Communicating the value of the arts is not always straightforward, and does not always translate easily to digital platforms; the way output and impact are measured in order to secure and appropriately acquit funding is not always suited to the current realities of arts delivery. Dr Catriona Menzies-Pike, Editor of the Sydney Review of Books noted:
What we're asked to report on is how many people we can gather in a room, what our audiences are like and who we speak to in a particular area. A journal like the Sydney Review of Books publishes to an international audience…We can't gather that information. The idea of 30 people who come to a weekend workshop being a more significant audience than the tens of thousands of people who read our work internationally is laughable.
Concern that the arts are judged by ill-suited measures was further expressed by Regional and Public Galleries NSW (RPG NSW):
Too often governments judge the success or failure of arts and cultural activity on audience size or income earned, these tangible measures often miss the value of arts Australia’s creative and cultural industries and institutions practice and engagement in building synergies within communities and supporting healthy and engaged societies.
Laboratory Adelaide highlighted the need to ‘recognise, respect and incorporate the non-economic forms of value in the methods it recommends to evaluate the important work done by the sector’. In a similar vein, Creative Economy stated that ‘the arts and cultural industries justifying themselves only in terms of economics is reductionist and that has increased the volatility of the sector’.
The high-performing nature of the arts was raised by inquiry participants. National Exhibition Touring Support (NETS) Australia, which tours exhibitions to audiences across Australia, made the point that:
In 2019, 96 volunteers contributed to NETS projects. It is a testament to the commitment of the sector that so much is delivered for so little; however this is not an argument for austerity. If the sector were appropriately resourced, the economic and social benefits would be magnified, building a more cohesive and resilient nation into the future.
Kate Larsen stated that cultural and creative industries are critical for Australia’s future, now more than ever:
Participation in and connection to arts and culture have never been so important. Faced with an extraordinary level of disruption and loss, Australian communities need assistance to recover, heal and commemorate through coming together, share their stories, develop resilience for the future, and return the balance towards positive social cohesion and wellbeing.
The value the cultural and creative industries’ provides to Australia cannot be measured in economic value alone. It provides an unquantifiable cultural and social value to our health and wellbeing, society, education and Australia’s identity in the world.
As home to the ‘world’s longest continuously living culture’, Australia boasts a unique and invaluable artistic and cultural identity. The Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs, in its Report the impact of inauthentic art and craft in the style of First Nations peoples, eloquently highlighted how integral First Nations art and craft is to Australia’s cultural identity:
First Nations art and craft is not simply a collection of design elements in some artistic media presentation. They are in fact a representation of cultural songlines. Art is therefore integral to the cultural identity, stories and history of First Nations peoples. It is about a continuous celebration and preservation of that history and cultures.
This rich cultural heritage of storytelling passed down by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and Australia’s creative and cultural industries and institutions are at the heart of Australia’s unique cultural identity, and set out that the arts allows Australians to see their own stories and values reflected as well as showcasing our skills for international audiences.
Economic Benefits of the Creative Economy (Prior to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency)
In 2016, the cultural and creative economy employed 868,098 people, accounting for 8.1 per cent of Australia’s national workforce. Further, arts and cultural activity delivers considerable spill-over benefits to other areas of the economy including tourism, transportation, hospitality, construction and agriculture. International Council of Museums (ICOM) Australia stated that the ‘cultural sector is a critical employer in Australia’.
A New Approach (ANA) highlighted the strength of jobs involved in the creation of new intellectual property, which employ 593,840 people with work in this area ‘growing at nearly twice the rate of the Australian workforce’.
Contribution to Gross Domestic Product
Figure 3.1: Cultural and creative activity, 2016-17
Source: Bureau of Communications and Arts Research, Department of Communications and the Arts, ‘Cultural and creative activity in Australia 2008-09 to 2016-17’, October 2018, p. 7.
In 2016-17, the cultural and creative economy contributed $111.7 billion to the Australian economy, or 6.4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Of this figure the cultural and creative industries accounts for $91 billion, or 5.2 per cent of the whole economy. The 12 domains of the creative and cultural industries are listed below in descending order of contribution to Gross Value Added (GVA).
