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Arts Australia : This Week

A 30-year economic analysis of the Australian arts has shown a consistent growth rate well above that of the total national economy and a spectacular increase in Aboriginal art sales at auction.

The research report, “The Arts Economy 1969-1998: Three Decades of Growth in Australia”, compiled by respected arts economist, Hans Guldberg, has been officially released today by the Australia Council, the Federal Government's arts funding body.

The report shows a strong annual growth of 4.4 per cent for the arts related components of the Australian economy between 1975 and 1994, compared to 3.1 per cent each year for the total economy.

There was also faster growth in arts related spending (1.3 per cent per year) than total average expenditure (0.4 per cent) in the ten years to 1994. The arts contributed about $8.7 billion in 1996-97 to Australian gross industry product.

Australia Council Chair, Dr Margaret Seares, said a stellar rise had been reported in Indigenous art auction sales - jumping from $873,000 to $4.5 million in 1997. This represents a shift from 1.7 per cent to 10.3 per cent of the total Australian art auction sales.

"This increased interest in Indigenous art at auction is all the more significant in light of the decline over the same period of non-Indigenous Australian art auctions by nearly half to just over $25 million," said Dr Seares.

Overseas visitors to Australia are also buying more Indigenous arts and souvenirs, with a 92 per cent jump over just 6 years - from $35 million in 1990 to $67 million in 1996.

But the report also showed a disappointing outcome in growth for remuneration for the artists - arts professionals median incomes fell faster than the workforce as a whole in the decade to 1996, going down 0.7 per cent each year in real terms compared to a total workforce decline of 0.4 per cent in the same period.

Despite this it seems more people are pursuing a career in the arts. The number of full time artists and arts professionals in Australia more than tripled - from 26,400 in 1976 to 80,000 in 1996. While more musicians are male, more women are authors.

Further highlights of research are available on request and the report and an overview are available on Council's web site at www.ozco.gov.au

Further enquiries can be made via www.australia.org.nz

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