Government arts spending drops

The federal government’s per capita expenditure on the arts has dropped over the last ten years, with state governments and local councils stepping up to meet the shortfall, a report suggests.

The report, The Big Picture: public expenditure on artistic, cultural and creative activity in Australia, looks at expenditure from all levels of government on artistic, cultural and creative activity in Australia over the last decade.

It concludes that a coordinated effort is needed across all levels of government to ensure the nation’s arts and culture industry remains viable.

“The research highlights that without strategic and coordinated effort across all levels of government, Australia risks deterioration in its cultural fabric and a loss of the benefits it provides,” the report says.

It says although spending on arts and culture peaked in 2017-18, cultural expenditure is not matching population growth. As Australia’s population increased by 17 per cent over the past decade, total public expenditure on culture declined.

The report, by a research group from A New Approach think tank, says per capita expenditure on culture has dropped by 4.9 per cent since 2007-2008 and expenditure as a percentage of GDP remains below the OECD average.

It says while the federal government is committing 18.9 per cent less per capita than it did a decade ago, spending by local and state governments has increased by 11 and 3.9 per cent respectively.

Compared to a decade ago, responsibility for cultural expenditure is split more evenly between the different levels of government, the report found.

In 2007-08, cultural funding came predominately from federal expenditure, which made up almost half of the funding at 46 per cent.

The federal government now contributes 39 per cent; state and territory governments are contributing 35 per cent, an increase from 32 per cent, and local governments contribute 26 per cent, an increase from 22 per cent.

The researchers say the change has come about as a result of the federal government decreasing its per capita expenditure.

The three tiers of government contributed $6.86 billion to Australia’s cultural life in 2017-18, the report shows.

Both federal and state and territory governments focus on different aspects of the industry, with the federal government allocating more funding towards film, radio and television, and state and territory governments focusing more on the arts, museums, archives, libraries and heritage.

ANA says engaging in cultural and creative activities not only encourages social cohesion but is beneficial for community health, wellbeing and education. It is also a significant component of the national economy, contributing $11.7 billion in 2016-17.

As well as providing funding, governments play a critical role in fostering confidence in arts investment via policy and regulations, and can also take a leading role in  acknowledging the importance of creativity and culture, the report says.

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