Support is focused on both private and public support of Australian artists and organisations.

Learn more about the role of grants in supporting the creative practice of artists and the contribution of the Australia Council to that process.

Get the facts on private sponsorship and philanthropy, and the role each level of government plays in public funding of the arts.

Funding Sustainability

Government support for the arts has remained stable since 2007-08

Total government funding for arts and culture was $7 billion in 2012-13. Funding for the arts was around a fifth of this (approximately $1.5 billion). It has been relatively stable since 2007-08, with a slight increase in 2011-12.[1]

Australian Government (federal) funding to the arts has declined slightly from $477 million in 2007-08 to $419 million in 2012-13. However, State/Territory government funding has increased from $757 million in 2007-08 to $915 million in 2012-13. Local government funding has increased slightly from $134 million in 2007-08 to $154 million in 2009-10 (and an estimated $167 million in 2012-13*).

The level of federal government funding for the arts is likely to change over the next four years with the commitment of $75.3 million in additional funding to the Australia Council in the 2013-14 Federal Budget, to implement the recommendations made in the Review of the Australia Council.

Although State/Territory government funding increased from 2007-08 to 2011-12, it has since taken a general downward trend and State government budget cuts to the arts in 2014-15 are also likely to have an impact on the future trends in State/Territory funding for arts and culture.


[1] Includes funding for art museums, literature and print media, music performance, drama, dance, music theatre and opera, other performing arts, performing arts venues, music composition and publishing, visual arts and crafts and other arts.

* Note that detailed funding at the local government level was not reported by the ABS after 2009-10. Our data uses estimates of local government funding for later years based on the funding levels provided in previous years. Please note these are estimates only.

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Visual arts attracts significant public funding for art museums

All artforms are supported with public funding in 2012-13, including:

  • Visual arts - $382 million[1]

-Art museums – $317 million[2]

-Visual arts and craft - $65 million

  • Performing arts (including music, dance, theatre and other performing arts) - $702 million[3]

-Music – $174 million

-Dance – $37million

-Theatre – $62 million

-Performing art venues - $270 million

  • Literature – $46 million.

There is also substantial funding for ‘other arts’ items, which includes cross-artform activities.


[1] Includes an estimated $61 million for art museums from local government. This is an estimate only as detailed data was not available for 2012-13. Excluding the estimated local government funding, there was $256 million in support for art museums in 2012-13.

[2] Includes an estimated $61 million for art museums from local government. This is an estimate only as detailed data was not available for 2012-13. Excluding the estimated local government funding, there was $256 million in support for art museums in 2012-13.

[3] Includes an estimated $106 million for performing arts from local government. This is an estimate only as detailed data was not available for 2012-13. Excluding the estimated local government funding, there was $596 million in support for performing arts in 2012-13.

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Australia Council provides around $175 million funding to support the arts in Australia

Australia Council provided around $175 million in grant and project funding to artists and arts organisations in 2012-13.[1] Of this, $98.5 million went to MPA companies, $21 million to Key Organisations, $26.8 million to board grants and over $28 million to Council and Government initiatives.

In the 2013-14 Federal Budget, a $75.3 million increase in funding over four years was confirmed for the Australia Council to implement the recommendations made in the Review of the Australia Council.

This funding supported over 1000 individual artists, 168 arts organisations, the creation of almost 9000 new works and the presentation of over 7000 new works. There were over 15 million attendances at Australia Council-supported activities.

The Australia Council’s total funding for 2012–13 included:

  • $8.7 million for international activities by Australian artists and arts organisations
  • $7.9 million for arts and cultural activities with a predominantly Indigenous focus
  • $21.1 million for arts and cultural activities with a predominantly regional focus.

In terms of changes over time, the total value of funding has decreased slightly over time from $177 million in 2009-10 to $175 million in 2012-13 in real terms. However, the number of grants and projects supported has continued to increase.

The amount of funding supporting artists internationally has increased ($8.7 million in 2012-13 from $6.8 million in 2009-10). Around two thirds of the artists supported by the Australia Council in 2012-13 engaged in some type of international activity (63%).


[1] This is approximately 40 percent of the total Federal government spending on the arts, as shown in Figure 64. (The Australia Council is an arms-length body of the Federal government).

