WA’s Regional Arts Sector Readout

Regional Arts WA

WA’s Regional Arts Sector Readout

The Sector Readout is an at-a-glance dashboard for how WA’s regional arts sector is doing, according to publicly available data and some of our own surveys.

Data has been collected on several key measures or “data sets”. Each data set accounts for a valuable piece of the fabric which makes up WA’s regional arts sector. The Readout aims to give regional artists, arts workers, communities, audiences and other stakeholders a better understanding of where the sector’s challenges and successes, offering information which may assist the the sector’s advocacy, learning, and strategic decision making. These data sets will be updated regularly to meet the emergent needs of the sector. To stay informed about any updates to the Readout please subscribe to our eNews.

Below is a brief summary of findings from these data sets. An in-depth look at each data point can be found further down on the page.

If you are viewing this page on a mobile device please note that some graphs may be difficult to read. If you encounter this, it is recommended you turn your phone to landscape view. You can also download the graph as an image file using the icon in the bottom right of the Tableau window. If you have any feedback or questions about the Dashboard please email enews@regionalartswa.org.au.

Figures updated as of January 2020.

1. Artist Income

How much are regional WA artists making for their work?

Those responding to Regional Arts WA’s 2018 Annual Survey were asked in a series of questions to state their incomes for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 financial years, as well as the portion of these incomes which came from their arts practice. The median income of these responses for both years surveyed was $40-49,000 – placing those surveyed neatly alongside the 2016-17 national median income of $48,360 (as according to the ABS).

When answering questions about where there income comes from, those who returned Regional Arts WA’s survey showed a very clear split: More than half of all respondents either attributed 100% or less than 10% of their income to their arts practice. In general the 2017-18 financial year saw respondents earn a higher portion of their income from their chosen arts practice, but the sample size is too small to apply that movement to the wider WA regional arts sector.

2. Arts Attendance

How often do regional WA audiences attend arts events?

The difference in frequency between regional and metropolitan arts attendance and participation is most prominent when examining shorter periods of time. Asking both audiences if they’ve attended or participated at least three times over the last season sees a fairly significant difference (50% of metro WA, 40% of regional WA), while asking if they’ve attended or participated at least once in the last two years sees almost identical results (85% of metro WA, 84% of regional WA).

Attendance of live arts events and creative participation are fairly similar between metropolitan and regional WA. There are a number of exceptions: Theatre audiences are a significantly smaller portion of regional WA respondents, just 30% compared to 41% of audiences in the Perth area. When it comes to creative participation the difference emerges in Literature, which just 10% of regional respondents take part in – compared to 22% of metropolitan respondents.

Above is a closer look at projects and events supported by Regional Arts WA. On average events supported by Regional Arts WA through the Regional Arts Legacy Grants and Regional Arts Fund programs are attended by around 5,450 people and attract 140 creative participants while events organised by Youth Coordinators through the Drug Aware YCulture Regional and Next Level Regional Grants programs involve an average of 40 youth participants in a project, which is then showcased to community audiences averaging 476 people.

3. Connection to Arts

How connected do people in regional WA feel to the arts?

In general between being the 2018 and 2019 surveys, people across WA value the arts a little more highly in 2019. There are lower scores across the board in regional WA in 2018, though many of these grow to meet or exceed metro WA value indexes in 2019. The difference between regional and metro Indexes is most pronounced in the question “How valuable is the role of arts and culture in your life”, with metropolitan respondents coming in 7 points higher Value Index in 2018 – though this shrinks to just 4 points in 2019. The lowest regional value index across all questions in this graph came from Goldfields-Esperance (exact numbers for each region can be found in the full DLGSC Arts Monitor Survey report).

While regional and metropolitan audiences may value their connection to the arts similarly, access is a very different matter. In 2019, when asked “How easy is it to access or participate in arts and cultural activities in WA?” Regional WA respondents reported the lowest Ease of Access Index of any one demographic in the entire surveyed population, at just 58 (compared to 59 for those living with a disability or impairment, 60 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, or an average of 69 for metropolitan audiences). Respondents reported the lowest access in the Kimberley (46), Wheatbelt (46) and Goldfields-Esperance (49). Regional audiences also report a lower Ease of Access Index when it comes to WA produced film and TV, but the difference is much smaller, with some of the regions (Peel, Mid West, Great Southern) actually reporting higher Ease of Access than some metropolitan areas.

4. Diversity of Artform

How are people in regional WA participating in different artforms?

