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Newsletters - National Centre for Culture and Recreation Statistics (NCCRS) - July 2004



In our last newsletter, we highlighted the rich data source now available from the 2002 General Social Survey, which includes data relating to adult participation in sport, attendance at cultural venues and events, and attendance at sporting events. Early this year data relating to children's participation in culture, sport and leisure activities was released from a survey conducted in April 2003 - a few highlights are provided in this newsletter.

While these surveys meet a variety of research needs, there has been particular interest in this data to inform health-related debates about physical activity in the population. Data from the children's survey have been utilised in the context of debate regarding concerns about obesity among children. Governments at all levels appear to be continuing to focus some considerable effort on policies which aim to increase participation in sport and physical activity, for both children and adults. Due to this increasing interest, and with the support of the Standing Committee on Recreation and Sport and their Research Group subcommittee, NCCRS is currently undertaking more analysis of the ABS surveys of sport participation, for both children and adults, in an effort to understand the characteristics of those who do not participate, and those who participate at very low levels. Results will be available later this year, with a summary to be provided in our next newsletter. These analyses will also inform the development of the next ABS survey of adult sport participation, to be included on the Multi-Purpose Household Survey in 2005-06, which will collect more detailed data about reasons for non-participation.

As described toward the end of this newsletter, NCCRS recently embarked on a tour of each capital city to raise awareness of cultural statistics. In the course of these seminars we also learnt from participants about their research needs, and indeed, about some of their independent research activities, with participants expressing a need to share more information about their research activity. Some even advocated for statistical standards to be developed to ensure consistent collection across different agencies (music to any statistician's ears!). With the support of the Cultural Ministers Council Statistics Working Group, NCCRS are embarking on a project to develop an inventory of cultural research, which will initially focus on the data collected by key cultural institutions. We hope this project will assist agencies to share information, and ultimately lead to better co-ordination of statistical activity, but of course, this will require the support and co-operation of those agencies involved - there are some good signs that this co-operation will be forthcoming.

As always, we welcome comments and feedback on any of our publications and reports, and we are keen to hear from you about your culture and recreation research needs.

Lisa Conolly
Acting Director


In April 2003, the Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted a national survey to gather information on various cultural and leisure activities undertaken by children aged 5-14 years. The survey collected data on children's participation in four selected organised cultural activities (playing a musical instrument, singing, dancing and drama); organised sport; six leisure activities (TV and video watching, reading for pleasure, playing electronic or computer games, bike riding, art and craft activities, and skateboarding or rollerblading); and computer and Internet usage. Results were published in Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, Australia, April 2003

Children's participation in organised cultural activities

The survey found that 29% of children aged 5-14 years (780,400 children) were involved in at least one of the four selected organised cultural activities outside of school hours in the 12 months to April 2003 . Playing a musical instrument was the most popular of the selected cultural activities (17%), followed by dancing (12%), singing (5%) and drama (4%). Girls were more than twice as likely as boys (43% compared with 17%) to participate in at least one of these activities.

Children's participation in organised sport

About 1.6 million children aged 5-14 years (62%) participated outside of school hours in sport that had been organised by a school, club or association in the 12 months to April 2003. Across all ages boys were more likely to participate than girls, and the total participation rate was 69% for boys and 54% for girls.

The most popular organised sport for children was swimming with a participation rate of 17%, followed by outdoor soccer (13%). The organised sports that attracted most boys were outdoor soccer (with a participation rate for boys of 22%), swimming (16%), and Australian Rules football (14%). For girls, the sports with the highest participation rates were netball (18%), swimming (17%), and tennis (8%). Dancing was an organised cultural (and physical) activity with a higher participation rate for girls (24%) than any organised sport.

Children's participation in selected leisure activities

The survey found that almost all children aged 5-14 years (99.8% or 2,641,500) were involved in at least one of the six selected leisure activities outside of school hours in the two school weeks prior to interview in April 2003.

While TV or video watching attracted almost equal percentages of boys (99%) and girls (98%), a much greater percentage of boys played electronic or computer games (82% of boys compared with 59% of girls), rode bikes (70% versus 53%), or went skateboarding or rollerblading (28% versus 17%). Girls participated to a much greater extent than boys in reading for pleasure (82% of girls compared with 68% of boys) and art and craft activities (61% versus 39%).

Computer and Internet Activities

More than 2.5 million children (95%) used a computer and almost 1.7 million children (64%) accessed the Internet during or outside school hours in the 12 months to April 2003. No significant difference in usage was evident between boys and girls. Usage of the Internet increased markedly with age, from 21% of children aged 5 years to 90% of children aged 14 years.

Changes in participation since 2000

While the overall level of children's participation in organised cultural activities was relatively static between 2000 and 2003 (29.4% in 2000 versus 29.5% in 2003) marked differences in the participation rates of boys and girls in 2000 became even more pronounced in 2003. While the girls' participation rate increased from 40% to 43% during this period (driven mainly by greater involvement in dancing), the participation rate for boys fell from 20% to 17%, primarily as a result of a decrease in boys playing a musical instrument.

At the same time, the overall number of children involved in organised sport grew by more than 62,000, increasing the participation rate by 2 percentage points to 62%. Participation in organised sports increased for boys (66% in 2000 to 69% in 2003), but there was no statistically significant change for girls. The organised sport with the highest participation rate in both 2000 and 2003 was swimming, which attracted an additional 59,000 participants during this period. Of the 12 sports with the highest participation rates, the one to suffer the largest decrease in participation was rugby league, with 18,000 fewer children involved in 2003 than in 2000.

