Indigenous Culture - Participation - Overview
Tag : indigenous

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.


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.


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.


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


Number of songwriters, composers and musicians - Creation - Music

600 Indigenous Australian composers are generating royalty income from a musical work

In the 2011 Census, 80 Indigenous Australians indicated their main occupation was a ‘Music Professional’.

Indigenous membership of APRA is somewhat higher – estimated at 875 members in August 2012. APRA estimated that around 609 Indigenous songwriter members had generated royalty income from a musical work since 2000.







Performing industry - Industry - Music

Performances by Indigenous artists are held in a minority of licensed live music venues

Analysis of APRA licensing returns suggests that performances by Indigenous artists were held in almost 30 percent of hotels and clubs during 2004-05.

The proportion of venues with Indigenous performances also varies from state to state. Over the three years to 2006, APRA returns show that 37 percent of venues in NSW held performances by Indigenous artists, compared with less than 1 percent of venues in Tasmania.






Income and career development - Creation - Visual Arts

Arts and craft are the primary creative activity for Indigenous Australians, but main-job employment has declined

Indigenous ‘arts and craft’ are important forms of creative expression for Indigenous Australians, with 17 percent of those aged 15 and over (almost 56,600) estimated to participate in 2008. The 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) also found that 5.7 percent of Indigenous Australians (15,950 people) received payment for making Indigenous ‘arts or craft’.

However, only 524 Indigenous Australians were employed in visual arts and craft activities as their main job according to the 2011 Census. These artists were more likely to be employed as painters.

This figure is lower than that found in the 2006 Census, when 676 Indigenous people were employed in visual arts and craft occupations as their main job.

In 2001, 26 percent of Indigenous communities had access to an arts or cultural centre, relative to 65 percent who had access to a sporting facility.


Public galleries - Industry - Visual Arts

Commercial art galleries manage over 16,000 relationships with visual artists

The ABS estimated that there were 514 commercial art galleries operating in Australia during 1999-2000. This included 31 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) art centres and 483 other commercial art galleries.

These galleries provided over 16,000 on-going ‘representations’ for visual artists.[1] The average number of artists represented by ATSI art centres was 93, compared to 29 artists for other commercial art galleries.

In 1999–2000, commercial art gallery businesses had total sales of artworks of $218 million. Two thirds of this ($145 million) related to commission income from the sale of works on behalf of others.  One third related to sales of works owned by the gallery.

Represented artists shared in over $100m in commission income generated through the sale of their artwork by commercial galleries in that year. That is equivalent to over $6,000 per represented artist.

The ABS reports that in 2007-08 commercial art galleries charged a higher average commission for the sale of Indigenous visual artworks (40 per cent), compared to the work of non-Indigenous Australian visual artists (29 percent) and those from overseas (17 percent) in 1999-2000.

[1]   Artists represented on an ongoing basis are defined as the number of artists who have an agreement with a commercial art gallery to represent them by regularly displaying or promoting the sale of their artworks. This figure includes double counting as a commercial art gallery could represent more than one visual artist. As such it is not a representation of the total visual artist population.


Secondary market - Industry - Visual Arts

Sales of works at auction reached $95 million in 2012 – around five times the market in 1991

Auction sales of visual art works in Australia reached around $95 million in 2012. These sales are understood to relate mainly to the secondary market, in which artworks are resold, and include contemporary and heritage works.[1]

Sales at auction have experienced strong growth since the 1980s – peaking at $175 million in 2007. Since 2007, total sales have fluctuated between $88 million and $115 million annually, and they remain more than 5 times the size of the market in 1991.

Australian auction turnover includes sales of works by non-Indigenous Australian artists (83 percent), Australian Indigenous artists (8 percent), and overseas artists (9 percent).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art sales have stabilised around $8.2 million, after four consecutive year of decline.  Sales remain well below the record total of $26.4 million set in 2007.

[1]   The primary market is made up of works being sold for the first time – usually in a commercial gallery.


Sales of Indigenous visual arts and craft has decreased since the Global Financial Crisis, after several decades of growth

The visual arts sector provides a significant source of income for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, particularly for those living in remote areas where employment opportunities are limited.

Figures compiled by the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) suggest that the sector experienced strong growth over 1979–2007. However, since 2007, there has been a decline in the average revenue generated by Indigenous visual arts organisations, including remote arts centres.

Based on a review of financial reports lodged by the 101 corporations registered as making and selling Indigenous art, ORIC reports that between 2007-08 and 2010-11 the average revenue[1] generated by Indigenous visual arts organisations fell by 52 percent from almost $390,000 to $186,000 per organisation.

Whilst there is no conclusive information about the number of art centres, ORIC reports that this period saw a gradual decrease in the proportion of Indigenous organisations generating more than $500,000 in art sales revenue and an increase over time in the number earning no revenue at all.

Auction sales figures confirm that the total revenue generated through the public auction of Indigenous art fell 69 percent from $26.5 million in 2007 to just over $8 million in 2012 – a more marked decline than that experienced by other Australian art.

Declining sales in this area may be linked with the strong performance of the Australian dollar since 2009-10, which has affected the buying power of overseas visitors.

[1] Revenue from art sales refers to the amount directly generated from the sale of artworks, before expenses are taken into consideration.