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Connecting Australians: Results of the National Arts Participation Survey

January 31, 201831 January 2018

Arts attendance / Social impacts of the arts

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Primarily based on a survey of over 7,500 Australians 15 and older (as well as similar surveys in 2009 and 2013), this report outlines key data on Australians’ arts participation, recognition of the value of the arts, and attitudes toward the arts, with the goal of providing “a comprehensive picture of Australians’ evolving relationship with the arts in their daily lives”. National statistics from the 2016 survey carry a maximum margin of error of 1.13 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

A key finding of the report is that 98% of Australians engaged with the arts in some way in 2016, a figure that includes the 97% of people who listened to recorded music during the year.

Just over seven in ten Australians attended live arts events in 2016 (72%), including:

  • Music (54%)
  • Visual arts and crafts (46%)
  • Festivals (45%)
  • Theatre (41%)
  • First Nations arts (35%)
  • Dance (32%)
  • Literary events (21%)

The report notes that “survey respondents with disability are now as likely to attend [live arts events] as respondents who do not identify as having disability”.

Other arts activities captured in the survey include:

  • Engaging with the arts online (81%, including 76% who listened to recorded music online)
  • Reading books (79%)
  • Creatively participating in the arts (46%)
  • Attending or creating “arts as part of engaging with their own cultural background” (35%)
  • Giving time or money to the arts (27%)
  • Being “involved with community arts and cultural development” (14%)

The report estimates that about 15% of Australians have never attended the arts. Among these respondents, a lack of interest was by far the most common reason for not attending in 2016 (selected by 55%), followed by cost (21%). Among those who had attended prior to 2016 but did not do so in 2016, “the main barriers were cost (for 39%) and difficulty finding time (for 34%)”.

As stated in the report, Australians “value the arts and their positive impact on society” and “increasingly believe the arts are critical to social cohesion”. In terms of the potential impacts of the arts, many Australians believe that the arts have a “big” or “very big” impact on:

  • “Stimulating their minds” (69%)
  • “Their ability to express ourselves” (69%)
  • “Their ability to think creatively and develop new ideas” (67%)
  • “Child development” (65%)
  • “Their understanding of other people and cultures” (64%)
  • “Their sense of wellbeing and happiness” (60%)
  • “Helping them deal with stress, anxiety or depression” (58%)
  • “Shaping and expressing Australian identity” (57%)
  • “Bringing customers to local businesses” (43%)

In terms of their attitudes toward the arts, a large majority of Australians agreed with the following statements:

  • “Indigenous arts are an important part of Australia’s culture” (80%)
  • “Artists make an important contribution to Australian society” (78%)
  • “I feel proud when Australian artists do well overseas” (76%)
  • “The arts should be an important part of the education of every Australian” (75%)
  • “The arts in Australia reflect the diversity of cultures present in Australia” (75%)
  • “The arts make for a richer and more meaningful life” (74%)
  • “The arts are an important way to get different perspectives on a topic or issue” (73%)
  • “It is exciting to see new styles and types of art” (70%)
  • “Artists should have total freedom of expression” (70%)
  • “The arts should receive public funding” (66%)

The full report contains much more information about the 2016 results as well as comparisons with similar surveys in 2009 and 2013.

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