Councils ‘ready to step up to help creative arts sector flourish’

Directly funding local government investment in the arts would help grow Australia’s $112 billion creative and cultural economy, ALGA has told a federal parliamentary inquiry.

In a submission to a House of Representative inquiry into Australia’s creative and cultural industries and institutions, ALGA said recognising councils as arts organisations (thereby making them eligible to apply for all government grants programs) would also help ensure a flourishing creative sector.

The submission noted that although the creative industries contribute $112 billion to the national economy (or 6.4 percent of GDP), the sector saw its federal funding decline by 19 percent over the past decade.

By contrast, local government investment in culture and heritage had risen by 11 percent to $1.5 billion during the same time.

The submission noted that the extent and range of local government support for culture and heritage encompasses:

  • local galleries and performing arts centres;
  • libraries;
  • museums and historical societies;
  • festivals and events;
  • place activation strategies; and
  • individual local artists and artist studios as well as arts organisations.

Local governments provide 46 percent of funding to the 406 public galleries and museums partly or wholly subsidised by public money, the submission said.

State governments provide 13 percent, the Australia Council 1 percent, and the federal government less than 1 percent.

Given local government’s share of cultural investment has risen to fill the gap created by Commonwealth parsimony, ALGA said direct funding will “enable co-design of tailored programs at the local level and efficient delivery of integrated strategies that can have long-term and sustainable impacts”.

ALGA said that properly calculating the value of investment in cultural services would help the sector expand, and that “measuring the social and economic benefits generated by local government arts investment should be a focus of research undertaken by the Australia Council for the Arts”.

Several councils and state local government associations contributed facts, figures, and case studies for the submission.