Arts participation focuses on the enjoyment of art by Australians. It covers both adults and children, and explores both receptive and creative engagement with art.

Learn more about attendance at art exhibitions, performances, and festivals – and how audiences engage online around these events.

Get the facts on the importance of Indigenous art for Australians and what proportions are experiencing it.

Public Value
Participation  -  Overview

Australian attitudes to the arts are increasingly positive with 89 percent of people in agreement that 'The arts should be an important part of the education of every Australian' in 2013.

Over eight in ten agreed that the arts make for a richer and more meaningful life (85 percent) and it is exciting to see new styles and types of art (84 percent), significant increases from 2009.

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The vast majority of Australians feel positive about the arts

The Australia Council arts participation survey explored Australian attitudes to the art, and found high levels of agreement with positive statements about the benefits of the arts.

Similarly to 2009, Australians still believe that the arts are an important part of children’s education (89 percent agree, 90 percent in 2009) and that people can enjoy both arts and sport (96 percent agree, the same as in 2009). Over eight in ten agreed that the arts make for a richer and more meaningful life (85 percent) and it is exciting to see new styles and types of art (84 percent), significant increases from 2009.

In 2013, almost eight in ten Australians agreed that the arts should receive public funding (79 percent) which is a significant decrease from 85 percent in 2009. Although there is still very strong support, some Australians are shifting on the need for public funding.

Only thirteen percent agreed 'the arts are not for people like me', down from 20 percent in 2009 but this suggests there is still an opportunity to continue improving the relevance and accessibility of the arts to all Australians.

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Most Australians believe the arts have a big impact on our development and wellbeing

The Australia Council arts participation survey 2013 explored how much impact the arts is seen to have across twelve different areas.

The arts have the most impact on child development where two thirds of Australians believe the arts have a big or very big impact. This aligns with attitudes towards ‘The Arts are an important part of the education of every Australian’ where 89 percent agree.

The other areas where the majority of Australians feel the arts have a key impact are focussed on benefits to individuals. Australians think that the arts have a big impact on: our ability to express ourselves (61 percent); to think creatively and develop new ideas (59 percent); our ability to deal with stress, anxiety or depression (56 percent); and to improve our sense of wellbeing and happiness (52 percent).

Fewer Australians feel that the arts impact the wider community than impact individual benefits. Only one third of Australians think the arts have a big impact on our empathy for others (only 36 percent) or on our connections with family and friends (33 percent).

The economy is an area where many Australians believe the arts do not have an impact - less than one in four Australians (22 percent) think the Arts have a big or very big impact here.

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Attitudes are becoming less negative over time, with the arts seen as less elitist and expensive

The Australia Council arts participation survey 2013 results suggest that movements have been made in the perception of art as relevant and accessible to all Australians.

Only thirty percent of Australians agreed that the arts attract people who are elitist or pretentious in 2013. This has continued a downward trend from over half of Australians agreeing with this statement in 1999, which fell to one third in 2009.

Similarly, only 36 percent of Australians agreed that the arts were too expensive in 2013 compared to 39 percent in 2009 and 54 percent in 1999.

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Participation  -  Overview

Australian view the arts as easily accessible, with 72 percent of people in agreement that 'There are plenty of opportunities for me to get involved with the arts' in 2013.

Creative participation has significantly increased from 41 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2013. Visual arts and craft was still the most popular artform creatively engaged in and increased to 30 percent, compared to 22 percent in 2009.

96 percent of Australians also believe that people can enjoy both arts and sport.

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Attendance and Engagement
Participation  -  Overview

In 2012, 18 percent of children aged 5 to 14 played a musical instrument compared to 14 percent of children played soccer.

It's hardly surprising then, that young people (aged 15-24 years old) have higher levels of creative participation with the arts than other Australians. Almost two thirds (65 percent) creatively participated in the arts in the previous 12 months, compared to 44 percent for the rest of the population.

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Attendance at classical music concerts is stable

The proportion of Australians attending classical musical concerts remained steady between 2005-06 and 2009-10 at 9 percent.

Attendance is stable across most age groups, with increases seen among over 55s, and decreases in the 35-54 age group.