Table 3.1: Creative and cultural industry GVA by domain 2016-17
Broadcasting, electronic or digital media and film
Literature and print media
Visual arts and crafts
Other cultural goods manufacturing and sales
Libraries and archives
Music composition and publishing
Source: Bureau of Communications and Arts Research, Department of Communications and the Arts, ‘Cultural and creative activity in Australia 2008-09 to 2016-17’, October 2018, p. 8.
ANA drew attention to the significant role the Australian public plays as the largest investor in creative and cultural goods and services, and stated that in the 2015-16 year, ‘Australians spent about $25 billion, about $50 a week, on creative and cultural goods’.
There is also a strong market for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creative products and experiences. The Office for the Arts stated that ‘Australia’s Indigenous tourism has an estimated value of $5.8 billion annually, catering to 910,000 international visitors and 688,000 overnight domestic trips in 2016’.
Nearly 830,000 international tourists engaged with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts while in Australia in 2017, an increase of 41 per cent since 2013. This incorporates increased attendance at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performances as well as attendance at art, craft or cultural displays.
In 2017, ‘nearly 830,000 international tourists engaged with First Nations arts while in Australia’ (an increase of 41 per cent since 2013) which included ‘First Nations performances as well as attendance at art, craft or cultural displays’.
International tourist engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and activities was particularly significant with ‘one in four international arts tourists engaged with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts (24%) as did more than one in four international tourists travelling in school tour groups (28%).’
The Australia Council for the Arts highlighted that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creative products and activities also make a significant economic contribution to regional areas. They identified:
Engagement with First Nations arts was higher for international arts tourists who travelled outside capital cities. More than a third of these travellers attended a First Nations arts activity in 2017 (36%), compared to 24% of international arts tourists overall.
Arts tourists who visited regional areas of the NT had particularly high levels of engagement – eight in ten attended a First Nations arts activity while visiting Australia in 2017 (79%), more than triple the numbers of international arts tourists overall (24%). Of arts tourists who visited Darwin, 63% attended a First Nations arts activity in Australia.
Arts tourists who visited regional SA (53%), regional QLD (46%), and Adelaide (42%) were also highly engaged with First Nations arts while visiting Australia.
Regional art fairs such as the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) and Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF) have received global recognition: ‘The New York Times recognised the Top End of Australia as a place to visit in 2018, partly due to the international interest surrounding DAAF’.
Some inquiry participants, however, commented on the perceived imbalance between how much Australia exports in creative goods compared to its imports.
The ANA identified Australia as having ‘one of the biggest [cultural] trade deficits in the world’. For every dollar that Australia exports in creative goods, Australia imports $8, while for every dollar of creative services exported, Australia imports $2. ANA put forward that the current state of affairs indicates Australia ‘is not effectively identifying and leveraging our comparative advantages in creating goods and services for the global market’.
Creative and cultural activity GVA made up 5.6 per cent of total GVA, which is comparable to the contribution of education, and is almost twice the contribution of agriculture, fishing and forestry. Professor Stuart Cunningham and Dr Marion McCutcheon set out that the arts has made a strong contribution over the last decade, as seen in Figure 3.2:
[The arts’] proportional contribution of 5.6 per cent of GVA has in fact been constant since 2008-09, maintaining its position in the economy alongside strong growth in some sectors…which underlines the strong growth that is happening in some sectors within the creative and cultural industries.
Figure 3.2: Contribution of creative activity to GDP, 2008-09 to 2016-17
Source: Professor Stuart Cunningham and Dr Marion McCutcheon, Submission 45, p. 11.
When considering the per capita public expenditure on arts and culture as a proportion of GDP, Australia is below the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) average, and has fallen by 4.9 per cent from 2007-08 to 2017-18.
The non-economic benefits of Australia’s arts and culture sector are diverse and wide-reaching. The Australian Council identified that the arts in Australia is beneficial to individual wellbeing, community connection, and sustains more cohesive and inclusive communities. The ANA identified five key areas which derive value from arts, culture and creativity including:
community, society and place;
international engagement through ‘soft power’.
