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Creative Economy

Dec 6, 2021

We’re revisiting some articles from this year’s Art Collector DAAF 2021 Special Edition. Here, Carrie Miller explores post-COVID opportunities in the creative industries. 


A post-COVID world represents a unique opportunity for Australia to harness the economic and social value of our creative industries for future sustainability.

Words by Carrie Miller, July 2021

The United Nations has declared 2021 the International Year of the Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. It is a resolution that seems especially timely in the context of a global pandemic that has devastated economies and made people refocus on what a healthy society looks like. 

One of the positive consequences of this has been a widespread acknowledgement of the cultural dimension of life as fundamental to the wellbeing of both individuals and communities as a whole. This realisation is also timely for the creative industries, as the pandemic has had a particularly devastating impact on every touchpoint across the creative value chain – effecting individual arts practitioners up to large-scale public institutions. 

In the context of the UN’s declaration, a post-COVID world provides a cultural moment where people can appreciate not only the significant role that culture plays in the bigger picture of the economy, but the role of the creative industries for sustainable economic growth. When considered in their totality – from digital media to architecture, design and the visual arts – it becomes obvious that the creative economy should be considered fundamental to future sustainability because it is characterised by innovation – the key driver of economies more broadly. The creative industries are also at the centre of some of the most dynamic, high-growth markets globally, generating billions of dollars in revenue and tens of millions of jobs, as well as being directly implicated in alleviating poverty in some countries. In short, supporting the creative economy of a society necessarily enriches its overall economy. 

The capacity to appreciate the reflexive relationship between the social and cultural dimensions of communities and their economic ones, as well as the contributions of artistic and cultural practitioners make to growth and prosperity, is already built into the foundations of the Indigenous ways of conceptualising “economies”. In the Australian context, cultural production has always been an important source of identity and connection for First Nations People and the contemporary Indigenous art market has generated significant economic benefits to artists and their communities. This is particularly significant given that these are mostly located in very remote regions with profound levels of economic exclusion characterised by intergenerational disadvantage. 

The development of Aboriginal Art Centres located within these communities has been a fundamental component in supporting and sustaining them socially and economically. In addition to providing an important source of income, they bring a number of specific social benefits, most importantly the provision of a safe place to meet and connect through participation in cultural and other community activities. Art Centres provide the gold standard model of a sustainable economy – a model grounded in the notion that creativity and culture enhance economic, as well as social wellbeing. 

This model for conceptualising the economy in a holistic way is instructive in the context of thinking about sustainable economic growth and development on a large scale. It is also one that opens up the possibility of decolonising Western economies that have been traditionally underwritten and guaranteed by reductive capitalist values that necessarily privilege non-Indigenous, individualistic ways of being and knowing. 

A post-COVID world represents a unique opportunity for Australia to harness the economic and social value of our creative industries for future sustainability. But this will require structural reform that decentres the Eurocentric worldview and the modern Western values that circumscribe it. A key enabler of this change is the capacity for non-Indigenous Australia to learn from Indigenous knowledge systems that conceptualise creativity and culture as key drivers of the overall health and wellbeing of a society, which enables an environment where the creative economy can flourish.

This article originally appeared in the Art Collector 2021 Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Special Edition, head here to read more.

Cover Art by Madeline Purdie, Boabs After the Fire. Natural earth pigments and synthetic fixative on canvas, 60 x 60cm. Courtesy of the artist and Warmun Arts.

Contributor Carrie Miller is a freelance writer and curator who holds a BA (Fine Arts and Philosophy) and a First Class Honours in Philosophy from the University of Sydney.

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