Australia/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.3 Cultural/creative industries: policies and programmes

While Creative Australia does note define ‘creative industries’ as such, it sets out a view of the significance of the creative industries as follows:

Emerging and converging technologies are creating opportunities for Australia’s creative industries to be central to the transformation of the wider economy. Cultural and creative industries are the lifeblood of a vibrant and inventive society. Successful creative businesses do not succeed solely on the strength of creative content and services. They also deploy energy and creativity in managing sustainable and competitive businesses.

Creative Australia does not deal with the more complex issues surrounding definition and distinction, if any, between ‘the arts’ and ‘the creative industries’.  However, standing behind this document is a major report, commissioned by the Australia Council and published by Justin O’Connor et al in 2011 entitled Arts and Creative Industries. This report sets out, through interviews and through literature research, to establish responses to the following key questions:

What unifies the groups of industries collected together under the name creative industries?

Are the arts part of the creative industries?

What is the input of the arts to the creative industries?

Are they just a subsidised input to the creative industries?

The findings of the report do not come down to a simplistic definition of ‘creative industries’ per se.  Rather, it provides a very rich discussion of the ways in which these key questions can be addressed.  A significant summary, however, occurs at the end of the report where the author(s) state:

 The creative industries agenda does have great cultural, social, economic and environmental potential. This potential has been hampered by both confusion and a polarisation. Confusion as to the values at stake in the creative industries – was it about the recognition of culture or its annexation by economic development? This led to a polarisation of art and industry, culture and economics, ‘intrinsic’ and ‘instrumental’, and dominated the agenda.

 This report does not suggest that such a struggle is completely misplaced – the benign narrative where culture and economics go hand in glove. This report suggests that there are – and always have been – tensions between culture and economics (and between these and ‘the social’), this is part of our modernity. It suggests however that there are long-standing social, cultural and economic understandings, narratives and policy resources whereby these tensions can be managed and made culturally and economically and socially productive. Contemporary developments have redrawn the lines and set new challenges, but these resources allow us to address these tensions without complete polarisation or subsuming one under the other (art as a floating world; art as an input into economic growth).[1]

 Given the extent of broad discussion across a range of parties and individuals involved in this report, it could arguably be said to summarise the overall thinking around the creative industries in Australia at the present time.  The full report is available at

The focus on a comparatively somewhat simplistic economic agenda, as seen in Creative Australia, is common to statements about the creative industries found in both Commonwealth and state/territory government policy documents.  ‘Cultural Industry Development’ comprised a separate chapter in the former cultural policy, Creative Nation in 1994, with the document articulating the role governments could play in areas that would later be described as the ‘creative industries’.  Both state and Commonwealth governments have engaged with the concept of creative industries since that time but it was the establishment, in 2005, of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries (CCI) at Queensland University of Technology that pushed this engagement to another level.  Funded by the Australian Research Council, the Commonwealth’s research funding agency, the role of the centre has been  to assist in driving the development of an Australian creative innovation system to maximise the national economic and cultural benefits of the digital content industries.  See

In 2009, the Commonwealth government, through the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, announced the establishment of the Creative Industries Innovation Centre (CIIC) as part of its Enterprise Connect scheme.  The aims of this scheme are to connect small and medium enterprises with skills and resources to assist them improve their overall business.  While such approaches had been used before in more traditional areas of enterprise, such as manufacturing, the application of the model to the creative industries was breaking new ground.  Under the CIIC, creative industries with a turnover of $1m or greater are eligible to receive a tailored business review and advice in areas such as finance, human resources, marketing and strategy, with a coverage from the performing arts to advertising, fashion and digital and multimedia enterprises.  The CIIC is based in the University of Technology Sydney, and now is supported by a wide range of business, government, and university partners from around the country.

Information from the Centre shows that, since its inception, it has delivered more than 380 business reviews, and made available more than $2.5 million in matched Tailored Advisory Service grants. Significant numbers of businesses in the creative industries sector have acknowledged that the advice and support received through the Creative Industries Innovation Centre has been critical to their business.   The Centre, by default, defines ‘creative industries’ by specifying that businesses eligible for its services must be operating in the following arenas:

  • Music and performing arts
  • Film, television and radio
  • Advertising and marketing
  • Software development and interactive content
  • Writing, publishing and print media
  • Architecture, design and visual arts.

For full details of the Centre see

The ARC Centre for Creative Industries published the Australian Creative Economy Report Card for 2013 in which the following data are presented:

 Employment in the creative industries:

• grew by ~70,000 from 2006 to 2011

• totalled 531,000 people in 2011

• represents 5.3 per cent of the national workforce.

Creative workers

• 370,000 people worked directly in the creative industries in 2011

• 161,000 people worked in creative occupations in industries in the broader economy such as banking, manufacturing and government (‘embedded creatives’).

• Two thirds of creative industry employment is in creative services industries, with the balance, 35 per cent is in cultural production industries.

• Creative service occupations (221,684 people) account for 71 per cent of the total employment in the creative sector, with 29 per cent in cultural production occupations. 

Creative jobs outstrip national growth

Between 2006 and 2011 the average annual growth rate of creative employment was 2.8 per cent, 40 per cent higher than the workforce’s annual growth rate of 2 per cent shows a significant growth in the sector over the past five years.

For the full summary see

As noted earlier, most state and territory governments have identified the creative industries as significant areas for further development.  An overview of developments in, and thinking about, the area may be seen in the Cultural Ministers Council report Building a Creative Innovation Economy – Cultural Ministers Council Creative Innovation Economy Roundtable Report which, together with other relevant items, may be seen at

[1] Justin O’Connor, Arts and Creative Industries (Australia Council for the Arts, 2011), p.100.

Chapter published: 26-12-2013