Figure 68 - Trends in Australia Council’s funding and performance

2009-102010-112011-122012-13
Total funding in 2012-13 value$ million177.5171.4168.2174.8
Grants and projects#1 8731 8971 9222 021
Organisations funded: Key Organisations in 2012-13 value$ million22.923.121.921.2
Organisations funded: Major Performing arts in 2012-13 value$ million102.4101.099.598.5
Grants to organisations#1 1211 0851 0191 039
Grants to individual artists (funded directly)#752812903982
Grants to individual artists devolved through organisations / companies#14310510837
Countries presented in#58666576
Grants supporting Australian artists internationally in 2012-13 value$ million6.87.58.68.7
Grants supporting Australian artists internationally#362418578620

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Regularly funded arts organisations received $260 million in government support in 2011-12

The Key Organisations and MPAs regularly funded by the Australia Council received $260 million in government support in 2011-12. Just over half was Federal government funding (55%) and 42 percent was funding from the States and Territories.[1]

While the Key Organisations received a similar amount of support from both the Federal and State governments, the MPAs received almost two-thirds of their government funding from Federal government (61%).


[1] Arts organisations data is based on acquittal information and is subject to change based on updated data received from the Key Organisations and MPAs.

Figure 69 – Government funding for Key and Major Performing Arts Organisations

Key Organisations ($)Major Performing Arts Organisations ($)
Federal government42,749,042101,247,750
States and territories47,328,41262,456,327
Local government2,851,180818,750
Others and overseas2,756,009255,786

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Regular Australia Council funding supports many arts organisations to engage thousands of artists

The Australia Council supported 168 arts organisations with regular funding in 2012, including performing arts producers, galleries, arts and craft centres, festivals and service organisations.[1]

These organisations employ and contract thousands of artists and creative professionals each year.

The Major Performing Arts sector employed over 1,500 [2] artists and creative practitioners in 2012, including 863 permanent full-time staff. Orchestras employ more artists and creative practitioners (664) than opera (412), theatre (234) and dance (218) organisations.

Employment across most art forms is found to be a mixture of both full-time and casual contracts when comparing full-time equivalent (FTE) and headcount. Theatres lean more towards casual and contract employment as reflected by the notable difference between headcount (1368) and FTE (234)


[1] Arts organisations data is based on acquittal information and is subject to change based on updated data received from the Key Organisations and MPAs.

[2] Full time equivalent employee numbers. The actual number employed as artists/ creatives in 2012 was 5,552 people

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Regularly funded arts organisations produced around 900 new Australian art works in 2012

In 2012, organisations that receive regular funding from the Australia Council produced almost 900 new Australian works for premiere seasons, showings or first time publication.[1]

Most new works are performing arts or cross-artform works, with smaller numbers of visual art works and publishing works of literature.

The trend in number of new Australian works produced by the key and major performing arts organisations supported by Australia Council has varied by artform. Theatre has seen increases in number of new Australian works from 2010 (123) to 2012 (212), while visual arts increased in 2011 (from 131 in 2010 to 233 in 2011) and then declined in 2012 (164). Many other artforms have produced a relatively steady number of new Australian works, except for cross-artform, which has seen a decline in 2012.


[1] Arts organisations data is based on acquittal information and is subject to change based on updated data received from the Key Organisations and MPAs

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Since 2010 regularly funded arts organisations have generated around 10 million attendances annually

Arts organisations regularly funded by the Australia Council attracted almost 11 million attendances to exhibitions and performances in Australia in 2012, an increase from the 9 million attendances in 2011.[1] In addition these arts organisations distributed over 2.5 million copies of their publications in 2012.[2]

In 2012, the majority of these attendances were at visual arts events (5.8 million) – an increase on 2011 and reflecting cyclical visitation patterns led by biennial arts events. Of the 4.6 million performing arts attendances, Music and Theatre both saw around 1.9 million attendances in 2012, which was higher than 2011.

The Major Performing Arts organisations generated 77 percent of performing arts attendances in 2012. The remainder of attendances were generated by the 140 Key Organisations.


