Media Release

Indigenous culture, performing arts and emerging technologies keys to strengthening creative industries in WA

ContactsJoanna Holcombe, Industry Engagement Coordinator
Published24 September 2021

— WA’s creative economy lagging behind the rest of the country —
— WA arts sector has withstood the impact of COVID-19 better than eastern states —

Released today by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, the Creativity at the Crossroads? The creative industries in Western Australia report has found Indigenous art and culture, emerging digital technologies and a thriving and resilient local music scene could help revive Western Australia’s creative economy, which lags well behind the rest of the country.

Co-author Professor Michael Dockery, Principal Research Fellow at Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, said the report identified these three outlets as areas of strategic potential for a reboot of the creative industries in WA.

“There are opportunities in artistic and cultural work based on the Aboriginal cultures with traditional lands covering the state and the fact that a relatively high proportion of Indigenous Western Australians work in arts and cultural occupations,” Professor Dockery said.

“Coupled with the known benefits to Indigenous peoples of engagement with their traditional cultures, and strong alignment with regional tourism, creative industries based around Indigenous culture offer promising opportunities for economic development in regional and remote WA.”

Professor Dockery said another area with great potential to boost the creative economy was the music and performing arts industry, building on past successes and evidence of successful creative hubs within the Perth metropolitan area, notably around Fremantle.

“Also important is creative activity and innovation that capitalises on emerging digital technologies, which are transforming the nature of creative production and consumption, generating new genres such as gaming, and ICT-based work and are a major driver of growth in the creative industries,” Professor Dockery said.

“The creative enterprises and creative workers represent a resource with great potential for diversifying and growing the WA economy, and simultaneously enhancing the quality of life of Western Australians.

“Our report finds creative industries in WA at a significant crossroads. Demand for creative input is growing rapidly, and there is strong consumer demand for culture and the arts in this state. In terms of employment and output, however, WA lags behind the nation almost across the spectrum of creative industries. Add into the mix the challenges and opportunities created by COVID-19, and the coming years could be decisive in determining whether WA develops its own niche within the creative industries.”

Report co-author Dr Silvia Salazar, Research Fellow at Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, said the report also found the arts and cultural sectors of the WA economy underperformed despite Western Australians being enthusiastic consumers, on par with other Australians in terms of active participation.

“In WA, the wealthy, young and more educated are more likely to engage in arts and culture, with cinemas and live music the most popular formats. Women are more likely to attend cultural venues, such as museums and art galleries, but there is little difference in attendance rates by gender for live performance events,” Dr Salazar said.

“Within the Perth metropolitan area, the major barrier to attending arts and cultural events is ticket prices, while in the regions where distance is the key barrier, attendance rates are much lower.
The research found that audiences were optimistic about returning to the arts, despite COVID-19 inflicting substantial negative demand shocks as a result of stringent restrictions and lockdowns in Western Australia.

“COVID-19 has had a major impact on artists and audiences, most notably for live performances. However, WA has weathered the pandemic far better than the eastern states and our analysis suggests border closures have created opportunities for some local artists in the absence of interstate and international performers,” Dr Salazar said.

“We also found vaccinations against COVID-19 are expected to be an important factor contributing to recovery for the arts and culture industry. While there are some worrying signs of growing vaccine hesitancy recently, in general audiences have a high degree of optimism for a return to normal engagement with the sector.”

Dr Salazar said among the report’s other findings was that the relatively small industry of jewellery and silverware manufacturing in WA had a comparatively high output compared to other states.

“Music and sound recording activities, and creative and performing arts, are among those creative industries in WA with employment at least as strong as the rest of Australia as a whole, with opportunities for further expansion,” Dr Salazar said.

“Investment in WA’s creative industries provides opportunities to generate increased economic value and will contribute to the economic diversification of the state by complementing other industry sectors such as tourism.

“However, investment decisions should also be motivated by the positive social benefits that the creative sector can offer and its scope to improve the quality of life of Western Australians.”

Key findings:

  • Our estimates suggest WA’s creative industries generate gross economic value of between $5.8 billion and $7.3 billion.
  • Only 2.5 per cent of WA’s workers are employed in the creative industries sector, compared to a national share of 3.8 per cent.
  • Jobs in the creative industries in Australia grew by 27.8 per cent between 2006 and 2016, compared to overall jobs growth of 17.4 per cent
  • Computer system design and related services accounted for over half of the growth in the creative industries, expanding by 57,000 jobs nationally over the last decade.
  • Nationally, there has been a marked shift from print to digital platforms as mediums for accessing creative output.
  • Creatively intensive industries have seen above average rates of employment growth – professional photographic services leading with an 83 per cent increase.
  • Nationally, employment in creative occupations grew at almost twice the pace of overall employment growth.
  • Perth has on average 1.6 times as many workers in the creative arts industry as the average of Australia.
  • In WA, workers in the creative occupations are twice as likely to hold a university degree or higher qualification than all employed workers.
  • ICT has the smallest proportion of women, at less than 20 per cent, compared to other sub-groups which have an almost equal distribution between men and women.
  • Over a third of art and cultural workers are self-employed, compared to the WA norm of less than 10 per cent.
  • The average annual incomes of workers in the traditional arts industries is around $20,000 below the population average.
  • The income gap between men and women seems to be negligible in the more traditional arts industries.
  • Around eight in ten West Australians attend at least one cultural venue or event each year, with two thirds attending live events.
  • The majority of Western Australians report that arts and culture has a large impact on their health and wellbeing, creative thinking, and ability to express themselves.
  • Attendance at performing arts has a significant association with better mental health. Relative to the average index of mental health, the results show that attendance at performing arts improves mental health by about 1.5%.
  • In recent years, WA government funding in culture and the arts has been higher than the national average on a per capital basis.
  • Region wise, apart from the CBD, Fremantle has the highest overall related density on average for all creative arts categories, followed by Melville, Stirling, Cottesloe, Claremont and Joondalup.