The most significant changes in participation in the selected leisure activities were an 8 percentage point decrease in children who skateboarded or rollerbladed and a 5 percentage point increase in children who did art and craft activities.

There was a substantial shift in the way that children used computers during this period, with the overall proportion of children accessing the "Net" growing by 17 percentage points to 64%. Of those children who had accessed the Internet during or outside school hours during the 12 months prior to interview, the proportion who had accessed it at a computer in their own home increased by 23 percentage points to 79%.


The 2002 National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), released in June 2004, provides an update on information about cultural participation and language characteristics that was collected when the original survey was conducted in 1994.

On the cultural front, the 2002 NATSISS showed little change from the 1994 survey. Just over half of Indigenous people continued to identify with a clan, tribal or language group, as was the case in 1994, despite there being a decline in the percentage (29% to 22%) of people who lived in homelands and traditional country. Almost seven out of ten Indigenous people aged 15 years or over had attended cultural events in the previous 12 months, similar to the situation in 1994. 'Cultural events' encompassed funerals; ceremonies; festivals or carnivals involving art, craft, music, dance or sport; and involvement with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander organisation. In 2002, use of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language as the main language spoken at home remained at 1994 levels (about one in eight Indigenous people). For each of these measures of cultural attachment, higher rates were reported in remote areas.

The 2002 NATSISS also provided data on participation in sport or physical recreation activities, an area where locality made little difference to the results. In all, 49% of Indigenous people participated in sport or physical recreation in the preceding 12 months, with significantly more men than women involved (57% versus 42%). The level of Indigenous participation in sport or physical recreation activities declined steadily with age for both men and women.

The main features of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, Australia, 2002 are freely available on the ABS Web site.


For several years, libraries, museums and cultural policy makers have been working on increasing access to information through the use of the Internet. However, concerns are often expressed about the extent to which all Australians have access to this information.

In 2001, questions about computer and Internet use were included in an Australian census for the first time, providing the first real opportunity to analyse Information Technology (IT) use by region and to consider how social and economic factors affect IT use without sample size constraints.

The "first fruits" of this analysis, Australia Online: How Australians are using computers and the Internet (ABS cat no 2056.0; $34.00), makes for fascinating reading. For example, it reveals that in the week prior to the 2001 census, 42% of Australians or 7.88 million people used a computer at home, while 37% (6.97 million people) used the Internet at home, work or elsewhere. These people are described as falling on the 'right' (as opposed to wrong) side of the 'digital divide' and the authors of Australia Online, who are researchers in the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling at the University of Canberra, use various analysis techniques to identify which social, demographic, economic or geographic factors are the most significant in determining which side of the 'divide' we inhabit.

The census data shows that use of these technologies:

  • increases with income;
  • increases with higher educational qualifications;
  • is significantly more likely in families with dependent children;
  • is less common among older Australians, especially women; and
  • is high among students and people employed in professional occupations.

In Australia, there is particular interest in whether rural and regional Australians are disadvantaged in access to and use of communication technologies. Recent studies have differed on the extent to which participation in the 'knowledge economy' is determined by location, as well as social and economic circumstances. This report finds that there is greater inequality of Internet use by region than there is inequality of home computer use, and that while there is a gap in Internet use between metropolitan and rural areas, rural residents are more likely to use the Internet and computers than those in small- to medium-sized towns.


Interest in social capital has grown strongly over the last decade, yet there is no internationally agreed framework of what constitutes social capital, how it accumulates in society, the impacts on communities and individuals, nor how to measure all of the above. Since late 2001, the ABS has been researching these issues, and holding workshops and meetings around Australia to gauge the level of interest in measuring social capital and to determine the associated information needs. Earlier this year, the ABS released an information paper that describes a broad conceptual framework for statistics on social capital and a set of possible indicators for measuring aspects of social capital. This information paper, Measuring Social Capital, An Australian Framework and Indicators is freely available on the ABS web site. Suggestions and comments on the publication are invited, and should be sent to the Assistant Director of Community Statistics, whose address is provided in the preface of the information paper. Some of the indicators are already being collected as part of the ABS's General Social Survey. The ABS has now commenced work on developing measures of additional indicators to be included as a supplement to the 2005-06 General Social Survey.


Over the past 13 years, the NCCRS has been collecting and disseminating a wide range of statistics on culture and recreation activity in Australia. While these activities are a major focus of the Centre, equally important is promoting the existence of statistics and standards for the collection and analysis of data. At the request of the Cultural Ministers Council Statistics Working Group (CMC SWG), the NCCRS has recently visited each State and Territory, presenting seminars to inform cultural sector representatives about developments in relation to cultural statistics and the availability of specific data sources and resources. The seminars attracted around 300 people from a variety of organisations including government departments, cultural organisations and tertiary institutions.

As an adjunct to providing information, the NCCRS was also keen to find out the data needs of attendees to assist in the development of a national research agenda to improve the quality, coverage and use of culture-related information across Australia. Through a series of focus groups, the NCCRS collected information on the issues of importance to the cultural sector and, in particular, any known gaps in available statistics which are required to support cultural policy, planning and accountability. Common data gaps mentioned were generally in relation to:

  • Economic and social impacts of the arts;
  • Cultural tourism;
  • Digital content and use of new technologies; and
  • Regional statistics.


Email: <>

Culture Topics: Chris Giddings on (08) 8237 7326

Sport Topics: Colin Speechley on (08) 8237 7363

Director: Lisa Conolly on (08) 8237 7402

Fax: (08) 8237 7366


National Centre for Culture and Recreation Statistics
Australian Bureau of Statistics
GPO Box 2272

ABS Internet site: <>

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