Byron Bay Scout Hall - Image: David Hancock
Communities and Culture is a unique, qualitative study undertaken by Local Government NSW (LGNSW) which identifies how councils deliver arts, culture and heritage services. In doing so it highlights that existing quantitative data vastly under-represents the actual commitment of councils in NSW.
The focus of the research was to develop baseline documentation identifying what activities councils deliver and how they deliver them, not how much councils own or spend.
Much existing research about local government focusses on quantitative data on the arts such as how many dedicated staff councils employ, dedicated expenditure and income, attendance numbers, identified cultural infrastructure and economic outputs.
The hypothesis of this research was that not all arts, culture and heritage services and activities that councils facilitate are identified as such, and so are not necessarily reflected in quantitative surveys.
In-depth interviews were conducted with general managers and senior directors and more than 70 telephone interviews were undertaken across the council demographic. These structured interviews took place from November 2015 to August 2016. LGNSW greatly appreciates the generosity and commitment of all councils involved in this project.
The data presented in this report supports the original hypothesis and paints a rich and diverse snapshot of arts, culture and heritage in the NSW local government sector.
Communities and Culture reveals an otherwise untold story of council activities, which are not designated as arts, culture and heritage, but fall under that definition and which add life and value to communities across NSW.
Key findings of the qualitative research are:
- Councils place immense value on arts, culture and heritage
- Arts, culture and heritage have serious economic value for communities
- Councils deliver far more arts, culture and heritage services than documented
- Councils apply broader definitions to arts, culture and heritage than those traditionally use
- Councils are the most important provider of public libraries
- Councils are a major custodian of NSW heritage assets
- Community perceptions about resourcing arts, culture and heritage are tempered by what they see as ‘core’ council business
- The place of arts and culture in councils is changing from a social activity to an economic one
- Policy, planning and evaluation of arts and culture is improving but needs development