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Towards Equity: A Research Overview Of Diversity In Australia’s Arts And Cultural Sector

Jun 08, 2021


Towards Equity: A research overview of diversity in Australia’s arts and cultural sector brings together published and unpublished data and research on representation within the arts and cultural sector in Australia.

It assesses equity among audiences and participants, artists, the cultural and creative workforce, cultural leaders and among Australia Council investment and staff.

The report presents information for eight focus groups or demographics in the Australian community: First Nations people; cultural and linguistic diversity; people with disability; gender; LGBTIQ+ people; Australians living in regional and remote locations; children and young people; and older people.

The Australia Council – like many other government and industry organisations – is committed to monitoring and reporting diversity across our investment, activities and sector.

In many cases, terminology and definitions are shifting and/or contested. Information and data gaps, as well as questions and recommendations for building a more comprehensive picture of diversity in our arts and culture, are also identified in this report.

Australia’s diversity is our richest asset. Equity must be central to how we think about, support and engage with arts and culture in this country.

This research shows that while much work has been done, much more work lies ahead.

Please explore this report. It is one milestone in the conversation that can inform action across the industry to address inequities.


Key Findings

  • Despite limitations in the data, the research shows that Australia’s arts and culture do not yet reflect the diversity of our people.
  • Many of the communities who are most engaged with Australia’s arts and culture are also underrepresented, under-resourced or under-compensated for their work.
  • For example, we see arts and cultural engagement embedded in the daily lives of First Nations and culturally and linguistically diverse Australians. However, while core to the energy of the sector, First Nations and culturally and linguistically diverse Australians are still often unable to access or shape its resources and decision-making.
  • Australians living with disability are more likely than other Australians to be making art but are less likely to making money from it. And people with disability continue to face barriers in attending arts events.
  • While women are more likely to recognise the positive impacts of arts and creativity than men, they face more barriers to arts attendance. And while there are just as many women artists as men artists, women artists earn less.
  • Australians in remote areas are more likely than those living in metropolitan or regional areas to attend the arts toimprove their wellbeing. However, they are twice as likely to experience difficulty getting to events compared to those in metropolitan or regional areas.


“I want to accelerate the rate of change”

Performer, maker, teacher and CEO of Arts Access Victoria, Caroline Bowditch, spoke to the Australia Council’s Caitlin Vaughan as part of a series of conversations exploring the themes of the Australia Council’s Towards Equity report, which examines representation within the arts and cultural sector in Australia.

After 16 years living and working in the UK, Caroline returned to Australia in July 2018 to take up the role as Chief Executive Officer at Arts Access Victoria. She is best known as a performer, maker, teacher, speaker and mosquito buzzing in the ears of the arts industry in the UK and further afield. Caroline is a regular consultant on access and inclusion internationally, and has also led international residencies in Sweden, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. She is regularly invited to mentor local, national and international artists at all levels of their artistic development. With the support of the Australia Council for the Arts, Caroline took part in the prestigious CEO Leadership course at Harvard Business School in 2019-2020. 

“The point of diversity is there is a different way of thinking and a different lens you can put to get to these universal issues” Writer, director and producer S.Shakthidharan spoke to the Australia Council’s Nithya Nagarajan as part of a series of conversations exploring the themes of the Australia Council’s Towards Equity report.

Shakthi is a western Sydney storyteller with Sri Lankan heritage and Tamil ancestry. He’s a writer, director and producer of theatre and film, and composer of original music. Shakthi is the Artistic Director of Kurinji. He was the inaugural Associate Artist at Carriageworks and is the recipient of both the Phillip Parson’s and Kirk Robson awards. His most recent play, Counting and Cracking, with Belvoir and Co-Curious received community, commercial and critical acclaim at the 2019 Sydney and Adelaide Festivals and won 7 Helpmann Awards. 

Yorta Yorta woman, curator and writer, Kimberley Moulton, spoke to the Australia Council’s Patricia Adjei as part of a series of conversations exploring the themes of the Australia Council’s Towards Equity report.

The report brings together published and unpublished data and research on representation within the arts and cultural sector in Australia.

Note: This conversation was recorded prior to the cancellation of the Rising festival.

Kimberley Moulton is a Yorta Yorta curator, writer and currently Senior Curator, South-Eastern Aboriginal Collections at Museums Victoria and an Artistic Associate for RISING Festival Melbourne. Kimberley works with knowledge, histories and futures at the intersection of First Peoples historical and contemporary art and making and her practice includes anti-colonial curatorial methodologies, working to extend the paradigm of what exhibitions and research in and out of institutions can be for and with First Peoples communities. Kimberley has held curatorial and community arts development roles at Melbourne Museum for over ten years. In 2018 she was Museums Victoria lead curator for Mandela: My Life, an exhibition on Nelson Mandela at Melbourne Museum in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation Johannesburg and IEC exhibitions.  Independently Kimberley has written extensively for contemporary art, museum and cultural publications worldwide and held curatorial and writing and research fellowships across Europe, UK, U.S.A, South Asia and North America. In 2019 Kimberley won the Power Institute Indigenous Art Writing Award and in 2020 was the co-editor for Artlink Indigenous 40.2 Kin Constellations: Languages Waters Futures. She is Alumni of the Wesfarmers Indigenous Leadership Program National Gallery of Australia and inaugural recipient of the Wesfarmers Indigenous Leadership International Curatorial Fellowship. She is a Director on the board for Barpirdhila Foundation, Deputy Chair of the board Shepparton Art Museum, member of the board for the International Art Critics Association- Australia. 