Total audience sizes increased from around 4 million to 4.2 million over the same time period. Population growth may see audiences increase slightly in the short to medium term if attendance rates remain stable. However, the ageing population may affect audience sizes over the medium to long term because a higher proportion of population aged over 55 attend classical music.

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Australians participate in arts as much as people in other countries

Analysis suggests that Australians participate in the arts as much as people in the UK and New Zealand. Creative participation has significantly increased from 41 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2013.

Figure 46 - Arts participation in selected countries

Proportion of adults participating in an arts event or activity at least once over a 12 month periodAttending arts events %Creative participation %
Australia (2013)7148
England (2012)6948
New Zealand (2011)8049

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9 in 10 Australians attend arts or read literature

The Australia Council’s 2013 survey of arts participation showed 94 percent of Australians receptively participated in the arts in the year prior to the survey, a significant increase from 92 percent in 2009. Participation included attending a live event, an exhibition or reading literature.

Participation levels varied by artform but remained at similar levels to 2009. The survey showed the highest levels of participation were in literature (via reading) with almost 90 percent of Australians reading in the year before the survey, with over half reading weekly (57 percent) compared to an estimated 38 percent in 2009. Excluding reading, 71 percent of Australians participated through attending events/exhibitions.

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Total estimated attendances have increased from 47 million in 2005-06 to 55 million attendances in 2009-10

ABS estimates suggest the number of attendances at art venues or events increased 17 percent between 2005-06 and 2009-10. Art venues and events made up around 21 percent of the total number of cultural attendances in 2005-06, increasing to 24 percent in 2009-10.[1]

While all art venues and events saw increased attendance in 2009-10, the largest increases were for art galleries (around 1.7 million additional attendances in 2009-10) and popular music concerts (around 3.7 million additional attendances in 2009-10).

Attendances at other arts events, such as classical music concerts and theatre performances, also increased slightly over the period.


[1] Conservative estimate based on how often Australians attend the arts.

Non-arts cultural activities include attending museums, botanic gardens, cinemas, zoos, aquariums and libraries.

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Half of all Australians are creatively engaged with the arts

Almost 8 million Australians are involved in creating art.

In 2013, creative participation significantly increased to 48 percent from 41 percent in 2009. Visual arts and craft was still the most popular artform creatively engaged in and increased to 30 percent, compared to 22 percent in 2009.

Many Australians were also involved creatively in literature (16 percent) and making music (20 percent).

The arts participation survey results found that creative participation was done as a hobby by most of those involved, especially in the case of crafts, social dance, playing a musical instrument, writing songs, mixing or composing music, and writing poetry.

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Young people are more creatively engaged in the arts than other Australians

Young people (aged 15-24 years old) had higher levels of creative participation with the arts than other Australians. Almost two thirds (65 percent) creatively participated in the arts in the previous 12 months, compared to 44 percent for the rest of the population. This trend of higher participation was present across all artforms.

The Australia Council arts participation survey findings suggest that education played a role, with young students more active in creative participation than young employed persons.

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A small proportion of Australians have not engaged with the arts either receptively or creatively

According to the Australia Council arts participation study 2013, only 5 percent of Australians had not engaged with the arts in the previous year.

Looking specifically at attendance at an arts event (excluding reading), 29 percent of Australians had not attended any arts event in the last 12 months. However, over seven in ten of those who had not attended an arts event in the last 12 months had attended at some point in the past. Also, 50 percent of people were interested in attending arts events in the future, up from 39 percent in 2009, which signals an increasing appetite for the arts.

Over half of Australians (52 percent) had not creatively participated in an arts activity in the past 12 months, this decreased from 59 percent in 2009. Non-creative participants express three broad factors that prevent arts participation:

  • Opportunity costs (having to take time or money from some other activity and devote it to creative arts participation) – 81 percent.
  • Access barriers (distance, opportunity, no-one to do it with, health problems, etc.) - 73 percent (up from 64 percent in 2009).
  • Poor alignment between the arts and their self-image - 64 percent.

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Some groups have lower arts participation

Research shows that people with disabilities, people from non-English speaking backgrounds, people from lower socio-economic groups and older Australians (65+) continue to have lower participation rates than other Australians.

