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Making Art Work

Making Art Work: An Economic Study of Professional Artists in Australia by David Throsby and Katya Petetskaya is the sixth
in a series carried out independently over thirty years by Professor Throsby at Macquarie University, with funding from the Australia Council. The series tracks trends in the lives and working conditions of Australian artists over 30 years and identifies challenges and opportunities for artists’ careers into the future.


There are 48,000 practising professional artists in Australia – a relatively steady number since the 1990s.

Creative work has historically accounted for around half of artists’ working time and income. It is now taking 57% of working time but generating only 39% of income.

Average total annual income for artists is $48,400 – 21% below the workforce average. Average creative income is $18,800 – down by 19% since the last survey.

Artists of non-English speaking background account for 10% of artists compared to 18% of the workforce.

Overall 9% of artists identify with disability – roughly half the proportion of the Australian population reporting disability. Artists with disability earn 42% less overall than artists without disability, compared to only 8% less in the last survey.

On average, female artists earn 25% less than male artists – greater than the workforce gender pay gap of 16%. Female artists also earn 30% less from their creative work.

Artists draw on a range of structures and entities to support creative work – 30% report applying to the Australia Council between 2010 and 2015, 26% to state and territory governments and 24% to arts organisations.

Half of all Australian artists are now applying their creative skills outside the arts (51%), up from around a third in 2009 (36%).

Making Art Work focuses on ‘serious, practising professional’ artists, defined by the following:
    Serious: is based on a self-assessed commitment to artistic work as a major aspect of the artist’s working life, even if creative work is not the main source of income.
    Practising: refers to artists currently working or seeking to work in their chosen occupation.
    Professional: refers to a level of training, experience or talent and a manner of working that qualify artists to have their work judged against the professional standards of the relevant occupation.