Annual Report 2019-20

In these challenging times, creativity has connected us. Creativity will be vital to our recovery from this pandemic: to rebuilding our social connections, our wellbeing, our tourism and our economy. Now, more than ever, our artists have a significant role in helping Australians navigate rapid social, cultural and economic change and in building the health of our civil society.

On behalf of the Australia Council Board and staff, I acknowledge the hardship and isolation felt by so many as we recover from a devastating summer of bushfires and navigate the uncharted waters of the COVID-19 global health emergency.

This is the Australia Council’s first annual report under our Creativity Connects Us strategy, a roadmap which points us towards a future where creative enterprise is entrenched across society, industry and government as the fuel that powers our social, cultural and economic success.

Sam Walsh AO

Chair, Australia Council for the Arts


Annual report key figures

Investment overview


Investment in regional Australia*

Direct and indirect investment

Investment by location

Grants and initiatives by area of practice

*Change in methodology note: This chart and table are based on the location of the applicant/organisation’s residence, rather than location of activity as presented in previous years. It does not include regional touring activity, for example through the Government’s regional touring programs, if the applicant is not based in regional Australia. The Government’s regional touring programs provided $6.3 million in investment in 2019–20.

Key achievements 2019-20

Within a changing environment and in a year of unprecedented challenge and disruption nationally and globally, the Council championed and invested in Australian arts and creativity to ensure Creativity Connects UsThe Council’s achievements reflect the strength of our collaborative approach and deep industry knowledge and networks, as well as our organisational agility and responsiveness.

Strategic Objective 1: Australians are transformed by arts and creativity

  • In 2019–20 the Council invested in 21.1 million live attendances in Australia (prior to COVID-19) and 7,855 Australian artworks with a public outcome through an exhibition, publication or recording. 
  • Due to COVID-19, many cultural organisations and workers pivoted to online content. The Council delivered a range of digital support activities including creating a digital community, quickly moving our capacity building work online and presenting four webinar series that achieved 39,591 touchpoints. 
  • Over a third of Australians engaged with arts events online in the first few weeks of lockdown (34%). During the pandemic, supporting wellbeing has been a key motivator for online audiences who also reported a sense of connection – online arts and culture have enabled Australians to transcend isolation.
  • Through our research, including our National Arts Participation Survey, Electorate Profiles and Domestic Arts Tourism: Connecting the Country, the Council continues to build the evidence-base about the value of arts and creativity in Australians’ lives.

Strategic Objective 2: Our arts reflect us

  • The Australia Council champions and invest in diverse intersectional communities through a broad range of programs and strategies. In 2019–20 we provided $24.1 million to support 960 culturally diverse applications, fuelling diversity and vibrancy in Australian arts.
  • We continued to improve the accessibility of our programs and increased diversity of representation among artists and organisations supported through our International Arts Strategy.
  • We awarded two new prestigious National Arts and Disability Awards and convened a Gender Equity and Diversity in Opera Summit. 

Strategic Objective 3: First Nations arts and culture are cherished

  • In 2019–20, the Council invested $17.4 million in First Nations artists and communities. This included launching a new Custodianship program that supports First Nations leadership.
  • Prior to COVID-19, First Nations arts were experiencing unprecedented demand and international acclaim. In 2019–20 the Council supported First Nations artists and companies to present 36 projects overseas and reach audiences of 2.6 million globally.
  • In the wake of COVID-19 the Council produced 16 First Nations Roundtables that brought together hundreds of First Nations artists and creatives each week with a total of 3,959 touchpoints. We also invested approximately $700,000 in the Cherish pilot fund, providing specific support for First Nations artists.

Strategic Objective 4: Arts and creativity are thriving

  • In 2019–20 the Council invested in 10,980 new Australian artworks and 4.3 million international attendances in 57 countries (prior to COVID-19).
  • We invested in 1,283 individual artists and 531 organisations through grants and strategic activity. We aligned our multi-year organisation investment programs, providing a clearer pathway for organisations between different streams.
  • Our capacity building programs continued to develop Australia’s arts leaders. They reached more people than ever with 9,816 interactions in 2019–20 due to the new online delivery method introduced during COVID-19.
  • We produced protocols and resources for the cultural and creative industries to consider in preparation for moving into the next phase of Australia’s response to COVID-19.

Strategic Objective 5: Arts and creativity are valued

  • In 2019–20, the Council convened 68 public events, including Blockchain for Creative Businesses in partnership with Screen Australia; the 2020 First Nations Arts Awards which were broadcast on NITV and livestreamed to a national and international audience; and 63 online events since COVID-19. 
  • We published 14 research projects, which received 36,659 website page views and substantial attention from industry and mainstream media. Our research was featured in at least 330 media reports across print, online and broadcast media. 
  • We provided evidence-based submissions and advice, increased our cross-portfolio connections and strengthened our advocacy in the media.

In 2019–20 the Council reviewed and evolved our organisational structure to align with the strategic priorities of our new five year strategy, Creativity Connects Us, and to remain agile and responsive in a fast changing environment. We implemented new business systems that immediately supported effective remote working, including delivering online support for the cultural sector through a range of webinar series and digital support activities.


Digital resources


First Nations' Roundtable 


Creative Connections 


Think Inside the Square 


Intel: Podcast series


Case studies

Regional and remote artists' creativity shines in major cities and around the world

Theatre workshops transforming lives by addressing trauma among veterans


Exciting new music reaching new audiences

Celebrating First Nations languages and Closing the Gap

Access the Annual Report 2019-20 

Exit off canvas