The Next Generation of Voters: Young middle Australians talk Arts, Culture & Creativity
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This report provides current insights into the attitudes and beliefs held by ‘young middle Australians’ towards arts and cultural engagement and the role it plays in their lives. It includes the findings of a national focus group study of 18–29-year-old ‘undecided voters’ from lower- and middle-income families, predominantly living in outer suburbs, regional areas and federal marginal electorates. The findings highlight that young middle Australians see arts and culture as central to their lives. They describe their engagement with arts and culture as inseparable from their other everyday activities. They don’t associate arts and culture with elitism – they see it as integral to a full and rounded life. As such, arts and culture will play an increasingly critical role in shaping our nation’s future direction.
Arts and culture are embedded in and inseparable from everyday life, partly because digital and physical experiences are so thoroughly intertwined. It is impossible for them to imagine a world without arts and culture as they access these experiences constantly. Any approach that treats arts and culture as separate, or ‘add-ons’ to daily life, will not make sense to this cohort.
The stigma that some Australians attach to high arts is largely absent. They are as keen to engage with traditional ‘high arts’ as they are to engage with any other kind of arts and cultural experience, as long as those experiences are accessible and the stories they tell feel relevant.
Australia’s arts and cultural content should reflect the diversity of our population, and the stories of our First Nations peoples. This cohort believes arts and culture help deepen Australians’ understanding of different people and perspectives, and also help tell Australia’s diverse range of stories to international audiences.
Arts and culture are community-building tools that help mitigate loneliness and social isolation. Consequently, this cohort believes politicians and governments have a critical role to play in supporting cultural and creative organisations and industries.
Childhood interactions with arts and culture influence creative thinking in adulthood, as well as innovation outcomes in the workplace and in society more broadly. However, these young middle Australians worry that the cognitive, social and emotional benefits are decreased when schools are poorly equipped or choose to reduce the time spent on arts and culture in the classroom.
Prepare and implement a National Arts, Culture and Creativity Plan to inform more coherent, non-partisan policy settings and investments, and clarify responsibilities across the three levels of government. Digital disruption, changing demographics and a global cultural market are changing our opportunities and preferences; a Plan will help Australia respond to, and anticipate, these changes.
Update policy, regulatory and legislative settings to reflect the value young middle Australians place on: (1) making arts and cultural experiences and infrastructure accessible to people wherever they live, (2) increasing accessibility in the way public spaces are designed, and (3) making interactive engagement activities a priority.
To mitigate loneliness, social exclusion and social isolation among young middle Australians, prioritise using arts and cultural activities in existing and new initiatives, especially in placemaking and community-building, recognising that they can be creators, consumers, co-collaborators and enthusiastic attendees.
To support good lifelong outcomes for young people, arts and culture, and the benefits of engaging, should be taught consistently at school. This is especially relevant for those from lower to middle-income families and those living in outer suburban and regional areas. This could be supplemented by subsidy programs for arts and cultural activities and/or tuition to ensure cost is not a barrier to access for any Australian child.
Prioritise schemes, incentives and requirements that support production and distribution of diverse Australian content and iconography that is relatable to young middle Australians in all communities across Australia. This includes drawing on Australia’s cultural inheritance to create international public diplomacy initiatives that celebrate Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture as well as the diverse stories of our multicultural nation.
Take an industry transformation approach to supporting arts and cultural organisations in pivoting to digital, given the importance that Australians, especially young middle Australians, are now placing on digital engagement with arts and culture.
Trembath, J.L., Fielding, K., August 2021. ‘The next generation of voters: Young middle Australians talk arts, culture and creativity’. Insight Series. Paper no. 2021–02. Produced by A New Approach (ANA). Canberra, Australia.
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A New Approach (ANA) is Australia’s first think tank dedicated to arts, culture and creativity, and was established in 2018. ANA’s vision is for an Australia that celebrates, benefits from and invests in arts, culture and creativity for all Australians.
ANA’s work informs debate, shifts beliefs and inspires better public policy. We leverage our unique independence and expertise to generate the evidence-led insights that underpin our contemporary, pragmatic and non-partisan advice.
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 Jodie Trembath and Kate Fielding from A New Approach (ANA). The primary research underpinning it was led by Dr Stephen Cuttriss from the Social Research Centre, with assistance from Louise Nisbet.
Expert advice was provided for this report by Professor Gerry Redmond, Dean of Research and sociologist of children and youth at Flinders University; Associate Professor Hernan Cuervo, Deputy Director of the Youth Research Centre at the University of Melbourne; Dr Emma Felton, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Creative Industries, Education and Social Justice at Queensland University of Technology; and Ben Au, Director of Policy and Government Affairs at the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association.
ANA thanks all the people who generously reviewed this paper for their time and excellent feedback, including members of ANA’s Board and Reference Group.
The opinions in this Insight Report do not necessarily represent the views of ANA’s funding partners, the individual members involved in the governance or advisory committees, or others who have provided input.
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