The links between Indigenous culture and the wellbeing of Indigenous people are the focus of much attention in a variety of settings. There is interest in better understanding the importance of cultural and sporting activities to Indigenous communities, and whether and what support is needed to facilitate these activities within Indigenous communities. Indigenous arts are seen by many Indigenous people as being an important vehicle for personal development, regeneration and healing, and as having a uniting influence on communities. There is interest in understanding the role played by the arts in reaffirming identity, articulating social issues and sustaining cultural traditions, and also in quantifying the economic value arts activities represent for communities. The social and economic value of sports to Indigenous communities is also an area of interest. For example, as well as having physical health benefits, sport and physical activity may improve community self esteem and cohesion and reduce problems such as crime. There are many factors associated with sports that may encourage these outcomes, including the community interaction and focus afforded by regular sporting matches and carnivals, and the fact that Indigenous sporting achievers may provide positive role models for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
There is also a need to monitor the extent to which Indigenous people share in the benefits of Australian culture and whether they are disadvantaged in terms of access to culture and leisure opportunities. These are significant issues partly because some of Australia's key national cultural symbols derive from Indigenous culture representations.
Culture and leisure activities are seen to have a range of benefits particularly important for younger people, including the ability to foster self-esteem, improve communication and encourage social participation. Arts education is seen as essential to an 'all-round' education, purportedly promoting conceptual skills and improving problem-solving abilities. Sporting involvement is similarly seen as important to socialisation, and is central to physical development early in the life cycle. Culture and leisure are therefore seen to impact positively on pathologies evident in some of the young population, especially obesity, depression, suicide, criminal activity and drug abuse.
PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY OR ILLNESS
The physical and psychological regenerative benefits of leisure and cultural activities for clinical populations are well-documented in culture and leisure research. These benefits and the empowerment that can be developed through culture and leisure activities are considered particularly beneficial to people with a disability. Thus any difficulties experienced by people with a disability in accessing culture and leisure activity are of interest. People with disabilities may be restricted in the kinds of leisure activities they can choose to undertake. Information on the extent and nature of participation of people with a disability in culture and leisure activity can usefully inform policy in this area.4
There is interest in minimising access barriers to culture and leisure participation for immigrants and people from non-English speaking backgrounds. Information is needed to direct programs and policies aimed at supporting recently arrived immigrants in particular to retain links to their cultural background and sustain the cultural traditions of the country they have left while at the same time providing them with opportunities to engage in and learn about the cultures of Australia. Other issues for people from non-English speaking backgrounds include their representation in mainstream culture, such as theatre, television and film. This group have been found to be under-represented, and, when represented, their roles can be tokenistic or based on ethnic stereotyping.