Last year, I wrote a series of blog posts about the ABS report: Arts and Culture in Australia – a statistical overview. This report did have museum attendance figures, but focused primarily on the funding mix of museums and other cultural venues.
A recent article on the Perth Now website, lamenting the relatively low levels of cultural participation and funding in Western Australia, alerted me to the release of a more recent report, which looks at museum attendance in more detail and gives a state-by-state breakdown.
The full report is available on the ABS website as always, but I thought I’d again take a look at the numbers and give my thoughts on what they might mean (and, as always, I appreciate your comments and additional perspectives!).
First, the headline figures – attendance numbers at cultural venues state-by-state:
Overall, over 85% of people aged over 15 in Australia attended at least one cultural venue or event for the year 2009-10. For people aged 15-17, participation rates were the highest at 97%. Participation decreased with age, and the lowest participation rate (64%) was that of the over 75s.
Participation rates are also broken down by state and territory:
Based on these figures, ACT residents are among the most active participants in culture, being the most likely to have visited an Art Gallery, Museum, Archive, Library, Performing Arts event or Cinema in the past year. With the high density of National Museums and Galleries in the Capital, the high attendance at these venues is not all that surprising – it’s a matter of availability. However cinemas, hardly unique to Canberra, are well attended as well. (Note that the data records people’s place of residence, not the venue they attended. So these numbers just ACT residents, not people from other states visiting Museums in the Capital. The report gives a breakdown of where people attended venues in relation to where they live on pp 19-20).
As the Perth Now article said, WA residents are the least likely in the country to attend an Art Gallery; Museum attendance is also below average in that state. Having said that, WA is not alone: participation rates are below average in NSW (albeit slightly) across the board.
NT residents were the most likely to attend zoological parks and aquaria, by a significant margin. SA is above the national average for this year too and I wonder if this is a consistent figure or indicative of the ‘Panda effect’ (the Adelaide Zoo’s Panda Enclosure opened in late 2009 and there has reportedly been a jump in visitor numbers since then.)
Overall what these differences between states mean, it’s hard to tell: it’s possible that they are simply due other geographic and demographic differences between states. However, as the Perth Now article suggests, there could be genuine differences between states and their attitudes to culture. I’d be interested in hearing what you think.
One pointer towards a geographic explanation (at least in part) is the difference in participation rates between capital cities and elsewhere. This is possibly skewing the figures for those states which have a higher proportion of their population residing outside the capital:
The report also gives breakdowns of visitation by age and sex, household composition, country of origin, labour force status, educational attainment and household income, but I won’t delve into those here – if you’re interested in these figures, go to the original report (see link to ABS website above).
Later in the report, they have some figures showing attendance trends over the past 10 years, which I’ll look into for a future post.