Australian cultural funding, by artform category

As promsied, this week I’m looking at the fine print of Australian cultural funding.

Today I’m looking at funding by artform category. As you can see from the graph below, the big ticket items are parks and environment funding, public broadcasters, libraries and art galleries.


Australian cultural funding by artform category, 2007-08, all levels of Australian government, operational figures only (excludes capital funding). Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics data, collated by myself.

You can get a bigger jpeg of the graph above by clicking through on the image (it’s a link to a bigger file).

Here is the data table for the graph, which helps you understand the breakdown.

Environmental heritage $1280.3m
Radio and television services $1279m
Libraries $921m
Other arts $411.5m
Art museums $235.8m
Film and video production and distribution $198.1m
Other museums and cultural heritage $192.7m
Archives $147.9m
Music performance $76.8m
Visual arts and crafts $59m
Drama $55.1m
Dance $51.1m
Other performing arts $43.1m
Performing arts venues $38.3m
Literature and print media $35.3m
Music theatre and opera $25.5m
Multimedia $10m
Design $2.4m
Music composition and publishing $2.2m

A few notes on definitions: I’ve collated this data from the publication Cultural Funding by Government 2007-08 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. (I’ve used operational funding only, ignoring capital funding for this purposes of this exercise.) Being the ABS, it has collected this data from various state, territory and local governments, as well as Canberra. As such, the data is what has been provided to the ABS. The very large figure for “Other arts” reflects this problem: it is principally made up of a big figure from local government sources that obviously weren’t able to break their figures down for the ABS survey. In addition to this, some of the states and territories have classified their “Other arts” slightly differently. And, of course, none of this even gets into the conceptual difficulties of classifying converging, hybrid or cross-over artworks (for instance, is a program to fund VJs at a rock festival visual art, is it multimedia, or is it musical performance?).

Some of the categories are not immediately obvious. “Radio and television services” basically means the ABC and SBS. “Film and video production and distribution” is largely made up of Screen Australia and the various state film funding bodies. The ABS doesn’t really explain what “Archives” consist of – for instance, is the National Film and Sound Archive part of this category? I’m assuming so, but I don’t really know.

Further more, and this is quite interesting, the ABS states that

Funding by government for major institutions which specialise in education of a cultural nature, such as the National Academy of Music, the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), the Australian Ballet School and the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) has been included. Funding for special libraries (e.g. Parliamentary libraries), libraries in higher education institutions and schools is excluded.

I’m not sure I really understand this one – while most of us would agree that NIDA and AFTRS are pretty cultural places, the Parliamentary Library is also nothing if not a cultural institution, and in fact does a rather good job of researching Australian cultural and media policy.

But, as you can see, the big dollars are going to the big public sector cultural organisations: parks and wildlife departments, public broadcasters, libraries, museums and art galleries. Another point worth making is that the entire Australia Council budget is only $175 million out of this total figure of more than $5 billion – more than half of which goes to 29 major performing arts organisations. We can infer that relatively little funding goes to ordinary working artists – something I’ll have a look at later this week. I’ll also attempt to match these funding figures to some of the other cultural data the ABS provides.


4 thoughts on “Australian cultural funding, by artform category

  1. This is really interesting Ben. Do you know the background as to why environment/heritage is included under ‘cultural’ funding? Seems to me if you’re going to lump that in, you’d do the same with sport?

  2. Hey Emily!

    yeah there is no “good” reason. We’d have to ask the ABS. One possible reason, I suggest, is that arts shares a portfolio with heritage federally, and also that many natural history museums and parklands are funded through state cultural agencies.

    Sport, perhaps ironically because of its very cultural importance in Australian society, is typically housed in different portfolios to arts, unlike in Britain, which has a Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

  3. If I recall correctly, the mix of areas the ABS counts in their stats on cultural and arts funding has included the parks and heritage cluster for many years. The shift in the portfolio mix should not impact on this. Although, it is interesting to see how the portfolio mix does play a role in policy – the communications & arts mix that occurred while Creative Nation was being developed seemed to have played quite a role in the final complexion of that policy. It’s also worth noting that the cultural industries focus has occurred while arts has been within the communications portfolio context … perhaps the new portfolio mix will also have an impact. Peter Anderson

  4. Pingback: The Dame Joan Effect – Culture Mulcher

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