The figure below illustrates the size of these groups and their participation levels relative to the Australian population. It shows that:

  • Those with a long term illness or disability are the furthest away from the average Australian in terms of arts participation
  • Low creative participation is a particular issue for older Australians (aged 65+)
  • ·Low attendance is a particular issue for those with long term illness or disability, or whose main language is not English
  • Males have only slightly lower engagement, but account for the largest underrepresented group (i.e. half the population).

In practice some of these factors overlap, and so we find more than half of those over 65 years have a household income of less than $40k, and a quarter of this group have a serious illness or disability.

Figure 55 - Participation rates among key demographic segments

GroupCreative Participation %Attendance %Receptive Participation
(including reading) %
All Australians487194
Males476991
Household Income under $40k445890
Main language not English405989
Primary School highest qualification436083
Long term illness or disability495988
Over 65 years396290

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Australians in regional areas participate just as much, but in different types of arts events to those in metropolitan areas

Creative participation in the arts has increased significantly amongst regional Australians, from 39 percent in 2009 to 49 percent in 2013. This is now at a similar level to Australians living in metropolitan areas (47 percent). In particular, creative participation has risen for Visual Art and Craft (32 percent, from 21 percent in 2009) and Music (20 percent, from 14 percent in 2009).

Although receptive participation in regional areas remains largely unchanged at 93 percent, from 92 percent in 2009, there has been a significant decrease in receptive participation of Visual Arts & Craft (33 percent, from 38 percent in 2009) and Theatre & Dance (32 percent, from 39 percent in 2009).

Regional Australians are more likely to attend Indigenous arts and craft, dance and music events. This is reflected in regional attitudes towards Indigenous arts with a quarter of people having a strong interest compared to 20 percent in metropolitan areas.

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People from a non-English speaking background are less likely to participate in the arts

People with a non-English speaking background are less engaged with the arts than the broader population. The participation rates for people whose main language spoken at home is not English are lower than the wider Australian community:

  • 5 percent lower in terms of receptive particpation
  • 8 percent lower in terms of creative participation.

·’Playing the arts game’ shows language to be the key factor in terms of multicultural engagement (as opposed to being born overseas or having parents born overseas). Those born here but with at least one parent born overseas showed similar levels of participation to other Australians.

The ABS found that those children born overseas in an English speaking country were most likely to have attended at least one cultural venue or event (82 percent), compared to children born in Australia (71 percent) and children born in countries where English is not the main language (67 percent).

Children born overseas (63 percent) were somewhat more likely to visit a public library than children born in Australia (51 percent). Children born in Australia (39 percent) or overseas in an English speaking country (45 percent) were more likely to attend a performing arts event than children born in countries where English is not the main language (23 percent).

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Community arts engagement is increasing over time

Community arts was described in the arts participation research as art that has been created as part of a community group together with a professional artist who has been paid for their involvement. In 2013, one third of Australians reported engagement with community art in the previous year, an increase from a quarter in 2009.

The number of Australians who were both creatively participating and attending community arts increased to almost one in ten, with significant growth in visual arts and craft, music.

Attendance also grew, suggesting community arts is both attracting new attendees and engaging them into creative participation. The growth in attendance occurred mainly in music with an increase to 19 percent from 16 percent in 2009.

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Engagement with the arts online has doubled since 2009

With increasing accessibility to the internet (nine in ten Australians have access) through a variety of devices, the way people interact with the arts has been transformed.

Double the number of Australians now use the internet in some way to engage with the arts, two thirds in 2013 compared to one third in 2009.

Over half of Australians (56 percent) receptively participated online in the last 12 months by watching or downloading art. The main activities in this area were downloaded music (45 percent) and around three in ten accessed e-books (31 percent), viewed visual arts (30 percent) and watched performances (27 percent).

Almost one quarter of Australians creatively participated online by creating, sharing or selling art on the internet.

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Arts audiences want to engage online with artists and arts organisations

The Australia Council’s research ‘Connecting:// arts audiences online’ found the internet to be a powerful tool for the arts in broadening and deepening engagement with audiences.

The research showed that a majority of Australians arts audiences were already using the internet in relation to attending arts events in 2010. Arts audiences were found to conduct a range of activities on line, particularly in terms of researching events, planning their outing, and conducting follow up activities such as sharing photos.

