Regional Arts Australia calls on ABS to keep counting creativity and culture

GUDIRR GUDIRR produced by Stalker TheatreThe President of Regional Arts Australia, Dennis Goldner, has expressed concern that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will discontinue its work in the area of creative and cultural activity in Australia.

“According to data released by the ABS in 2014, the contribution by the cultural and creative sector to Australia’s economy is more than double that of agriculture, forestry and mining,” Mr Goldner said.

In his media statement of 5 June 2014, the acting Australian Statistician, Jonathan Palmer released a revised ABS work program which proposes to discontinue examination of Culture, Sport and Recreation statistics.

“There is growing alarm throughout the arts and culture sector,” Mr Goldner said. “We also believe this move undermines the work of the Meeting of Cultural Ministers (MCM) and their national cultural data collection, research and analysis.”

“Arts and culture, as an industry, plays a major role in the national economy and it demands appropriate scrutiny,” Mr Goldner said. “The continued growth and wellbeing of cultural and creative activity aligns with Australia’s economic interests, but it is also central in promoting Australia as a clever country.”

From the ABS’ recent statement, it appears that the ABS has singled out Culture, Sport and Recreation statistics. It has not indicated an intention to reduce its examination of any other specific area of economic activity.

“The arts is big business. It is difficult to imagine the ABS discontinuing statistical work in health, education and retail trade, yet by its own statistics, these areas have a smaller Gross Value Add than cultural and creative activity,” Mr Goldner said.

“The data collected by the ABS is essential in understanding and resourcing the not-for profit arts sector in Australian today. We urge the ABS to maintain this vital part of its program.”

In February 2014, the ABS released data highlighting the national significance of cultural and creative industries. It estimated that in 2008 – 2009 cultural and creative activity provided a Gross Value Add (GVA) of $86.0 billion (6.9%) to Australia’s economy. This places cultural and creative activity squarely among the mainstream elements of Australia’s economic activity.

Cultural and creative activity outranked retail trade ($57 billion – 4.9%) and education and training ($53 billion – 4.6%) and more than doubled the contribution of agriculture, forestry and mining ($29 billion – 2.5%).

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Image: Gudirr Gudirr – produced by Stalker Theatre