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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1999  
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Contents >> Culture & Leisure >> Culture & the Arts: Interests in the arts & cultural activities

Culture & the Arts: Interests in the arts & cultural activities

In the 12 months to March 1995, around 11.7 million people (83% of all people aged 15 years and over) had attended at least one cultural venue or activity. Attendance was generally higher for women, and lower for people aged 65 and over.

The arts in Australia reflect the diverse cultural identity of its people. Information about the arts and people's involvement in cultural activities is fundamental to developing an appreciation of our culture and the impact it has in both social and economic terms. People can be involved in cultural activities in several ways - for example, by attending performances or venues, or as a performer, artist or other worker in the field. This article focuses on patterns of patronage for the arts, numbers of people working in cultural jobs and those training to be artists. It then looks at people's attitudes to the arts.


The arts and cultural activities

The information presented in this review concerning levels of attendance at cultural and leisure venues comes from the Survey of Attendance at Selected Culture/Leisure Venues, conducted in March 1995 as a supplement to the Monthly Population Survey (MPS). The survey provided data for people aged 15 and over in private and non-private dwellings.

The information concerning public attitudes to the arts comes from a set of questions included in the November 1997 Population Survey Monitor (PSM). The PSM is a quarterly household survey of people aged 18 years and over from approximately 3,000 households, and covers rural and urban areas across all States and Territories.

ATTENDANCE(a) AT CULTURAL VENUES, 1995

Attendance rate
Total attending


Males
Females
Capital city
Rest of State
Persons
Persons
%
%
%
%
%
'000

Cinema
58.8
65.2
67.0
54.1
62.1
8,733.8
Botanic garden
35.5
41.3
42.9
31.2
38.5
5,410.5
Library
32.2
44.4
. .
. .
38.4
5,403.1
Animal or marine park
32.8
37.7
38.3
30.4
35.3
4,966.0
Museum
27.0
28.5
28.7
26.1
27.8
3,905.6
Popular music concert
26.9
27.0
27.6
25.8
26.9
3,790.7
Art gallery
19.0
25.4
23.6
20.1
22.3
3,134.1
Opera or music theatre
14.7
23.8
22.1
14.8
19.3
2,722.1
Other performing arts
17.5
19.9
17.9
20.1
18.7
2,634.4
Theatre
13.1
20.0
17.8
14.7
16.6
2,336.3
Dance
7.4
12.5
11.1
8.2
10.0
1,407.5
Classical music concert
6.3
9.0
8.8
5.8
7.7
1,081.3

(a) Attendances are for those aged 15 years or over.

Source: Attendance at Selected Cultural Venues, March 1995 (cat. no. 4114.0).


Numbers attending
Cultural activities contribute to the quality of life, and take many forms. They can range from taking a stroll through a botanical garden to watching an opera or ballet performance.

Around 11.7 million people (83% of all people aged 15 years and over) had been to at least one of the cultural venues and activities included in the supplementary questions in the Monthly Population Survey referring to the 12 months to March 1995. The most popular cultural venue was the cinema, with 8.7 million people (62% of the population) having gone to the cinema in the 12-month reference period. Other venues which were popular included botanical gardens, which had been visited by 39% of the population, libraries (38%) and animal and marine parks (35%).

ATTENDANCE RATES AT CULTURAL VENUES BY AGE, 1995

Age group (years)

15-17
18-24
25-34
35-44
45-54
55-64
65+
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Cinema
89.7
86.1
73.0
67.3
56.9
41.8
28.9
Botanic garden
39.1
42.7
41.5
41.4
39.0
36.0
27.8
Library
54.9
41.2
37.2
44.8
36.6
31.3
30.2
Animal or marine park
40.3
41.7
46.7
41.7
30.5
26.8
15.5
Museum
33.1
26.5
29.5
34.6
29.3
25.6
16.0
Popular music concert
36.1
48.7
34.5
26.9
22.5
14.4
7.5
Art gallery
24.9
22.6
21.3
23.7
26.8
23.3
15.2
Opera or music theatre
19.6
19.7
17.8
19.5
24.7
20.2
14.6
Other performing arts
22.3
25.8
25.2
21.7
15.8
11.2
7.1
Theatre
26.5
17.8
18.0
17.7
18.2
14.4
8.7
Dance
12.5
11.1
9.9
11.7
11.5
8.1
5.8
Classical music concert
5.6
6.2
6.4
8.1
10.5
9.4
6.9

Source: Attendance at Selected Cultural Venues, March 1995 (cat. no. 4114.0).