The non-economic benefits of Australia’s creative and cultural industries and institutions have been consistently highlighted by inquiry participants, who set out the dedication of practitioners to make a strong non-economic contribution:
The preparedness of creative workers to accept sub-optimal incomes—or to volunteer with no expectation of financial return—points to the extremely high value they place on creative work and the significant non-economic benefits that they contribute to society.
In considering an evaluation framework for the creative and cultural sector, Laboratory Adelaide suggested that: ‘There is no value-neutral way of evaluating culture’. Rather, they recommend ‘a balance of methods’ to appraise the worth derived from creative and cultural experiences, considering a range of measures necessary to gauge the, at times, intangible impact of various creative and cultural activities.
Outback Theatre for Young People described the ‘profound’ benefits of engagement with the arts as a way to:
…enhance community, social wellbeing and promote Australia's national identity, and in particular, the identity of rural Australia, which is often missing, inauthentic or superimposed across our Nation’s stages.
The Australia Council for the Arts asserted that cultural and creative industries benefit all Australians, not only in contributing to the Australian GDP and employment numbers, and stated that: ‘These figures don’t account for the many flow-on economic benefits to quality of life, confidence, health, tourism, education, trade and reputation’.
FASTLab Research Centre emphasised the ‘intangible but undeniable worth of knowing our nation creates great software, films, TV, radio, music, theatre, dance, design, media, writing, marketing and architecture’. FASTLab Research Centre examined a survey of creative industries business owners and self-employed creatives conducted by Queensland University of Technology. Survey respondents reported that the pandemic had impacted negatively on a number of sectors and communities including:
cultural tourism (63 per cent);
community participation (48 per cent);
restricted opportunities for young people (61 per cent);
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (44 per cent);
culturally and linguistically diverse groups (35 per cent); and
people with intellectual disability (39 per cent).
Professional Historians Australia (PHA) put forward the importance of historical research and history to Australia’s national identity. PHA emphasised the importance of connection, both to place and the past, and the influence this has on one’s ‘personal identity’.
The individual and community benefits from creative and cultural access and participation are well known, improving mental health outcomes, and ‘promoting communication, cooperation and shared identity’.
Telling Australian Stories
The value placed on Australian content is apparent both locally and internationally. The Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF) stated that: ‘When we watch Australian films, hear Australian stories or see art that reflects our land and cultural experiences, we feel affirmed and acknowledged.’
Children’s television serves to affirm and validate the identity of Australian children, especially for marginalised groups. Australia’s reputation for high quality children’s television programs, such as Bluey and Little J & Big Cuz, have a vast impact beyond economic success. The ACTF put forward that:
…children's television in particular is a real soft-diplomacy weapon for Australia, because our shows go to 120 countries around the world and people get to see the kinds of values Australia has and the kind of place Australia is. For Australian children themselves, and for the people who grew up watching children's television, these programs really are a nation-building national asset.
Public broadcasters such as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service Corporation (SBS) are considered a staple of the Australian arts community, providing platforms for various Australian works. The ABC asserted that it sits ‘at the heart of Australia’s creative and cultural industries’ and drew attention to the important role it plays ‘as an engine of creative development, employment and innovation for these sectors’.
The ABC stated that in 2019-20, ABC radio stations reached 3.2 million people, featuring live Australian concerts, and promoting young Australian artists through the classical ABC Young Performers Awards, and the contemporary radio station Triple J, which hosts the annual Hottest 100, and which ensures that its music playlist comprises of approximately 60 per cent Australian artists.
Additionally, the ABC is a key commissioner of Australian scripted content, spending $489 million in the last five years, and prioritising the promotion of Indigenous works. In a similar vein, the SBS stimulates the Australian production industry by telling Australian stories including multilingual, multicultural and Indigenous stories which are not available on other major networks or streaming services.
SBS programming includes broadcasting of content in Languages Other Than English (LOTE), which SBS stated has been important in reaching Australian LOTE communities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. SBS broadcasting also provides an effective mechanism for cooperation and delivery of policy between layers of government, as demonstrated in their coverage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content delivered by National Indigenous Television, assisting in Closing the Gap objectives and supporting social cohesion in Australia with a range of programmes.
