New study to help Canberra cash in on its untapped creative potential

Ian Bushnell 17 May 2021
ACT Minister for the Arts Tara Cheyne

“Canberra is home to a flourishing creative sector – the better we understand it, the better we can support its growth,” said ACT Minister for the Arts Tara Cheyne: Photo: Dominic Giannini.

The arts and culture sector may be valuable for its own sake, but the ACT Government has accepted calls that there is no clear picture of the sector and its impacts on the greater ACT society and the economy.

A new joint study with the University of Canberra will shine a spotlight on Canberra’s creative industries to understand their extent in the ACT and see how they could be helped to develop further and contribute to the diversification of the ACT economy and jobs growth.

The Minister’s Creative Council made an ACT Budget submission in 2020 calling for a project to quantify and assess who is involved in the ACT arts and creative industries.

The submission said these activities defined Canberra’s identity as a creative city but “there is little concrete, ongoing information about the scope and nature of the Canberra arts and creative industries, their net effect on our economic and social productivity, and the contribution they make to our community’s wellbeing”.

The University of Canberra was already pursuing related research and the ACT Government says it will now work with the university on a comprehensive body of research, analysis and consultation that will be used to develop policy, support and boost the sector, and make it more resilient.


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ACT Minister for the Arts and Assistant Minister for Economic Development Tara Cheyne said a holistic creative industries policy – drawing together the arts, culture, events, tourism, business and innovation – was an election commitment.

She said the creative industries are an emerging priority for the government and indicated it would like them to become more integrated and entrepreneurial, like the technology and innovation sector.

“Canberra has a thriving and connected innovation ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs and high-growth potential startups across a range of key sectors to accelerate their development,” said Minister Cheyne.

She said the study would define and map the creative industries in the ACT, identifying the sector’s key strengths and opportunities, and listing Canberra’s competitive advantages.

“It will also shine a light on where there might be opportunities for growth and further investment so that we can generate further activity in the sector, create high-value jobs growth and drive productivity,” said Ms Cheyne.

The University of Canberra will also lead work to review best practices from abroad, and quantify the benefits of the ACT’s creative industries, including its direct economic value.

Nationally, the creative and cultural sector contributes $90.1 billion to the national economy, adds $45.9 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) and generates annual exports of $3.2 billion.

“Canberra is home to a flourishing creative sector,” said Ms Cheyne. “The better we understand it, the better we can support its growth.”

She said the ACT has higher rates of cultural attendance and creative participation than any other region in Australia, and is well positioned to grow a strong creative economy.


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“This assessment will assist us to better define and understand the ACT’s creative sector and, by doing so, help guide us where to further invest in our local capability and capacity, as well as identify opportunities for collaboration,” said Ms Cheyne.

University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor Paddy Nixon said creativity is at the heart of the jobs of the future and Canberra is well placed to grow and diversify its economy through a thriving creative industry.

“The University of Canberra is part of the ACT creative sector, with a long history of researching, collaborating and contributing to Canberra’s creative workforce,” he said.

“The University of Canberra also has some of the foremost experts in economic modelling, creative industries practices and strategies, and wellbeing assessments in Australia.”

The ACT Creative Industries Assessment is due to be completed later this year and will cost $267,000.

The Minister’s Creative Council had also sought a paid community engagement officer located in artsACT or the Economic Development Directorate to support a Cultural Impact Framework, but this proposal has not yet been taken up.


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