For a long time I’ve mocked the guesstimates which have attributed huge numbers to the ‘market’ for Indigenous art “ a $200 million a year turnover is a common fantasy. Or is it? It was therefore intriguing to come across this comment from the Executive Director of the Australia Council’s Aboriginal and TSI Arts Board, Lydia Miller in, of all places, an international art management publication:
“We are looking to see who is producing the work and what productions are being presented and toured. Secondly, I look at the research on the cultural and economic value of our First Nations visual arts sector. We are building a picture of how we can define value at a conceptual, quantitative and qualitative level”.

Well, it turned out that Ms Miller doesn’t have the numbers to “look at” in front of her quite yet. But my enquiry was timely – they’ll be with her any day now, if the art industry has done its bit. They – the “private art businesses” as they’re referred to – had until TODAY to do an hour-long survey to reveal the realities of their businesses. I hope they did it – or will do the job TODAY “ because we all really want to know how the figures actually compute.

Here’s the background to this research “ pro bono, by the way, by Deloitte Access Economics

Deloitte is committed to making an impact that matters. Through its Reconciliation Action Plan, the organisation committed to develop a project pro bono that would build on existing literature and influence public discussion on an area of Indigenous affairs. Following discussions with the Australia Council for the Arts and other key stakeholders in the sector, we believe there is a significant opportunity to consider the cultural and economic contribution of Indigenous visual arts in Australia.

The Australia Council for the Arts aims to strengthen the evidence base for understanding key issues in the Australian arts sector.

Deloitte Access Economics and the Australia Council for the Arts are working in partnership, and with the Indigenous visual arts industry, to produce a report examining the cultural and economic value of Indigenous visual arts. The purpose of the report is three-fold:
ï‚· Provide Indigenous arts organisations, galleries and artists with an evidence-based resource that conveys both the cultural and economic value of their sector;
ï‚· Promote the role of the Indigenous visual arts industry nationally and internationally, and in the broader economy;
ï‚· Bring together and build on existing research, to create an industry-wide picture that informs decision making and advocacy.

This is a unique study as the economic contribution of Indigenous visual arts in Australia has never before been quantified at a sector-wide level in this way.

ï‚· The Australia Council for the Arts will be developing the cultural component, ensuring that Indigenous voices are highlighted in articulating the important role visual arts play in Indigenous culture and story-telling; and bringing together research about the relationship between arts and cultural practice and wellbeing, and the roles and impacts of cultural practitioners in building resilient communities.
ï‚· Deloitte Access Economics will be collecting data to articulate the economic contribution of the industry in Australia, including in employment, tourism and broader economic impact. Part of this will be developing a survey of private art businesses to build on existing sector research.

If successful, the report will be publicly launched and released for use by all. We would like this piece of work to be owned and used by the Indigenous visual arts sector and their communities for their unique and individual purposes.

Deloitte Access Economics has developed a survey to collect information from private art businesses for the purposes of estimating the economic contribution. The survey takes approximately 60 minutes to complete. This is a critical input into our economic contribution as it fills an existing data gap.

Deloitte Access Economics will be handling all information and data from the survey. They will keep and store this information in a confidential manner and will not reveal it to any other commercial gallery or party. The Australia Council for the Arts will not have access to any of the data provided. Individual businesses will not be identified in the report “ all information and data will be reported at an aggregate level to avoid identifying the responses of individual organisations. The data will be stored securely on Deloitte’s information system.

Having spoken to Sasha Zegenhagen at Deloitte, she tells me that more responses than we’ve currently received would be optimal. In other words “ dealers have not done their bit towards this important project. The deadline has been extended to Monday 20 June. Enquiries to