The arts play an important role in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of many Australians. The support found through creative and cultural engagement has been particularly vital since the onset of COVID-19, with numerous inquiry participants noting the way that many Australians have turned to the arts. Theatre Network Australia’s Circus and Physical Theatre Advisory Committee highlighted the enormous potential for the arts to alleviate strain on the mental health support system:
…our research shows that for every dollar invested for a child in a circus training program, seven dollars are potentially saved in their future mental health costs.
The particular importance of engaging in a creative activity in times of difficulty, such as the COVID-19 public health emergency, was articulated by Writing WA:
Reading for personal well-being and good mental health must also be added to this list of non-economic benefits. In the era of disruption in which we currently live, where Australians are dealing simultaneously with the stresses of the climate crisis, pandemic, multiple environmental disasters, and a cultural assault on truth and science-based information, it is interesting to note that Australian publishers report upticks in sales/downloads of non-fiction books and peer-reviewed content.
Also, depictions of mental health issues on screen, in literature and other mediums vary significantly, however, ‘well told and properly handled stories about mental health issues have a positive effect on people who suffer those issues’. For example, the Australian Writers’ Guild stated that portrayals of self-harm which ‘emphasise the negative consequences of suicide on those left behind or indicate alternative courses of [action have] been observed to have positive, educative effects’.
Box 3.1: Somebody’s Daughter Theatre Company
Somebody’s Daughter Theatre Company (SDTC) is a community arts organisation with over 40 years’ experience working with marginalised women and at-risk young people. Current or former SDTC program participants supported SDTC’s work, and outlined their positive experiences and outcomes from participating. One participant, a ‘17 year old disadvantaged indigenous youth’ shared their experience of the program’s benefits:
Before I found SDT I was a drop out with multiple drug addictions and problems at home with the family, I felt I never would have a future. This program is so much more than ‘drama’ - it lets me express myself, and because of that I can perform and help the audience feel they not alone.
I’ve had multiple people, such as my friends and family - even STRANGERS, come up to me and tell me how the play we did at that time affected them and helped them grow as a person.
The ability to create positive intergenerational change, engage the most vulnerable in society and develop a profound sense of self-worth was echoed by others who had participated in SDTC’s programs.
The impact of SDTC’s performances on their audiences is also of significant value, with 80 per cent of mainstream audiences reporting that attending a SDTC performance or workshop ‘changed the way they view people – they are more empathetic and less judgmental’.
THE RABBLE, ‘an artist-led company who create experimental feminist artworks’, has found that engaging with the arts can significantly improve wellbeing. THE RABBLE noted research by the Australia Institute, which found that ’73 per cent of Australians agree that the arts have improved their mood and quality of life during the pandemic’.
Mr Dean Merlino considered that the arts can have benefits for mental health:
Regular participation in creative activities such as community choirs and community theatre, painting classes, literary groups and the like, form social bonds, build self-esteem and reduce social isolation. It can also improve mental health by decreasing anxiety and depression.
ArtsHub recognised the important role of the arts in improving mental health outcomes, recommending that greater support be given to the arts, ‘through such means as art-based programs in schools, aged-care homes and community centres which focus on building resilience, reducing anxiety and encouraging connection’.
Theatre Network Australia asked its members what Australia would be like without arts and cultural activities. Responses reported by Theatre Network Australia were stark, focusing on individual isolation, strained healthcare systems, and the view that ‘[y]ou may as well live on Mars’.
Castlemaine State Festival asserted that the arts ‘should be regarded as an integral part of our health and wellbeing’, and as such warrants support, ‘Not only in the “good times” but in times of emergency or crisis such as natural disasters and COVID, they time and again play a critical role in sustaining community spirit.’
In considering the supports needed for early career writers, Dr Charlotte Wood, advocated for a writing ecosystem, however ‘in terms of what writers as individuals need, I don't think we do need a lot of training or assessments about our mental health. We just need money’. This sentiment was supported by Dr Wood’s colleagues, Ms Helen Garner and Mr Christos Tsiolkas.