Attendance rates
For each type of cultural venue identified in the 1995 survey, women had a higher attendance rate than men. The difference was most marked for libraries (44% of women had been to a library compared with 32% of men) and opera and music theatre (24% and 15% respectively).

Attendance rates for people living in capital cities were higher than those living elsewhere for each of the venues (except those included in the category 'other performing arts', which were not separately identified). To some extent, these differences would arise because some venues are more accessible to people living in capital cities. For example, most zoos and major botanical gardens are located in the capital cities. Similarly, performances such as operas and musicals may be staged only in capital cities.

The slightly higher attendance rate of people living outside the capital cities at other performing arts (20%, compared with 18% of those in capital cities) was mainly due to their higher attendance at circuses (11% and 6% respectively).

In general, attendance rates at venues were highest for people in the younger to middle age groups, with persons 65 years and over usually participating at much lower rates than people in other age groups.

People aged 15-17 years had the highest attendance rates at theatre (27%) and the cinema (90%); those aged 18-24 were most likely to attend popular music concerts (49%); and those aged 25-34 had the highest attendance rate at animal and marine parks (47%). This age group contains a substantial number of people with young children.

People aged 35-44 years had the highest attendance rate at museums (35%), possibly because they take their teenage children there (those aged 15-17 also had a high attendance rate, 33%). Older people aged 45-54 years had the highest attendance rates at art galleries (27%), classical music concerts (11%), and opera or music theatre (25%).

Attendance rates also varied according to country of birth. Overseas-born people were more likely to visit a botanical garden (41% compared with 37% for Australian-born people). On the other hand, Australian-born people were more likely to go to cultural activities such as popular music performances (28% compared with 23% for overseas-born people) and the cinema (65% compared with 54%).


Attendances at festivals

According to information collected from the PSM, about 2.9 million Australians (22% of the population aged 18 years and over) attended at least one art and cultural festival in the 12 months prior to September 1996. These people accounted for 4.1 million attendances at festivals, an average of 1.4 attendances per person.

Over half of attendances were at multi-arts festivals (2.7 million attendances), such as the Sydney Festival and Carnivale and the Melbourne International Festival of the Arts. The next most attended was popular music festivals (0.6 million attendances) and film/video festivals (0.3 million attendances). Attendance rates were highest amongst the younger age groups (31% of 18-24 year olds) and declined steadily with age (10% of persons aged 65 years and over).

ATTENDANCE AT FESTIVALS, 1996

Attendance rate

Males
Females
Persons
Age group (years)
%
%
%

18-24
28.5
33.4
30.9
25-34
25.5
25.2
25.3
35-44
21.8
23.6
22.7
45-54
19.6
25.5
22.5
55-64
15.6
19.5
17.5
65 and over
9.4
9.9
9.7
Total
20.8
23.0
21.9

Source: Population Survey Monitor, November 1995 to September 1996, published in Cultural Trends in Australia No. 6: Attendance at Festivals, Australia, Department of Communications and the Arts.

Travelling time
The number and location of cultural venues varies according to the type of venue (for example, cinemas are located in most regions), and travelling time can be an important factor in deciding whether to attend an arts event.

Travel time to the cinema appeared to be the shortest. About 91% of those living in metropolitan areas said they were able to get to a cinema within half an hour; the equivalent figure for rural dwellers was 74%. Performing arts venues were the next most convenient - 61% of metropolitan residents said they could reach their performing arts venue within half an hour, compared with 57% of rural residents.

Art galleries were recorded as the least accessible, with 51% of people in metropolitan areas, and 61% in rural areas living within half an hour of their nearest gallery.