Award winning performance poet, Tariro spoke to Australia Council’s Niwa Mburuja as part of a series of conversations exploring the themes of the Australia Council’s Towards Equity report.

The report brings together published and unpublished data and research on representation within the arts and cultural sector in Australia.

Tariro whose name means hope is a Zimbabwean born multi-disciplinary artist raised in Narrm/Melbourne. Tariro’s body and breadth of work spans across multiple storytelling disciplines- acting, performance poetry, spoken word, writing, movement, directing, consultation and facilitation.

Tariro is the co-Artistic Director of Western Edge Youth Arts, a 20 year old youth performing arts company that works across Melbourne’s western suburbs, providing space for young people to come together to tell their own stories, in their own way and with their own voice. By providing a safe space to explore creativity, learn new artistic practices, and develop leadership skills, WEYA constructs supportive pathways for young people to achieve their own creative agency.

Tariro also works as an actor on the Australian stage (MTC, STC, Bell Shakespeare, Belvoir, Black Swan, Red Stitch, Street Theatre) and screen (Neighbours, Winners and Losers, Other People’s Problems), has been an actor in the internationally acclaimed, award winning webseries Shakespeare Republic and the award winning short films Arrivals and Home, has been a voice over artist for La Trobe, AFLW, Thomas The Tank Engine (UK), HESTA, PWC, BMW and more.

Tariro’s career highlights have been training with legendary dancer and teacher Anna Halprin in Northern California and attending the Decolonial Summer School in UniSA in Pretoria, South Africa both those experiences inform a lot of her work and artistic practices.

Tamara Campbell spoke to Australia Council’s Lina Stein as part of a series of conversations exploring the themes of the Australia Council’s Towards Equity report.

The report brings together published and unpublished data and research on representation within the arts and cultural sector in Australia.

Tamara Campbell is a director and writer of physical theatre and circus-based work, jobs that she is passionate about because she believes in skill sharing and providing opportunities for others. Having trained extensively in physical and devised theatre she has performed as a full time professional since 1998.

Tamara is the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of The K.I.S.S. Arts Festival in Kiama and has worked as the Artistic Director at Wollongong’s Circus Monoxide. She is now growing her Entrepreneurial talents as the Creative Director of her company Laughter House Entertainment – a company that believes in bringing people together to laugh hysterically in the shared joy of outrageous, unexpected comedy entertainment experiences.

Tamara is committed to her continued performance career with the duo show Kiki and Pascal and her solo work Kiki Bittovabitcsh. It is the mission of both Kiki and the lady behind the glasses – Tamara – to reconnect humans to themselves and each other and to do that with heaping helpings of laughter, to create a world full of openness, joy and fun. Awakening the possibility that we can all be more kind, vulnerable, laughter filled and connected every day.

Linda Iriza and Aisyah Aaqil Sumito spoke to the Australia Council’s Tahmina Maskinyar as part of a series of conversations exploring the themes of the Australia Council’s Towards Equity report.

The report brings together published and unpublished data and research on representation within the arts and cultural sector in Australia.

Linda Iriza is Rwandan currently based in Boorloo/Perth. Her work centres African youth and continues to create community projects that bring them together physically and digitally. She does this through collectives like Soul Alphabet; where they support young bla(c)k and brown creatives through events, art exhibitions, workshops and various other projects.

In recent years, she has also grown an interest in honouring her ancestors by digging deeper into Rwandan historical archives. In 2020, she launched a project called Amateka Series which aims at curating experiences that nurture a culture of collective learning. The project has bi-monthly virtual history programs that are done through live conferences and workshops that bring together Rwandans across the world and in the past they’ve had up to 190 attendees streaming from so called Australia, Aotearoa, Rwanda, South Africa, UK, Canada and more. Her passion for creating spaces for young Africans goes beyond borders; as she founded Nuru Tours which is an ethical travel project that works to connect the African diaspora to Africa. She has worked with Community Arts Network, West Australian Music, Talanoa and Perth Festival. Linda is interested in learning more about the art of storytelling, Afropresentism and intersectional feminist work.

Linda acknowledges Studio Kiin and Sistah Circle Collective who have supported her journey along the way.

Aisyah Aaqil Sumito is a queer and neurodivergent writer, installer and conceptual artist based on Whadjuk Noongar Bibbulmun boodja, so-called perth. Their visual, text-based and curatorial practice draws from a desire to provide tools for marginalised artists to respond to intersecting systems of oppression, outside the tools of the institution. As well, more simply, to carve out space for queer and trans people of colour in all facets of creative engagement.

They sometimes DJ, waft in other performative capacities, and have been a co-director at Cool Change artist-run initiative since early 2019. In which time they co-curated ‘the hands should have no peace’ for Perth Festival 2021. Since entering the Boorloo local arts industry, Aisyah has participated in a number of multidisciplinary creative projects in parks, community centres, markets, several galleries, artist run spaces and community arts organisations. Their future movements are drifting locally and across the continent as they undertake the Pari Ari P2P Ngariung exchange and the Australia Council International Curators Program across 2022 and 2023.

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