Attendance of festivals shows numerous significant differences between regional and metropolitan audiences, in general pointing to a smaller portion of regional respondents choosing to attend festivals. Multi-artform, performing arts and writers festivals all see significantly smaller portions of regional respondents attending, with writers festivals especially recording no attendees amongst the 235 people surveyed for the 2016 National Arts Participation Survey. This does reveal some limitations of the data set though, as we are quite aware that there are numerous well-attended writers festivals in regional WA.

Amongst projects which Regional Arts WA has supported over the past five years, there’s been a higher number of Visual Arts, Music and Theatre works – forms which are similarly well represented in attendance and participation numbers (see Section 2. Arts Attendance). Multi-arts projects (mostly festivals and other community events) also highly represented.

5. Employment

How many Regional Western Australians does the arts employ?

ABS data indicates that across the board in regional WA, Arts and Recreation Services jobs have made up a growing percentage of the workforce, most sigificantly in the Kimberley where the number grew from 249 jobs (0.87% of jobs in the region) in 2013 to nearly double that in 2017; 480 jobs (1.7% of jobs in the region).

6. First Nations Arts

What is our relationship with First Nations arts and artists?

Residents of Regional WA report broad agreement with the sentiment that First Nations arts are an important part of Australia’s culture, with 81% in agreement putting it just barely in front of the national average, and a few points ahead of the metropolitan average. Much more strikingly however, there is a much stronger feeling that First Nations arts are well represented in regional WA. Just 52% of Perth agrees with this statement but it gets the nod from 61% of regional WA. This result is interesting in light of the data below, which shows that only 28% of regional WA attended any First Nations arts in 2016, compared to 36% of metropolitan WA.

7. Funded Income

What is a funding dollar actually worth in WA’s Regional Arts sector?

Funding distributed to the sector through Regional Arts WA’s programs tend to return an average of $2.27 in final project value on top of whatever granted monies were given. This average is pulled up somewhat, by projects which leverage particularly large amount of funding in addition to grants received from Regional Arts WA, with a small handful seeing a final project cost which demonstrates more than $10 of additional value per funding dollar.

8. Skills

How much training are Australians working in the arts getting to develop their skills?

According to ABS data collected for the 2016-17 financial year, when it comes to work-related training undertaken in the last 12 months, those employed in arts and recreation services have an almost identical participation rate to the average Australian worker (28%). The difference begins to emerge when we examine the number of hours which workers spend on this training: Those employed in arts and recreation services who attend work-related training, on average, report less hours of training than their peers in other industries.

Freely available data does not allow for state or regional-specific analysis.

9. WA Arts Sector Size

How big is the arts in WA regional WA?

While the South West is the largest number of Arts and Recreation Services in the sector, the largest fluctuation for any sector in WA between 2014 and 2018 occurred in the Pilbara, which in 2014 held 17 Arts and Recreation Services, shrinking down to just 10 in 2016 and 2017, before recovering slightly to 14 businesses in 2018.

The South West’s prominence is significant, never dipping below 35% of the states’ regional total, though it also has more than twice the number of total jobs when compared to the next highest region so this is unsurprising (see section 5. Employment). For a closer look at the comparative size of the sector against total jobs and population, see below.

Here, when put in context against the comparative population size of other regions, the size of different Arts and Recreational Services sectors fluctuates more, and while the South West still returns a very high Arts and Recreation Service per capita ratio, the Gascoyne, Goldfields and Kimberley can – depending on the year – return an even higher result. The picture is more consistent for the region with highest proportion of Arts and Recreational Service businesses compared to the total number of businesses operating in that region, which from 2014 – 2018 has always been Peel.

10. Youth

How does age affect WA’s engagement with the arts?

Participation rates in the arts are fairly similar between WA and the rest of the nation, though by comparison WA has a slightly lower participation from adults aged 35-44 and a slightly higher participation from those aged 45-54. What is clear in all cases is that youth (15 – 24) are far more likely to participate in the arts than any similarly sized group of older people.

Freely available data does not allow for regional-specific analysis.

Observing the Regional Arts WA Annual Survey respondents from 2018, age groups are relatively evenly divided between ages 27 – 65, with numbers falling dramatically on either side of this spectrum (particularly for those aged 18 – 26). The average age of a respondent was 47 years old. This only represents a specific slice of the regional arts sector – and it is likely that younger participants in the sector may be less inclined to fill out an annual survey. Age was not recorded in the 2019 Annual Survey.

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