Lifelong: Perceptions of Arts and Culture among Baby Boomer Middle Australians
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This report brings together published and unpublished data on the attitudes and beliefs towards arts and culture held by ‘Baby Boomer middle Australians’. In presenting the findings of a third national focus group study on middle Australia, the aim is to ensure that Australia’s policy settings and public investments remain relevant, targeted and effective for the 21st century. As an independent think tank, ANA’s research informs conversations about arts, culture and creativity, including the current development of Australia’s National Cultural Policy.
Summary of findings
Baby Boomer middle Australians value arts and culture. They say a world without arts and culture would be ‘colourless’, ‘depressing’, ‘uninspiring’ and ‘like a totalitarian state’.
Baby Boomer middle Australians say that cultural experiences create lifelong memories, provide opportunities for intergenerational dialogue and help them ‘stay young’.
This cohort believes that cultural participation helps us test opinions, negotiate, listen, compromise, see others’ points of view and have healthy disagreements – in other words, it encourages ‘pro-social’ behaviours and skills.
During the discussions on mental ill-health and thriving communities (particularly in terms of COVID-19 pandemic recovery), the view of public investment in arts and culture shifted from ‘nice to have’ to ‘essential’ for the Baby Boomer middle Australians.
Baby Boomer middle Australians believe arts and culture play a valuable role in shaping and expressing our diverse identity, locally and abroad.
This cohort takes a broad view of ‘arts and culture’, ranging from traditional cultural activities to ‘graffiti in an alley’, ‘music in the car’ and ‘even tattoos’.
For this cohort, online and digital platforms such as YouTube or Tik-Tok are accepted – but not always preferred – means of accessing and sharing arts and culture.
Baby Boomer middle Australians say age and life stage influence their participation in arts and culture, with the participation playing an important role both early on and later in life.
Summary of opportunities
Adopt an intentionally cross-portfolio approach to cultural policies and programs, noting community support for the claims that arts and culture strengthen communities, positively influence Australian health and may help in treating a mental health condition.
Capitalise on the support for cultural investments on the basis of monetary and non-monetary returns in health services and social care, measuring and communicating these gains from Australia- specific interventions.
Prioritise programs and policies that deliberately harness and celebrate the pro- social behaviours and skills generated through cultural participation (in both cultural and non-cultural sectors).
Better leverage the recognised role for arts and culture in building connections across generations and in Australia-specific responses to the ageing population, ageist attitudes and any perceptions of intergenerational conflict.
Continue to reduce barriers to engagement with arts and culture, including time, cost, class and safety concerns. However, beware talking about arts and culture ‘helping you age well’ — the language may be off-putting.
Redress cultural participation barriers, including digital infrastructure and skills limitations, to help ensure Australian products and experiences are both globally competitive and locally accessible.
Use ‘arts’ and ‘culture’ together, rather than separately since this is more effective in evoking the range of activities this cohort values.
Tailor definitions of ‘arts and culture’ to a given policy audience, national or state economy, community or individual. Consider adapting ANA’s inclusive definition of arts and culture.
Vivian, A., Fielding, K., September 2022. ‘Lifelong: Perceptions of Arts and Culture among Baby Boomer Middle Australians’. Insight report no. 2022-02. Produced by A New Approach (ANA). Canberra, Australia.
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A New Approach (ANA), Australia’s leading arts and culture think tank, has shown through independent research and analysis that Australians from every walk of life participate in and benefit from the arts, culture and creativity.
ANA’s staff, board, expert advisory group and philanthropic partners are driven by a shared vision of a cultural life that emboldens Australia. ANA’s work informs discussion, shifts beliefs, inspires public policy and brings together decision makers and industry leaders around evidence-led ideas and pathways for pragmatic action.
ANA acknowledges the cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia and their continuing cultural and creative practices in this land.
This report was written by Dr Angela Vivian and Kate Fielding from A New Approach (ANA). The primary research underpinning the report was completed by the qualitative research firm, Visibility Consulting, and was led by Tony Mitchelmore. Additional research support was provided by Aakanksha Sidhu from ANA.
Expert advice was provided on early drafts of this report by Dr Natalia Hanley, artsACT and the Australia Council for the Arts, as well as members of the Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and Dr Jennifer Ayton also provided guidance for this report. However, any errors are our own. ANA thanks all the people who generously reviewed this paper for their time and excellent feedback, including members of ANA’s Board and ANA’s Reference Group.
The opinions in this insight report do not necessarily represent the views of ANA’s funding partners, the individual members involved in governance
or advisory groups or others who have provided input.
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