[1] Arts organisations data is based on acquittal information and is subject to change based on updated data received from the Key Organisations and MPAs

[2] Publications includes books, art publications (publically available), newsletters (excludes membership newsletter), journals (literary, art and industry/sector), magazines(literary, art and industry/sector), catalogues and programs (publically available), sector publications (publically available), other publications (excluding annual reports)

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Major Performing Arts Organisations have become more financially stable

With support through inter-governmental funding agreements, Australia’s 28 Major Performing Arts Organisations have improved their financial position over time.

Overall income of the organisations has grown by 34 percent in real terms between 2001 and 2012. Expenses also increased, but at a lower rate of 31 percent, resulting in increased profitability.

On average, the MPA organisations are less reliant on public funding than they were in 2001, with earned revenue and private sector support representing a higher proportion of their income. In 2012 the sector earned around $1.47 for every dollar of government funding, a small increase from $1.22 in 2001.[1]


[1] Expressed in 2012 dollars for comparison

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Grants are important in supporting artists to spend more time on their art

According to Throsby and Zednik, an estimated 45 percent of artists applied for a grant, prize or other funding between 2004 and 2009, up from 41 percent between 1996 and 2001. Around two-thirds of artists that applied for funding were successful in their applications over the course of 5 years (65 percent success rate for applications).

Income maintenance was seen as the most important purpose of funding by 57 percent of artists, and a further 18 percent felt that the key purpose of funding for them was to support publication, showing or performance of new work.

A recent longitudinal study of early career artists suggested that grant funding may provide stability for artists to maintain the amount of time they spend on creative practice activity, with those artists who had not received any grants funding over the three years of the study showing the largest decreases in the time invested in their practice.

Artists highlighted a number of effects that receiving grants, prizes or other funding had on their creative practice:

  • Over half of artists that received funding felt that it gave them freedom from financial worries and allowed them to devote more time to their creative practice
  • Half felt that it gave them stimulus to continue their work
  • Four in ten artists said that it enabled them to travel overseas
  • 40 percent said that it helped with marketing and promoting their work

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Grants provide a variety of benefits for early career artists

Australia Council longitudinal research explored the impact of grants for early career artists.

The research design compares those who have received Australia Council grants and those who have not. This allows us to better understand the impact of Australia Council grants, controlling for factors shared between these two groups such as the personal characteristics associated with making an application in the first instance, and any changes over time in the surrounding economic and social circumstances. However, it should be noted that any differences observed over time are likely to be due to both the impact of the grant and the influence of any pre-existing differences between successful and unsuccessful applicants. So that we can be more confident in our assessment of the role of the grants themselves, we ask artists directly about the impact of their grant, as well as observing changes in their career over time.

Overall, direct benefits reported by artists were feeling encouraged to continue as an artist and feeling more confident as an artist. Other notable impacts of Australia Council grants include giving credibility to the work or practice of artists, helping to develop artists’ own practice, and helping artists to develop networks and contacts with other artists.

Three years after receiving the grant artists who received Australia Council grants had made more career progress than artists who did not receive a grant. On average, they spend a greater proportion of time on their creative practice (47 percent compared to 43 percent for non-grant recipients) and report higher total income (average around $38,000 compared to $34,000 for non-recipients) and creative income (average around $14,200 compared to $11,700 for non-recipients).

They were more likely to have a career plan or strategy in place (81 percent had a plan in place compared to 73 percent of non-recipients), to have conducted a range of networking activities, and to do the type of artistic activities that characterise an establishing rather than an emerging artist (80 percent were categorized as an establishing artists compared to 75 percent of non-recipients).

Figure 75 - Comparison of recipients of early career artist grants vs. non-recipients on a variety of measures in year 3

Australia Council grant recipientsNon-recipients of Australia Council grants
Proportion of time spent on creative practice (%)4743
Proportion of income earned from creative work (%)3734
Confidence in future (mean rating out of 10)6.96.4
Artistic fulfilment (mean rating out of 10)6.76.0
Have a plan / strategy in place (%)8173
Been involved in interstate work (%)6144
Been involved in international work (%)4842
Engaged in establishing artist activity in last 12 months (%)8075

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State/territory funding for artists is a key source of financial assistance

Around three in ten practising professional artists received a grant, prize or other funding between 2004 and 2009 (29 percent).

State/Territory agencies were the most applied to source of financial assistance. Additionally, applications to state/territory agencies had the highest success rate, with six in ten applicants receiving funding.