PEOPLE WITH PAID INVOLVEMENTS IN CULTURE/LEISURE ACTIVITIES(a), 1997

Paid involvements(b)
Proportion paid as part of main job
Type of activity
no.
%

Heritage organisations
8,700
55.2*
Museums
10,200
61.8*
Art galleries
12,600
54.0
Botanic gardens
3,700*
64.9*
Animal/marine parks
8,800
52.3*
Writing
213,600
59.7
Publishing
66,000
68.8
Libraries or archives
48,600
82.5
Music
73,800
27.6
Performing arts
37,500
35.7
Art activities
    Drawing
48,600
56.4
    Painting
48,700
42.7
    Sculpture
13,600
52.9
    Photography
43,900
53.3
    Print making
18,900
71.4
    Electronic art
36,100
71.7
    Other art
6,300*
57.1*
Craft activities
    Pottery/ceramics
23,500
51.1
    Textiles
24,800
52.0
    Jewellery
11,500
59.1
    Furniture/wood crafts
44,200
46.4
    Glass crafts
9,000
44.4*
    Other crafts
30,400
43.8
Design
161,700
72.2
Film production
18,700
54.5
Radio
22,900
54.6
Television
36,400
65.9
Teaching cultural activities
176,700
62.1
Fete organising
9,200
54.3*
Festival organising
28,900
50.2
Art/craft show organising
21,500
53.0
Arts organisations/agencies
10,600
56.6*
All persons
877,000
60.0

(a) Persons aged 15 years and over involved at some time in the 12-month period up to March 1997.
(b) As a person can work in more than one activity, the sum of involvements exceeds the total number of persons involved.

Source: Work in Selected Culture/Leisure Activities, Australia, March 1997 (cat. no. 6281.0)


Numbers undertaking cultural work
Excluding involvements undertaken solely as a hobby (some 2.6 million people), the ABS Survey of Work in Selected Culture/Leisure Activities found that in the 12-month period to March 1997, 2.2 million people (15% of all people aged 15 years and over) had undertaken some work in at least one of the culture/leisure activities listed in the table opposite. Many of these people did these activities on a voluntary basis, and often for only a short period of time.

The number of people who received some payment for their work in these activities totalled 877,000 - 523,400 (60%) received payment for work done as part of their main job. This included 127,500 people who had a writing involvement as part of their main job (e.g. a journalist or author) and 116,800 people whose design work was part of their main job (e.g. a graphic, interior or fashion designer). Another 109,800 people taught cultural activities as part of their main job.

Some paid cultural activities were more likely to be associated with a main job than others. Those where a high proportion formed part of a main job included jobs in libraries and archives (83% of involvements were part of a main job), design (72%), electronic art (72%) and print-making (71%). Paid cultural activities that were least likely to be part of a main job included those involved in music (28%) and the performing arts (36%).


People training to be artists

In 1997, there were about 21,000 enrolments in higher education courses in the field of visual and performing arts1 in Australia. Enrolments in visual arts courses dominated, with 13,200 enrolments (62%). Fine arts was the most popular field of study, representing 22% of all enrolments in visual and performing arts, followed by visual arts (general) (16%) and graphic arts and design (15%). There were 6,500 enrolments (31%) in the performing arts, where music was the main activity with 4,200 enrolments (20% of all visual and performing arts enrolments).

In addition, there were close to 40,000 enrolments in 1997 in TAFE and private vocational training colleges in the field of visual and performing arts.2 Graphic arts and design, and fine arts were the most popular courses, representing 17% and 16% of all enrolments in the field respectively.


What is meant by 'the arts'?
'The arts' is an umbrella term, which people interpret differently. The November 1997 Population Survey Monitor, which asked questions about attitudes to the arts, showed that people included different activities in their definition of 'the arts'. When presented with a list of activities, about eight in ten people included more traditional forms of cultural expression such as plays, ballet, opera (81%) and music (80%), while fewer than four in ten (35%) included architecture and design.

Activities included in 'the arts' varied between people in different age groups, and also depended on their level of education. Those with a bachelor degree or higher, and those in the younger and middle age groups (18-34 and 35-54), included a wider range of activities as part of the arts than others.

ACTIVITIES THAT PEOPLE INCLUDED IN 'THE ARTS', 1997

Age group
Level of education


18-34 years
35-54 years
55 years
and over
Bachelor degree
or higher
Other post-school qualification
No post-school qualification
Total
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Plays, ballet, opera
82.4
83.3
75.5
94.9
85.0
74.7
80.9
Architecture, design
42.1
36.6
24.1
54.7
38.0
28.5
35.2
Painting, drawing, sculpture
79.4
80.8
69.2
91.0
80.6
71.8
77.2
Photography
60.7
55.2
41.8
78.2
57.2
45.1
53.5
Literature, books, poetry
67.1
65.3
49.1
91.0
66.3
51.3
61.6
Music (concerts, Orchestra, singing)
79.9
84.3
72.6
97.2
83.7
72.9
79.7
Craft, pottery, weaving
57.6
54.5
48.1
66.6
58.1
48.1
53.9

Persons ('000)
4,627.3
5,187.4
3,566.7
1,649.6
4,797.9
6,934.0
13,381.5

Source: Public Attitudes to the Arts, Australia, November 1997 (cat. no. 4157.0), jointly published with the Australia Council.