Mr St John Cowcher stated that involvement with the arts could have positive physical health effects as well:
I personally work for an organisation that uses positive creative engagement in hospital and can attest to the exceptionally positive impact that creative interactions have had on the lives of sick children, their families and the front line health workers I work alongside most weeks.
Enhancing Social Cohesion
The importance of the arts, particularly in supporting communities during COVID-19, was raised by inquiry participants.
Ms Kate Larsen suggested that ‘participation in and connection to arts and culture have never been so important’. Many survey respondents wrote of the importance of the arts for Australian society and its positive effect on community:
It educates, builds empathy, brings communities together, engages people of different age groups to come together…It enables people to feel welcome, encouraged and positive about where they live.
Lake Macquarie City Council outlined the extensive schedule of cultural programs, over 2,800, which it supports annually. Programs include visual arts classes for children and adults; early literacy programming; artist, author and illustrator talks and workshops; and a range of creative festivals. Substantial benefits are delivered to the community through:
establishing a regional town as vibrant cultural hub;
facilitating accessible places for community engagement and development for all members of a community;
provision of free access to visual art and creative pursuits;
building connections between artists, students and community members; and
fostering social cohesion, reducing social isolation and promoting a strong sense of community identity.
Fairfield Local Government Area (LGA) in Western Sydney ‘is an area with high social needs’ which is recognised as one of the most diverse communities in Australia. Almost 54 per cent of residents were born overseas, while 52 per cent come from countries where English was not their first language. Fairfield is home to a vibrant range of cultural and creative organisations, such as Guntawang Aboriginal Women’s weaving and arts group; Al-Muntada’s Iraqi folkloric music; and, the Mandean Women’s Union’s cultural exhibition. Fairfield LGA highlighted the special role that diversity has within the artistic community, and stated that: ‘There is a depth and richness in our communities’ cultural and artistic practices not found in other areas of Australia.’
Box 3.2: DRILL Performance Company
DRILL Performance Company is a youth dance company in Hobart which offers accessible dance opportunities for young people across the state. DRILL works in low socioeconomic areas through its school program, Dance Nexus, which is designed to remove barriers around cost, accessibility and transport, so that all students may participate and benefit from dance, regardless of their background.
DRILL creates a safe and inclusive community for many young people and their families to connect to, providing a platform for self-expression, self-discovery, mentorship and forging strong friendships and support networks. Many DRILL participants have experienced mental health issues or issues with social connectedness, and our programs allow them to build resilience and a support network to make positive change in their lives.
DRILL reaches thousands of young Tasmanians each year; participants have commented that the program has ‘built confidence, improved physical fitness, promoted positive body image, provided relief from stress and mental illness, given them focus for their futures’.
Documentary Australia Foundation (DAF) stressed the importance of documentary film to social wellbeing, the promotion of Australia’s national identity and community representation, including:
Increased awareness & conversation – at the community level
Increased knowledge & understanding – within the community
Increased community connection - which could include new or improved networks, engagement or partnerships
Improved community action -for example new community programs, initiatives, events, resources or campaigns
School and educational outcomes – including evidence of learning, increase knowledge and skill development
New research – for the film, on the issue in the film, or on the film.
Social cohesion is also enhanced by the holding of community-scale events, which allow people to come together to celebrate the arts and cultural scene. Folk festivals were particularly highlighted to present a valuable opportunity for community engagement:
Folk aligns itself with cultural policies of community participation, cultural diversity and social inclusion and is a flagship for fostering and promoting our diverse national identity. Folk festivals create a common ground for the expression of this culture through grass roots, community and participatory activities while at the same time juxtaposing these with entertainment experiences of the highest quality.
The village and community of Cobargo has struggled in the wake of the devastating bushfires of the 2019-20 summer, with stresses further compounded by COVID-19 and the cancellation of the Cobargo Folk Festival in 2020 (twice) and 2021. The substantial loss of this event has become plain to festival organisers (all volunteers), who have dedicated their time to recovery efforts:
…the festival’s many supporters - performers, audience, stallholders, suppliers, other folk festivals and folk clubs - have rallied around Cobargo in the aftermath of the fire. This group has contributed a very significant portion of the almost $700,000 raised by the Cobargo Community Bushfire Recovery Fund Inc. and we are very grateful for this support. The community recovery projects now underway in Cobargo, Quaama and elsewhere in our district would not have got off the ground with these generous contributions.
