Australia/ 8.4 Amateur arts, cultural associations and civil initiatives  

8.4.1 Amateur arts and folk culture

Specific data on amateur arts in Australia is difficult to obtain, the emphasis having been, for a long time, on funded production and participation in funded activities.  More information is available about volunteering in the cultural sector, which is picked up through periodic surveys by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.  An ABS Voluntary Work Survey of 2000 was made the basis of the report Australia’s Cultural Volunteers 2000 published by the Cultural Ministers Council and available at

The report indicated that:

Australians gave their time to a wide range of organisations.  Those organisations categorised as ‘sports and physical recreation’, ‘education, training and youth development’ and ‘community and welfare’ were the most popular, with each of these receiving help from about one million people aged 18 years and over in 2000.  By comparison, 280,200 people (about 2% of the population) undertook voluntary work for ‘heritage and arts’ organisations…

In terms of people engaging with the arts as amateurs, the Australian Bureau of Statistics collected some data on a limited set of cultural hobbies (art and craft, writing and music) in the 2007 survey of Work in Selected Culture and Leisure Activities.

For the purposes of the survey a hobby was defined as an activity that was undertaken only for oneself or for family or friends, that is, the output was not for general consumption. 

The survey showed that there were 2.1 million people aged 15 years and over in Australia who were involved in art and craft as a hobby activity only.  This is down from 2.5 million people in 2004.  The survey also showed that there were 356,900 people involved in writing as a hobby only and 265,000 involved in music as a hobby only.  This is up from 317,200 and 158,700 respectively in 2004.

In most states and territories there are community arts networks that support arts in the community, whether by professionals or amateurs.  Among the strongest of these are those in South Australia and Western Australia.  Further details may be seen at and

The Association of Community Theatre operates outside the funded or commercial theatre arena but, as its website illustrates, it has over 300 members from small theatre organisations around the country.  See

There is a wide range of community arts centres in Australia, supporting the efforts of amateur and professional artists in their regions.  Again, little data is available on the work of these centres in a consolidated form, although many of the centres have websites that describe the activities of their own centre.

Chapter published: 27-12-2013