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Study shows local government behind more than a quarter of Australia’s arts and cultural investment

Study shows local government behind more than a quarter of Australia’s arts and cultural investment
September 15, 2019

Local Government contributes more than a quarter of total national expenditure on Australian arts and cultural activities, according to a new study.

Demonstrating the increased importance of art and culture to local communities, the Big Picture report advised that the 26.2% local government proportion of arts expenditure was up from 22.4% a decade earlier, with councils committing almost $7 billion to the arts each year.

Report author, Kate Fielding, Director of the independent think tank A New Approach, explained "governments have always played a leading role in funding Australia’s arts and culture for the social, cultural, economic and personal benefits they provide.

“This report shows a shifting and increasingly volatile trend, with more public funding at a grass roots level from local government which is closest to the community.

“This increased per capita commitment of 11% by local government signals that local leaders are seeing the relevance of cultural activities to their communities, and that we should ensure this level of government is recognised as a key partner in our overall cultural ecosystem.”

Over the decade to 2017, spending by state and territory governments increased by 3.4% per capita, while Federal funding fell by 18.9%.

The report also noted that public expenditure per capita dropped by 4.9% between 2007 and 2018, well below the average of other Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) members.

Australia’s arts and culture sector contributes more than $111 billion to the economy, or 6.4% of Gross Domestic Product, and employs around 600,000 people, or 5.5% of the workforce.

It said spending on culture is split roughly evenly across three categories – film, television and radio, museums, art galleries, libraries, cultural heritage and archives, and arts.

Local government’s spending is typically capital expenditure such as buildings and their maintenance, and recurrent programs such as art and cultural activities like festivals.

Combined, this investment forms the building blocks of cultural experiences and life in local communities, be they in metropolitan, regional or remote locations.

In one example, a West Australian council used a children’s book and costumed characters to promote its community.

The City of Belmont won a 2019 National Award for Local Government for its Adventures of the Belmonsters book with the book inspiring children to physically explore their communities with their families.

The Big Picture report’s five recommendations included a greater strategic collaboration between all tiers of government with clear recognition of the increasingly significant contribution of local governments to cultural funding.

Fielding added “what is very clear from the data is that without a strategic and coordinated effort across all levels of government, Australia risks a deterioration of its cultural fabric and a loss of the significant benefits it provides.

“Our population has increased by 17% over the past decade, however, support for Australia’s culture and heritage isn’t keeping pace with this growth.”

Click here to view the report.

Images: The Murray Art Museum Albury (top) and Rosita the Belmonster [centre] with City of Belmont Chief Executive John Christie and Manager Community Place Making Natasha Griggs (below, courtesy City of Belmont).

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12th July 2018 - Gala events to mark reopening of Townsville Civic Theatre

2nd October 2017 - NSW Government looks to back local arts participation

19th July 2017 - Survey shows 98% of Australians engage with the arts

20th January 2017 - Design concepts revealed for new Shepparton Art Museum

19th April 2016 - Rally hears that South Australian arts funding at risk of being ‘decimated’

13th December 2015 - Australia Council announces $10.4 million in arts funding

20th November 2015 - Federal Government rethinks arts funding with changes to unpopular NPEA initiative

9th September 2015 - Albury Museum aims for the Bilbao effect

12th August 2015 - Live Performance Australia speaks out on arts funding

27th February 2015 - Museums Australia responds to calls for a new body for public art galleries

27th November 2013 - Study reveals the impact of Public Art Museums

28th August 2013 - Record arts funding in Western Australia but is it in the right place?


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