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Study Reveals Australian Arts and Culture Sector Thriving with $160 Billion Revenue

Australia’s cultural and creative industry has earned the majority of its income from sales rather than relying on allowances and donations, a new study has found.

The industry earned 87 percent of its income from sales and services, according to new research by the arts and culture think tank, A New Approach (ANA).

The research, “To Scale: Mapping Financial Inflows in Australian Arts, Culture and Creativity,” found that Australian cultural and creative industries have attracted an estimated $160 billion in income and investment from 2020 to 2021, including distribution by governments of an estimated $16.4 billion.

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The data provided by the research is contrary to the common belief that the Australian cultural and creative industry is predominantly financed through government assistance.

“The lion’s share of income in cultural and creative industries is from sales and services, which includes everything from art and cultural event ticket sales and royalties from intellectual property through to cultural exports and computer software consulting fees,” Kate Fielding, the CEO of ANA, said.

“While these industries have been exploring effective ways to invest the available funds, we have been missing a big part of the picture–and opportunities to grow and find new sources of income and investment.”

The report, which is the 10th of ANA’s Insight Reports, a series that provides research and analysis into arts and cultural policy topics, also highlights new ways to assess and articulate return on investment (ROI) across short, medium, and long-term time horizons.

“Explaining the individual, community, and cumulative effects of investment can help highlight the longer-term benefits of investment in arts and culture for all of us as Australia continues its journey to become a cultural powerhouse,” Ms. Fielding said.

Kate Fielding, the CEO of A New Approach (ANA). (Courtesy of ANA)
Kate Fielding, the CEO of A New Approach (ANA). (Courtesy of ANA)

Australia is the first nation in the world to estimate sources of income and investment for the cultural and creative industries using a new classification system or typology developed by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) based on original work by experts from EU member states, according to the think tank.

Ms. Fielding said the research also highlighted new financial options for investment in Australian cultural and creative activities and could inform better strategic decision-making.

“We know Australians see arts, culture, and creativity as essential to their lives. This data shows that Australian households make a significant contribution to industry income,” she said.

“By improving understanding of investment in cultural and creative activity and exploring new options to ‘grow the pie’, we can foster more targeted, effective, and adaptive policy and investment settings.

“This will help us better harness the economic, social, and cultural benefits of creative engagement and ensure all Australians, whoever they are and wherever they live, can participate in the cultural life of our nation.”

ANA, led by a Board of Directors chaired by Rupert Myer AO, was established in 2021 as an Australian public company limited by guarantee and a registered Charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission. It is made possible by a unique collaboration of 11 philanthropic partners.

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