The NSW arts sector – quick facts

Queen Street Studio. Arunas Photography

Queen Street Studio. Arunas Photography

The NSW Government recognises that culture and the arts are intrinsic to our identity, to building stronger communities and a robust economy.

NSW Government Investment in the arts

The NSW Government is continuing to invest strongly in the State’s arts, cultural and screen sectors with $311 million provided in the 2013-14 NSW Budget.

This includes $250 million – $185 million in operating grants plus $65 million for infrastructure upgrades – for the State’s cultural institutions.

This also includes $51 million for Arts NSW for the Arts Funding Program.

Key statistics

NSW is at the forefront of arts and cultural activity, leading the country in cultural employment, screen production and cultural tourism.


In NSW, the cultural sector directly and indirectly employs more than 176,000 people. This is around 36 per cent of the national cultural workforce and about 5.6 per cent of total NSW employment.
ABS Employment in Culture 2011

Creative Industries

NSW accounts for 39.6% of Australia’s Creative Industries workforce with more people directly working in NSW creative industries than those employed within the NSW agriculture and mining industries combined. The arts and culture industries play a significant role in growth of the NSW economy with employment growth in the NSW creative industries nearly double that of the rest of the State’s workforce (from 2006 – 2011).
Creative Industries Action Plan March 2013


NSW is Australia’s pre-eminent State for film and television production, with 57% of all Australian drama production in 2012-13 taking place in NSW with production expenditure of $430 million; 81% of all Australian drama production was generated by NSW-based production companies.
Screen Australia, The Drama Report 12/13, 2013

Performing Arts

The NSW performing arts sector is Australia’s largest and includes 11 of the country’s 28 major performing arts companies.
Australia Council for the Arts

NSW generates the largest share of Australia’s live performing arts revenue (37%) and in terms of terms of ticket sales (35.6%).
Live Performance Australia, Ticket Attendance and Revenue Survey 2012


Almost 4.8 million or 83.2% of the NSW population attend at least one cultural venue or event per year. Nearly 660,000 or 66% of NSW children aged 5-14 years attended at least one cultural venue or event outside school hours.
ABS, Attendance at Selected Arts and Cultural Venues and Events 2009-10, ABS, Children’s Participation in Culture and Leisure Activities 2012


The NSW Government supports a world-class program of major arts festivals including Sydney Festival, Sydney Writers Festival, Biennale of Sydney, Vivid and Sydney Film Festival with a combined attendance of up to 2 million visits per year (1.3 million in non Biennale years).
Data supplied by the festival organisations

Cultural Tourism

NSW attracts 61% of Australia’s total international cultural and heritage visitors (1.7 million people). In 2012, these visitors spent an estimated $4 Billion in NSW and 42.6 million nights in the State.
Destination NSW, International Visitor Survey, year ended June 2013

NSW attracts 32% of Australia’s total domestic overnight cultural and heritage visitors (3.6 million people). These visitors spent an estimated $3.3 Billion in NSW and 13.7 million nights in the State. (There were a further 4.2 million domestic daytrip cultural and heritage visitors spending $0.6 Billion in NSW.)
Destination NSW, National Visitor Survey, year ended June 2013

The state cultural institutions

NSW is home to the country’s largest cultural institutions with a combined visitor attendance of over 10 million per year.

Sydney Opera House

One of Australia’s key assets, contributing $775 million to the economy every year and with a cultural and iconic value of $4.6 billion.

State Library of NSW

One of the world’s major collections with over 5 million items, including nine of the 11 First Fleet journals conservatively valued at $2.14 billion.

Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences

Comprising the Powerhouse Museum, the Powerhouse Discovery Centre at Castle Hill, the Sydney Observatory, and the NSW Migration Heritage Centre, it has a total collection of 500,000 objects valued at almost $400 million.

Art Gallery of NSW

More than 1.3 million people visit its significant collections of Aboriginal, Australian, Asian and European art.

Australian Museum

Australia’s oldest museum with outstanding natural history exhibitions and a collection of over 18 million items.

Other major non-government cultural facilities in Sydney

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

Around 1 million visitors a year.

Carriageworks Contemporary Arts Centre

Estimated 550,000 visitors in 2014.


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