The research also showed significant interest in using the internet to engage more with artists and arts organisations in future. For instance, whilst just 15 percent of Australians had interacted online with artists and event organisers in researching events, 33 percent were interested to do so in future.

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Queensland and Western Australia have proportionally fewer cultural organisations than other States and Territories

According to the Office for the Arts’ Register of Cultural Organisations, there are 1,482 cultural organisations in Australia whose principal purpose is the promotion of a cultural activity. This means they administer a public, non-profit fund and are eligible for Deductible Gift Recipient status.

Eligible cultural activities include literature; visual, community, performing or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts; music; crafts; design; television; video; radio; film; or movable cultural heritage. [1]

The Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, New South Wales and Northern Territory have proportionally more cultural organisations, relative to the number of Australian businesses overall.Queensland and Western Australia have comparatively fewer cultural organisations. Queensland is home to 20 percent of Australian business, but just 13 percent of cultural organisations. Western Australia has 10 percent of Australian businesses, but just 8 percent of cultural organisations.


[1] Public art galleries, museums and libraries are generally not included on the Register as they are approved by the Australian Taxation Office under another Deductible Gift Recipient category.

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More Australians now attend art galleries and popular music concerts

ABS surveys of attendance at cultural venues and events shows that 26 percent of the Australian population over the age of 15 attended an art gallery during 2009-10, equivalent to 4 million Australians. This was significantly higher than the 23 percent that attended in 2005-06.

Attendance at performing art events has also seen a statistically significant increase in 2009-10 from 50 percent of Australians attending at least one event in 2005-06 to 52 percent attending at least one event in 2009-10. This has largely been driven by attendance at popular music concerts. Three in ten Australians had attended a popular music concert in 2009-10 (30 percent) – a statistically significant increase on the 25 percent attending in 2005-06.

Attendance at classical music concerts, musicals and operas, dance performances and theatre performances has remained stable since 1999.

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Children’s attendance at performing arts events and museums or galleries increased between 2006 and 2012

Around seven in ten Australian children aged 5 to 14 years attended at least one selected cultural venue or event outside of school hours during the 12 months prior to collection of ABS data in April 2012. Over half of children visited a public library (53 percent), over four in ten visited a museum or gallery (43 percent) and 39 percent attended a performing arts event.

Attendance for museums or galleries increased significantly from 37 percent in 2006 to 43 percent, and attendance at performing arts events increased significantly from 30 percent in 2006 to 39 percent. Library visitation has declined slightly from 55 percent in 2006 to 53 percent.

Female children were more likely to attend at least one selected cultural venue or event in 2011-12 than male children (74 percent vs. 68 percent). Children aged 5-11 were more likely to have attended at least one cultural venue/event than children aged 12-14 (72 percent compared to 68 percent, respectively). Children aged 5-11 were also slightly more likely to visit a public library, museum or gallery, or attend a performing art event than older children (aged 12-14).

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Over one third of children creatively participated in an arts activity in 2012

More than one third of children aged 5 to 14 years (980,700) participated in at least one organised cultural activity (playing a musical instrument, singing, dancing, drama or organised art and craft) outside of school hours.

The proportion of children dancing in 2012 (15 percent) has increased since 2006 (13 percent), while fewer children are now playing a musical instrument (18 percent in 2012 compared with 20 percent in 2006).

Nearly half of all female children (47 percent) participated in at least one organised cultural activity, compared with 24 percent of male children. Dancing was the most popular activity for females (367,400 participants), followed by playing a musical instrument (261,400 participants). Playing a musical instrument was the most popular activity for males (228,800 participated).

The proportion of children reading for pleasure has decreased from 75 percent in 2006 to 71 percent in 2012. Female children are more likely to read for pleasure (77 percent) than male children (65 percent). Female children were also more creatively involved in recreational art and craft (54 percent participation) than male children (33 percent participation).

