Australia/ 8.2 Cultural consumption and participation  

8.2.2 Policies and programmes


In 1996 the Commonwealth government introduced a Goods & Services Tax (GST) to Australia, which added, for the first time, a value-added tax to most purchases, including books.  As a response to the widespread concerns about the potential for increased prices for books and the consequent impact upon authors, publishers and, ultimately, readers, the government introduced a Book Industry Assistance Plan that contained within it a series of quasi-compensation measures.  One of these was a program initially known as Books Alive! and now entitled Get Reading.  Initially developed by the Australia Council, it is now an organisation that has a range of partners, including the Council.  Full details of the scheme are at

Community arts initiatives

The Australia Council and the state/territory governments support major community arts and cultural development projects through a variety of funding schemes.  An important component of these schemes is the establishment of partnerships between arts organisations or artists and non-arts partners. The relevant Australia Council guideline for Creative Community Partnership Initiative funding states that the partnerships are intended to support ‘opportunities for Australians to participate in meaningful arts and cultural activities in the places where they live, encouraging innovation and enhancing community wellbeing’.  Local government has been a significant player in terms of applications for funding, and many local government authorities have their own community arts schemes that bring together practising artists and members of the municipality.


Festivals have become an intrinsic part of Australia’s cultural life, in regional areas as much as in the big metropolitan cities.  Festivals Australia (see provides support for smaller-scale and theme-specific festivals across the country, as do state and local governments.  Such festivals are a major strategy for engaging members of the community with arts and culture, as well as enhancing participation of individuals within their community.  Many of these festivals are run in large part by armies of volunteers, with relatively few of them having professional support for any extended period of time.  The state capital cities all offer festivals on a bigger scale, and which feature a mix of Australian and international artists and companies.  Established in 1953 the Perth International Arts Festival is the oldest continuing multi-arts festival in the southern hemisphere, followed by the Adelaide Festival in 1960.  The original motivation for establishing both these festivals was to address the cultural isolation of their communities by bringing major international arts events to the cities while, in recent decades, there has been a growth in Australian content that sits side-by-side with that drawn from abroad.  Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane have subsequently established their own major international festivals, while Tasmania has established a unique festival entitled Ten Days on the Island that celebrates island cultures.  All of the festivals are funded directly by their state governments and local councils with the exception of Perth, which is a part of the University of Western Australia and which receives its base funding from Lotterywest, the State lottery, the University, and the City of Perth. 

The Australia Council also runs a program known as the Major Festivals Initiative that provides funding for co-commissioning between two or more of the major festivals.  The commissions may include overseas partners as well.  Some important new Australian works for stage and concert platform has been generated by this program.

Film festivals are also a longstanding part of cultural life.  The oldest and largest film festivals are in Sydney and Melbourne.  Dating from the 1950s they grew out of the strong film society movement of that time.  All the mainland capital cities now have an annual film festival and these have been supplemented in recent time by a growing number of specialist and short film festivals in both the capital cities and in regional Australia.  The Melbourne and Adelaide film festivals are also notable for the investment they make into production of films that are associated with the festivals.  Of note also is the annual short film festival and competition, TropFest, which has grown over 15 years from a small local event in Sydney to a national event.

Youth at Risk

A range of programs exist around the country to support young people at risk, particularly young Indigenous youth.  For details on a range of these programs see


Chapter published: 27-12-2013