People with a disability - artists

The 2002 Australia Council artists survey, Don't give up your day job collected information relating to practising professional artists in Australia. The survey included full-time and part-time artists; employed and self-employed artists; and artists regardless of whether all, some or none of their income was from art practice.

The survey did not include artists whose primary involvement was in design (furniture, interior, fashion, industrial, architectural or graphic); artists working primarily in the film industry; or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists working in remote Indigenous communities.

According to Don't give up your day job, about 10 per cent of practising professional artists live with a disability. Of these about two-thirds have a physical disability and about one-third suffer from mental illness or intellectual impairment.

Visual artists and composers comprise the highest proportion of artists living with disabilities -17 per cent for visual artists and 16 per cent for composers. Only 3 per cent of dancers and choreographers report living with a disability.

About 60 per cent of artists with disabilities said their disability had some effect on their practice, but not often or strongly enough to be a serious impediment in carrying out their artistic work.

In 2000-01, artists living with a disability earned less than other artists.

When comparing total arts income, artists living with disabilities earned a mean gross income of $17,200 compared to $25,400 for all other artists.

When comparing total incomes, artists living with a disability earned a mean gross income of $26,700 compared to $38,400 for all other artists.


Australia Council, Don’t give up your day job: An Economic Study of Professional Artists in Australia (Throsby and Hollister 2003).


Australia Council, 2005, Artswork2: a report on Australians working in the arts. 

Cultural Ministers Council Statistics Working Group, Cultural Participation by Persons with a Disability and Older Persons, 2003.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2003.

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