Just over 2 in 10 artists applied for a grant, prize or other funding from Australia Council, but less than half of those were successful (43 percent success rate).

Figure 76 - Sources of financial assistance applied for between 2004 and 2009

Applied (%)Approved (%)Success rate (%)
State / Territory agency261660
Australia Council21943
Arts organisation or company17951
Local government11655
Private foundation10443
Non arts organisation or company5348

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Regularly funded organisations are active in the regions

Regional artists make up about a third of the artist population (31 percent) and are just as likely to apply for financial assistance as metro artists. However, they are less likely to apply to the Australia Council than to state or territory government bodies; and they are less likely to apply to the Australia Council than metro artists (17 percent vs. 23 percent).

One in five Key Organisations between 2008 and 2010 were regionally based, while two thirds of all Key Organisations engaged in some form of regional activity. Just over half of all regional activity was conducted by regionally based organisations (55 percent), but many metro based organisations were also active in the regions (45 percent).

The number of MPA organisations conducting regional activity increased between 2008 and 2010. In fact by 2010, 25 of the 28 MPA organisations engaged in regional activity, accounting for one fifth of all activity conducted between 2009 and 2010.

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Private Sector Support

Private sector support for the arts increased by 59 percent between 2002 and 2010

There was around $221 million in private sector support for the arts in 2009-10. Around $54 million was generated by Major Performing Arts organisations, and $26 million was generated by Key Organisations that received regular funding from the Australia Council.

The annual Australian business arts Foundation (AbaF) survey of arts organisations found that arts organisations increased their sponsorships and donations each year over the period 2001-02 to 2009-10.

Private sector support for the arts reached $221 million in 2009-10, representing an increase of 59 percent since 2001-02 (in 2009-10 value). In 2009-10 it accounted for more than 10 percent of the income of arts organisations.

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Crowdfunding has emerged as a new source of income for the arts

Globally, crowdfunding platforms have seen dramatic increases in funding raised with $2.7 billion raised in 2012 (up from 1.5 billion in 2011) across all categories (including arts).

Kickstarter, one of the key global crowdfunding platforms, has successfully funded over 20,000 arts-related projects, which raised over $100 million in support.[1]

Pozible, an Australian crowdfunding platform, had an average success rate of 56 percent in 2012, up from 45 percent in 2011. As of February 2013, the platform has helped funnel a total of AUD$8 million across 1,300 successful projects since it was established in May 2010. While this funding was across all categories, some of the most popular categories have been film, performance, art and music.


[1] Within the categories of music, dance, theatre, art and publishing. Kickstarter 2013, ‘Kickstarter facts

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Private sector support is not generated evenly across the sector, and there is room to build the capacity of some organisations

Some organisations generate much higher levels of support than others.

For instance, visual arts organisations lead the sector in generating private sector support, due to the high level of earnings by some galleries and festivals. Art galleries earned 24 percent of the $221 million in private sector support generated by the arts in 2009-10.

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Arts organisations invest significant resources in sponsorship and philanthropy and generate an estimated return of $2 for every $1 invested in fundraising

Organisations invest significant amounts in their fundraising capabilities to generate private sector support.

Whilst only limited data is available it appears that arts organisations may be working harder to secure private sector support. Since 2008, participating Key Organisations reported an increased number of sponsorships and donations, but the average value of those donations has fallen.

Research found that arts organisations earned over $2 for every $1 spent on fundraising. The research also correlated board commitment with fundraising income, confirming the case for investment in the capacity of arts organisations fundraising functions.

In our 2012 survey of board performance, arts leaders identified fundraising and philanthropy as the main area they require more support and expertise.

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Private giving has overtaken corporate sponsorships since the economic downturn of 2008

Looking across the sector, arts organisations are now earning more from philanthropic donations than from sponsorships since the economic downturn.

In 2009-10, corporate sponsorships represented 58 percent of total private sector support, whereas in 2001-02, they represented 44 percent. Over the same period, donations grew from 42 percent in 2001-02 to 56 percent in 2009-10.

Similarly, AMPAG reports that the Major Performing Arts organisations receive 49 percent of total private sector support from private giving, 47 percent from sponsorships and 4 percent from fundraising events in 2012. Private giving has increased from around $10 million in 2001 to $31 million in 2012 (in real terms).

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