The importance of cultural venues in communities
Despite varying opinions about what was considered to be 'the arts', most people thought it was important to have cultural venues in their communities. More than nine in ten (95%) of the population rated libraries as important or very important, and more than seven in ten thought the other venues included in the survey (museums, performing arts venues and art galleries) were either important or very important.

This statement of support came from people whether or not they attended or used these facilities. For example, among those people who had not been to an art gallery in the previous 12 months, 65% rated them as being important or very important in their community, while 92% of those who had not been to a library rated libraries in the same way.

IMPORTANCE OF CULTURAL VENUES(a), 1997

Attended
Did not attend
Total
%
%
%

Libraries
99.7
92.3
95.4
Art galleries
91.1
65.4
71.5
Museums
85.7
74.0
76.6
Performing arts venues
84.6
67.3
76.1

(a) Proportion of people perceiving cultural venues as important or very important.

Source: Public Attitudes to the Arts, Australia, November 1997 (cat. no. 4157.0), jointly published with the Australia Council.


SUPPORT FOR SOME GOVERNMENT FUNDING OF SELECTED CULTURAL FACILITIES(a), 1997
(a) Proportion of people who support some government funding.

Source: Public Attitudes to the Arts, Australia, November 1997 (cat. no 4157.0), jointly published with the Australia Council.

Funding for cultural activities and services
Most people were also in favour of governments providing some financial support for the arts and cultural facilities. Libraries were the most supported of the four services and activities that were identified in the survey. Over 90% of the population believed libraries should receive some government funding, while more than half the population thought live theatre, art galleries and orchestras were also deserving of financial assistance.

Governments support a wide range of cultural activities and venues. For example, zoological and botanic gardens, museums and historic sites along with art galleries and libraries are all supported. Government funding for 'cultural facilities and services' (facilities included are listed in table above) totalled $1,568 million in 1996-97. Of this, approximately 16% ($253 million) was provided by the Commonwealth Government, 48% ($752 million) by the State and Territory governments and 36% ($564 million) by local government. The largest proportion (44%) of government funding for cultural activities and services was directed to libraries. This was followed by museums (14%) and performing arts venues and arts centres (12%).

GOVERNMENT FUNDING FOR CULTURAL FACILITIES AND SERVICES, 1996-97

Level of government funding

Cultural facilities and services
$m
%

Libraries and archives
696.8
44.4
Museums
216.7
13.8
Performing arts venues and arts centres
188.3
12.0
Art galleries
122.9
7.8
Cultural heritage
89.8
5.7
Other performing arts
89.9
5.7
Zoological and botanic gardens
80.4
5.1
Music (excluding opera)
40.2
2.6
Visual arts/crafts and photography
28.7
1.8
Literature and publishing
14.5
0.9
Total
1,568.1
100.0

Source: Cultural Funding, Australia, 1996-97 (cat. no. 4183.0).


Being well-informed about the arts
Most people surveyed in the 1997 PSM believed they were well-informed about sport but many thought they were less informed about the arts. A quarter of the population (25%) felt they were not adequately informed about the arts, whereas only 7% said they were not adequately informed about sport. These opinions varied between men and women. Women were more likely than men to say they were not well-informed about 'the arts' (28% and 21%, respectively). However, a higher proportion of men (22%) than women (14%) said they had no interest in the arts.

The most commonly used sources of information about the arts were newspapers, magazines or books (69%). Television (63%) was used slightly less as a source, and only one third (35%) of the population said that radio was a primary source for information about arts activities.


Endnotes

1. Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs 1997, Higher Education Student Statistics, 1997 (unpublished data) (excludes enrolments in courses such as arts therapy and arts teaching).

2. National Centre for Vocational Education Research Ltd. 1997, Australian Vocational Education Training Statistics, 1997 (unpublished data).



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