New South Wales is the heartland of Australia’s creative industries, hosting 40% of the nation’s creative workers. Around 86% of those live in the Sydney region. Yet data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates strong differences in cultural engagement based on things like postcode and socio-economic disadvantage. The overall number of professional artists, musicians and similar creative occupations appears to have declined in Sydney since the 1990s.
Our own research shows similar divisions within the Sydney local government area. For example, levels of satisfaction with arts and cultural events are almost 30% lower amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents than the general population.
To better understand the barriers to creativity, we have undertaken a significant body of research, working with Western Sydney University, UTS, University of Tasmania and industry partners such as the Sydney Fringe, Frontyard and the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA).
This research points to a decline in opportunities for Australians to actively create their own culture. While major festivals and events continue to provide important opportunities to experience high quality work, local creativity faces major and complex obstacles.
For example, a recent study by NAVA found:
the small to medium arts sector facilitates the production of four times as many new works as the major galleries…but operates on little more than a quarter of their budgets.
Another study by the University of Tasmania found this sector produced a net benefit of $219 million within the Sydney local government area alone, yet had been significantly impacted by rising rental rates, decreased funding and planning regulation.
These aren’t issues of arts funding alone. As the city continues to grow, it is important we plan for more spaces for creative production by leveraging new development and providing direct support through our Creative Spaces program, to ensure all of Sydney’s people can play an active role in our cultural life.
(Image: 107 Projects)