Whose town is the most creative?: Hot spots of creativity in regional Australia
Creative industries are important for regional areas for more than the immediate economic benefits they bring.
Creative industries provide direct employment for regional Australians but also indirectly provide jobs, in other industries which support creative activities. These might include jobs in very different sectors such as manufacturing, hospitality, education, finance and government.
Beyond the arts sector itself, creative people play a vital role in economic development through enhanced innovative capacity. Creative industries can also strengthen many social aspects of a community such as boosting local liveability, engender local pride and provide avenues of self-expression.
The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) recognises the important contribution creative industries make to improve the prosperity and livelihoods of people in regional Australia. This research builds on a growing body of work by the RAI including creative contribution to economic performance, comparisons with European creative cities and the Innovation Index tracking the strengths of a region’s entrepreneurial business engine, along with the traditional measures of research and development.
But which places are creative hot spots in regional Australia?
The Location of Creative Hot Spots
As part of a larger project on job change, the RAI has identified the ‘hot spots’ for creative employment in regional Australia. Hot spots are places where creative employment is a high proportion of local jobs. This is different to the total number of jobs, which is often skewed to places with a large population rather than showing the importance of the industry.
Creative jobs have been selected based on research by the Queensland University of Technology and includes occupations such as artists, graphic designers, performers, journalists, architects, web designers.
This work shows that hot spots of creativity are distributed across Australia, but particularly concentrate in and around metropolitan areas. However, there are a number of regional areas which are also outperforming the national average, and have a higher proportion of creative jobs in their local economy.
For regional Australia, perhaps unsurprisingly, the LGA of Byron had the highest proportion of creative jobs compared to jobs in other industries in 2016. Byron is well known for its creative community and our analysis of 2016 Census* data supports this. Byron is above the national average for the concentration of creative jobs and further analysis shows that local conditions are contributing to creative employment growth outside of expected national trends
To understand how creative industries differ across regions, we broke down the industry into sub-industry segments which are also described in the Queensland University of Technology’s research. The segments we used were:
- Advertising and marketing
- Architecture, design and visual Arts
- Film, TV and radio
- Music and performing arts
- Software and digital content
The top 5 regional hot spots for each creative sub-industry are listed in Figure 1. Using Location Quotients, each place has been given a score which shows how high the proportion of creative jobs are. Scores over 1 are above the national average.
Figure 1. The top 5 Creative Industry Hot Spots in Regional Australia for 2016, broken into sub-industry segments
From this list, there are a number of repeat offenders. Some areas rate highly in more than one creative segment and therefore have a greater alignment with those industries. Byron features in the top hot spots for four of the seven segments, Hobart features in three and, the Gold Coast and Surf Coast feature in two.
For the advertising and marketing sub-industry segment, Gnowangerup has the greatest proportion of creative jobs. While the total number of jobs in Gnowangerup is low, the proportion of employment it accounts for is higher than any other regional LGA, followed closely by Byron.
Anangu Pitjantjatara in northern South Australia has a small number of total jobs but the highest proportion of architecture, design and visual arts jobs. Within this, the job which employs the most people is visual arts and crafts professionals. Byron and the Surf Coast, near Geelong have the next highest proportion of jobs and these places all have a significantly above average proportion of jobs in architecture, design and visual arts.
In regional Australia, the LGAs with the highest proportion of film, TV and radio were the Central Desert, north of Alice Springs, which has a high proportion of people working as artistic directors, and media producers and presenters. This is followed by Byron and Hobart.
Byron has the highest concentration of music and performing arts jobs in regional Australia. In this category, the highest occupation in Bryon is music professionals. Mareeba near Cairns is the second highest hot spot on the list and features a range of music and performing events throughout the year.
Publishing is most concentrated in Coomalie near Litchfield National Park and Paroo south of Charleville with low job totals but high proportion of librarian jobs in the local economy. Armidale, the coastal area of Kingborough and, Narrogin east of Mandurah follow with significant scores above the national average. The jobs most contributing to this are librarians and library assistants.
The only regional LGA with an above average proportion of software and digital content jobs is Hobart. There is both a high proportion of jobs and a high overall number of jobs. As no other regional area has an above average proportion, it tells us that typically jobs in the industry concentrate in metropolitan areas and that they are only a small part of regional employment.
While this shows areas which are strong in creative industries, it does not explain why regional areas of a similar size[SR1] and demographic might have different proportions of creative jobs.
For example, why does Noosa (QLD) have a much higher concentration of graphic designers and illustrators than Mildura (VIC)?
What has attracted more musicians and performing artists to live in Albury (NSW) than Bunbury (WA)?
Why are the Indigenous communities of Anangu Pitjantjatjara (SA) (the APY lands) more specialised in visual arts and crafts than any other community?
Why are there more publishing jobs in coastal area of Kingborough (TAS) than the fast growing region of Palmerston (NT)?
What has made Wollongong (NSW) such a hub for film, TV and radio professionals?
Why does Byron Bay (NSW) and the surrounds outperform the national average across all creative segments (except software and digital content)?
Why are there no creative jobs in Grant (SA), Dorset (TAS) or Leonora (WA)?
Our research will continue to look into these questions and the benefits that creative industries bring to regional Australia. We are interested in understanding what makes one area more creative than another and how that impacts life in regional places.
We will investigate creativity using case study areas and particularly focusing on the relationship between creative hot spots and other socio-economic variables like incomes, house prices and population growth. Findings are expected to result in actionable items which may support communities to further develop their creative industries and understand the potential economic and social benefits this could have.
We would like to hear from you about creativity in your area. Are there particular creative initiatives that your community does well? What creative endeavours are you most proud of in your community? What impact is your community’s creative activities having on your community and its economy?
To share your story please contact Hayley Achurch at [email protected]
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* It is important to note that this is based on the information provided by Census participants and while it is a good indicator of people’s professions, it is subject to self-determination and transience.
 Higgs P. and Lennon S., 2014, Applying the NESTA Dynamic Mapping definition methodology to Australian classifications, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD <http://eprints.qut.edu.au/92726/>