A new study puts councils’ contribution to arts and culture at 26.2 per cent of the national total.
Demonstrating the increased importance of art and culture to local communities, the proportion of local government supported art is up from 22.4 per cent a decade ago, according to the The Big Picture report by the Australian Academy of the Humanities, which calculates the total government commitment to the arts at $7 billion annually.
“Governments have always played a leading role in funding Australia’s arts and culture for the social, cultural, economic and personal benefits they provide,” said report author, Kate Fielding, director of the independent think tank, A New Approach.
“This report shows a shifting and increasingly volatile trend, with more public funding at a grassroots level from local government which is closest to the community.
“This increased per capita commitment of 11 per cent 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 cent per capita, while federal funding fell by 18.9 per cent.
Public expenditure per capita dropped by 4.9 per cent between 2007 and 2018, well below the average of other OECD members, the report said.
Australia’s arts and culture sector contributes more than $111 billion to the economy, or 6.4 per cent of GDP, and employs around 600,000 people, or 5.5 per cent of the workforce.
It said spending on culture is split roughly evenly across three categories – film, television and radio, museums, art museums, libraries, cultural heritage and archives, and arts.
Local government’s spending is typically in 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, across metropolitan, regional and remote locations.
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.
“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,” said Fielding.
“Our population has increased by 17 per cent over the past decade, however, support for Australia’s culture and heritage isn’t keeping pace with this growth.”
View The Big Picture Report here.
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