While community and social connection may manifest in different mediums, the consistent shared values of developing a shared sense of belonging through engagement with art and culture was highlighted by inquiry participants.
Preservation of Australian History and Culture
The substantial responsibility of Australian social record-keeping falls to our cultural institutions, such as the Australian War Memorial, the Museum of Australian Democracy, the National Gallery of Australia, and the National Museum of Australia, among others. These institutions provide an important preservation and curation service, as well as providing visitors, artists, social historians and many others valuable insights into Australia’s cultural heritage, social history, and our national identity:
We provide Australians with access to their cultural heritage. The information that we steward offers a window into what it means to live in Australia and be Australian, and underpins so much of the research and innovation in the humanities landscape.
Galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM), as well as community centres, play an important role in enhancing wellbeing, fostering shared values, and supporting social cohesion and community engagement with cultural and creative events, pursuits and experiences across Australia. The National Public Galleries Alliance put forward the view that:
Australia’s extensive network of public galleries is pivotal to community enrichment by engaging audiences with art, ideas and diverse cultural practices. Through their exhibitions, public and education programs, and support of artists, public galleries inspire participation in conversations about the world in which we live. They promote learning, foster critical thinking and encourage creative expression in ways that benefit local economies, change lives and impact positively on community health and wellbeing.
Arts organisations present an opportunity to explore and embrace feelings of ‘belonging’, ‘mateship’, and ‘have the ability to transport people into other people’s worlds, providing opportunities for empathy and greater social cohesion’. Suggesting alternative arts models for regional Australia, Professor Rachel Fensham and colleagues put forward regional centres as arts hubs for a diversity of performing arts practices, operating in partnership with local government, which could help develop a thriving local arts scene. Possible benefits include ‘growth in tourism, employment opportunities, civic pride and night-life activities’.
The Council of Australasian Museum Directors (CAMD) highlighted the importance of museums in Australia’s cultural landscape in providing connection to both the history and within the Australian community:
By researching, conserving, curating and sharing our heritage museums have built authority and trust with the community. In celebrating and interpreting this heritage museums also contribute to our social cohesion.
Furthermore, CAMD stated that public value studies assessed the perspective of citizens suggest essential values of museums include:
Creation of new knowledge and awareness;
The development of society;
Establishing cultural capital in society (including understanding and empathy);
Individual social development;
Diverse economic contributions.
The value of public galleries, libraries, museums and archives during mandatory lockdown was considerable, as ‘lifelong learning and social cohesion arguably became more important in a locked down world, with many seeking to reskill or link to local community services as a result of the economic downturn’. The State Library of Western Australia experienced a more than 100 per cent increase in monthly membership applications, as well as a 50 per cent increase in online and phone inquiries.
As demand for online resources increased, issues arose in relation to copyright laws. The Australian Digital Alliance and Australian Libraries Copyright Committee set out some these difficulties:
Some copyright laws designed to apply to hardcopy materials do not apply when those materials are digitised.
Similarly, some copyright laws only apply when the activity is done in person and cease to apply when a recording is made or the activity is done online through platforms such as Zoom.
In many cases, it is unlawful to use material where the owner of that material cannot be found and attributed.
According to the Australian Digital Alliance and Australian Libraries Copyright Committee, these laws are ‘stifling an entire genre of artists from emerging in Australia’.
Volunteer-supported historical societies were highlighted for the work they do to promote community cohesion and preserve Australia’s history. The Federation of Australian Historical Societies (FAHS) set out that volunteer organisations in rural and regional areas have enormous value:
Although voluntary community organisations directly employ few people, they play many important social and cultural roles that bring benefits both to individuals and to their communities. These include assistance to local economies and therefore to employment.