Figure 54 - Children’s participation in leisure activities outside of school

Participation rate2006 %2009 %2012 %
Organised cultural participation
Playing a musical instrument202018
Singing665
Dancing131415
Drama555
Organised art and craft7
Participation in recreational activities
Recreational art and craft43
Reading for pleasure757271
Skateboarding, rollerblading or riding a scooter4954
Bike riding686064
Watching TV, DVDs or videos979796
Other screen-based activities8385
Homework or other study838281

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Indigenous Culture
Participation  -  Overview

Australian attitudes to the arts are increasingly positive with 92 percent of people in agreement that 'Indigenous arts are an important part of Australia's culture' in 2013. This is up from 89 percent in 2009.

This attitude is also reflected in a growing interest in Indigenous arts with almost a quarter of Australians having a strong interest, a significant increase from 2009, and a further 42 percent of Australians saying their interest in Indigenous arts is growing.

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Most Australians have an interest in Indigenous arts, but not all are experiencing it

Indigenous arts continue to be highly valued by Australians, with 92 percent of Australians agreeing that Indigenous arts are an important part of Australia’s culture in 2013, compared to 89 percent in 2009.

Almost one quarter of Australians have a strong interest in Indigenous arts, while a further 42 percent say their interest is growing.

However, only one quarter of Australians have engaged in Indigenous arts (24 percent), mainly through visual arts & crafts (17 percent), dance (10 percent) and live music (10 percent).

This means 40 percent of Australians have an interest in attending Indigenous arts but had not attended any in the year of the survey.

Further, relative to international tourists, very few domestic visitors and day trippers experience Indigenous arts. In 2009, Tourism Research Australia reported that just 3 percent of domestic overnight visitors experienced Indigenous art or craft or cultural displays, compared with 20 percent of international visitors.

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Indigenous Australians living in remote areas are significantly more likely to participate in Indigenous arts

A greater number of Indigenous Australians live in non-remote areas (245,600) than remote areas (81,500). However, in 2008, participation in selected creative arts activities was higher for those Indigenous people aged 15 years and over living in remote and very remote areas (38 percent) compared with those living in non-remote areas (25 percent).

For arts and crafts, 22 percent of Indigenous people living in remote areas of Australia participated in this activity compared with 16 percent living in non-remote areas. Of those Indigenous people living in remote areas, 21 percent participated in writing or telling stories (16 percent for music, dance or theatre) compared with 14 percent living in non-remote areas (9 percent for music, dance or theatre).

Three in ten Indigenous people living in remote areas attended a festival or carnival involving arts, craft, music or dance in the 12 months prior to the 2008 interview (30 percent). In comparison, 21 percent of Indigenous people living in non-remote areas attended a festival or carnival involving arts, craft, music or dance.

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Almost 30 percent of Indigenous Australians participate in Indigenous creative arts

The 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) found that around two in three Indigenous people had participated in a selected cultural activity (63%). Just over one quarter had participated in a creative arts activity such as Indigenous arts and crafts, music, dance or theatre and writing or telling stories (28 percent).This has remained steady on the participation rates seen in 2002.[1]

Among the creative arts activities, Indigenous arts and crafts were the most popular, with 17 percent (almost 56,600) of Indigenous people aged 15 years and over taking part at least once in the 12 months prior to interview. Around 15 percent participated in writing or telling stories and 11 percent participated in music, dance or theatre.

Overall participation in creative arts activities was slightly higher for Indigenous people aged 35 years and over with 31 percent participating compared to 26 percent for Indigenous people aged 15-34 years. In particular, participation in writing or telling stories was higher for Indigenous people aged 35 years and over (20 percent), compared with 12 percent for those aged 15 to 34 years.

Almost one quarter of Indigenous people aged over 15 years attended a festival or carnival involving arts, craft, music or dance in the 12 months prior to the 2008 interview (23 percent), 36% attended NAIDOC week activities and 39% attended funerals/ Sorry business

An overwhelming majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders also want to participate more in cultural activities. However there is a real risk that culture will be lost as elders pass away.[1]


[1] The Closing the Gap: Prime Ministers Report 2013 highlights statistics which show that the Indigenous population is young (47% of the Indigenous population is under the age of 20, and only 9% is aged 54 and above). Additionally, a very high percentage of Indigenous Australian deaths occur before the age of 65 years. Together, these suggest that, without appropriate resources, Indigenous elders may be passing away faster than their culture and knowledge can be passed on

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