Creative Island Sector Analysis 2017

In 2017, Creative Island worked with Justin O’Connor, Professor of Cultural Economy at Monash University, Dr Kim Lehman from The University of Tasmania and the Department of State Growth, to better describe the Tasmania's cultural and creative sector – that sector defined as “those activities involved in the making and dissemination of goods, services and practices whose primary value lies in their meaningfulness to us – as enjoyment, transformation, education, information, challenge, dissent, and the making and celebration of individual and collective identities”.

Part of Creative Island's research program was to get a quantitative picture of the sector: how many people it employs, what economic value it has, where it's located and what networks it operates within. Through work with teams at UTAS and RMIT we are able to paint a picture showing that the state’s cultural and creative sector contributes at least $216,801,463 (1.7% of Gross State Product), employs 2% of the state’s working population, and has grown 6% over the past five years. That the cultural sector sits at the heart of many other Tasmanian sectors (tourism, hospitality et al) makes it easy to estimate that with the inclusion of the allied sectors, the overall contribution to the state is over 6% of the GSP and employment is over 6% of the workforce.

This ‘dry’ data was cross-referenced to a series of qualitative focus groups and an online survey, conducted by Professor O'Connor. This attempted a snapshot of the health and sustainability of the sector, what it felt about its strengths and weaknesses in Tasmania, and how they felt they were valued by government and the wider community.

The final report by Dr O’Connor is a commentary of where Tasmania is in the context of an international cultural sector conversation and less of a ‘how to fix-it guide’, there are a few key questions that the state needs to ask in the formation of future policy or strategies.


Affordable housing, workspace, education, health care, public transport: all these are as important as grant schemes and the like. Tasmania’s economic growth is making these issues of affordability and liability (in the south at least) increasingly relevant. Similarly, the evidence suggests that cultural workers earn less – sometimes far less – than the average (and women far less than that!), and this in an economic environment that is more constrained than the mainland.


Tasmania’s bottom of the table performance in education is rightly identified as a serious problem. This is especially so for the cultural sector, as it concerns the kinds of education and training offered and resources and facilities present (generally supported by tertiary bodies elsewhere) to enable other activities. Similarly, there is a growing sense of disconnect between Tertiary and Vocational training bodies and the greater Cultural Sector ecology and how the public engages with it.


Increasing the prosperity, productivity (in all senses) and resilience of the cultural sector has to be a primary objective but its job is to produce culture, not to create jobs – even if we can’t have that culture without jobs. 


The strategic significance of Hobart, and the increasing potential of Launceston and the North West of the State, are clearly recognised throughout all the research: these dispersed urban centres are what makes the economic difference to Tasmania and distinctive from the rest of Australia. Their size provides the connective intensity and a significant volume of global flows of ideas, people, money and media that unpins a range of active cultural sectors. It is essential that the connections between these hubs be maintained and strengthened, to increase capacity but maintain the diverse character of the State’s cultural sector.


However, while it is recognised that the small scale and embedded nature of the cultural sector is part of the solution to inclusive growth, minimal infrastructure for the existing cultural sector (and limited population) make the opportunity for growing diversity in the sector a very real concern, leading to noticeable deficits amongst women, first people, ethnic minorities, lower socio-economic groups and young people. Notably, 81% of the people engaged through the research program did not believe that the sector represents the diversity of Tasmanian society and that this should change.


All cultural policy needs to understand the economic and cultural dynamics of tourism, from the perspective of production and consumption. How can future policies, aiming to increase tourism to the state, equally support ‘the whole value chain’ of Tasmania as a destination, as well as an area of production and creativity?  

Click here to download the Creative Island Sector Analysis 2017 Report as a PDF:

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