In rural and regional Australia, these organisations are likely to be of great significance through the contribution they make to the economy by facilitating heritage tourism via their museums, walking tours, signage, etc. The cities of Albany and Broome in WA and Port Fairy in Victoria are excellent examples, where historical society museums attract many thousands of visitors each year. If facilitated to reopen and expand, community institutions will be in a better position to continue to attract tourists and to stimulate their local economies.
The FAHS suggested linking up tertiary students studying relevant fields with organisations who would benefit from the assistance:
One way of providing such stimulus stimulating while providing employment, would be to establish a system of cadetships to appoint young people who have been trained in the arts and cultural industries (including information studies) to work as cadet advisers to community organisations. Much of this would focus on the better management and protection of collections, including digitisation.
Australia’s creative and cultural industries and institutions make an enormous economic contribution and, until the COVID-19 public health emergency, were growing and expanding to reach new international audiences.
The undeniable economic value of the arts may take time to reach its former heights, but as Australia emerges from living in the COVID-19 pandemic, the arts has an opportunity to grow even further.
The non-economic benefits of the arts are vast, and have been highlighted by recent events. The act of creating something artistic, whether it is a painting, comedy performance, novel, play, or piece of music, is intrinsically good for people. Australia’s cultural identity evolves as creative workers continue to represent Australian life and tell Australian stories to domestic and international audiences.
The mental health benefits of creating and participating in creative work have been highlighted as Australians turn to the arts during restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19. The Committee notes the research set out by Theatre Network Australia’s Circus and Physical Theatre Advisory Committee that ‘for every dollar invested for a child in a circus training program, seven dollars are potentially saved in their future mental health costs’.
The Committee considers that participation in the arts at a young age could be a significant investment in mental health, as well as physical health. The Committee encourages schools, families, and people of any age to join a local arts group, including physical theatre and circus, visual arts, music, dance and more. Engagement with the arts has many benefits, and local organisations provide a valuable outlet for Australians to make new connections and support mechanisms as well as supporting the arts.
The Committee commends the work of groups such as Somebody’s Daughter Theatre Company (SDTC) for the work they do with young people and marginalised women to encourage storytelling and support networks to build.
Supporting Regional Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums
Australia’s stories reside in locations beyond the major national collecting institutions. Regional voices and stories tell the unique social history of Australia, with thousands of historic and art objects in collections across the country at risk of being forgotten or damaged.
With the inability to travel overseas, Australians are discovering locations and experiences in their own backyard. Regional galleries, libraries, archives and museums may benefit from increased traffic of domestic visitors. Visitors, in turn, may benefit from learning more about Australia’s history, art and culture.
Regional and smaller cultural institutions may not attract the next generation of museum professionals as much as the large, Canberra-based national collecting institutions. The Committee considers that incentives or encouragement for tertiary-level students in relevant fields to conduct internships in regional areas would create opportunities to share cutting-edge research and approaches, and create opportunities for the next generation of professionals.
The Committee notes the recommendation from the Federation of Australian Historical Societies for cadetships which would link students and young people with relevant training and community organisations in need of support. The Committee considers that an expanded program of internships and cadetships would be an excellent way to help emerging arts and culture professionals enter the workforce, and help smaller, regional or community-focussed organisations grow.
The Committee also notes the Governments intent to provide additional funding to the National Archives. The National Archives of Australia is the largest archival institution in Australia and plays a fundamental role of securing, preserving, and maintaining the nation's history. The Committee endorses the Government’s proposal to provide additional funding and recommends that it be allocated in a timely manner to ensure that the most vulnerable documents, film and other at-risk materials recording our history are not lost.
The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government consider working with tertiary education providers to develop a program of internships and cadetships which would see students and young people work in regional, small and/or community-focussed galleries, libraries, archives and museums.
The Commonwealth Government should request input from the Office for the Arts, Department of Education, Skills and Employment and Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications as well as regional arts and cultural organisations, to develop a pilot program.
The Committee notes the urgent funding provided by the Commonwealth Government to the National Archives of Australia to conduct digitisation and preservation work, and recommends that additional funding be provided to the National Film and Sound Archive to conduct similar urgent work.