Australian Major Performing Arts Group

The Major Performing Arts Group (AMPAG) is an association of the 28 large performing arts companies (music, dance, theatre) funded by the Commonwealth government through the Australia Council. They account for about 25% of performing arts employment in Australia. The major orchestras, opera companies and Musica Viva are members.

What follows is the first part of AMPAG’s submission to an inquiry set up by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training into ‘matters that ensure Australia’s tertiary education system—including universities and public and private providers of vocational education and training—can meet the needs of a future labour force focused on innovation and creativity’.
At the end of the article is a link to the very interesting paper to which this is an introduction.


While it is an undisputable fact that the arts attract the country’s most creative people to develop works that inspire, challenge and expand our understanding of ourselves, the arts have been siloed from the country’s innovation and creativity framework. This means Australia is not reaping the full benefits of a workforce that is both highly creative and inventive.

There is a fundamental intuitive connection between the need for Australia’s labour force to be focused on innovation and creativity and the fact that the arts’ raw resource is creativity and innovation. But, strangely, this obvious correlation has been missing at government policy levels.

Successfully transitioning to an innovation economy requires a shift in Australia’s policy settings to centralise the role and impact of the arts in developing creative, innovative, connected and flexible individuals that together form our workforce.

We know the arts are a source of creativity, that its workforce is passionate, generous and driven, and that artists’ work practices are demanding and disciplined. What a workforce trained in creativity brings to a workplace (whether artistic or in traditional employment sectors) is a unique, exploratory perspective, practised in testing ideas and finding solutions. The value and prestige of arts and humanities courses within the tertiary sector is falling, and the government leadership and public discourse on the arts—and the social and economic value and potential of the broader creative industries—is missing. Without that leadership, the value of an arts education will continue to be undermined, ultimately leading to a more conservative and less innovative workforce.

Ian Narev, Chief Executive of Commonwealth Bank of Australia, in a recent interview warned Australians ‘against being entranced by the siren song of technology at the expense of human-centred strengths, like creativity and imagination as true drivers of innovation’.

  • In fact I worry, if anything, that too much has focused on the need to develop more people who can code. They are a critical resource but let’s not kid ourselves, we are still human beings and we’re still broader than just the skills that we need to code.
  • Inquiry into innovation and creativity: workforce for the new economy Submission 81
  • Because actually, as an employer and as a member of the community, the skill we most need to foster is creativity.
  • Ian Narev, Chief Executive Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Chair of Sydney Theatre Company

This submission considers various issues that dominate the debate and the extent to which they can fuel or impede future workforce creative and innovative practices:

  1. It examines the skills required by both individual workers and organisations to generate success for creative and innovative workplaces.
  2. It considers both the artistic skills learnt through collaboration with the arts as well as arts-trained students’ capacity to offer new ways of generating creativity and innovation in the broader economy.
  3. It proposes ways in which closer engagement in arts practice, cross pollination of student skills and collaboration can build a more creative and innovative workforce.
  4. The quality of secondary students entering tertiary institutions affects tertiary outcomes. In this submission we look at the long-established knowledge that learning through the arts at school can lift student results. The siloing of arts in Australia compared to its competitors who are adopting a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, as opposed to STEM) approach to education and innovative frameworks is limiting our potential.
  5. We believe the value of the arts to generate secondary economic activity and contribute to communities’ wellbeing should inform, and confirm, the value of arts-based tertiary education. The impact arts engagement has on an individual, the community and our international standing is significant.
  6. We touch on how other nations are seeking to build pathways to stimulate innovation and creativity in their own workforces. Therefore, countries that are also able to position their workforce as highly creative and innovative will be better placed to attract capital investment, business partnerships and country-to-country cooperation and collaboration. Cultural diplomacy and Australia’s international creative brand will influence the extent that such opportunities can be leveraged.


In considering how we best ensure the 21st century workforce’s creativity and capacity to innovate is maximised and the barriers or road blocks are addressed, we make the following recommendations:

  1. The Australian Government’s Innovation agenda should move from a STEM approach to STEAM (A for Arts) recognising that siloing of arts and creativity limits the crossover of artists’ skill sets and innovative approaches across academic learning and into traditional employment sectors and industries.
  2. The Australian Government should play a leadership role in encouraging the community to value and engage with the arts in education at all levels. Encouraging active participation and exposure to new ideas and insights thought the arts can also challenge and inspire new thinking in our workforce.
  3. The primary and high school curriculum should move to a STEAM-based approach to optimise academic results and higher order thinking, collaborative work practices and social skills.
  4. School teachers should be empowered to deliver the Arts Curriculum through affordable ongoing professional learning in the arts accompanied by professional recognition of the value of superior artsbased teaching skills.
  5. Pre-service teachers need adequate training to ensure they can effectively implement a world class Arts Curriculum and use a successful STEAM approach to whole-of-curriculum delivery.
  6. A STEAM approach to tertiary education should build cross-disciplinary networks and opportunities on campus and through work placements during study.
  7. Governments around the country should encourage greater diversity in skill sets in incubators including building opportunities for arts students and workers to develop capacity to work and contribute in these environments.
  8. Recognising that artists are highly trained, yet often have portfolio careers, also means they are underutilized. In partnership with tertiary incubators or other programs with industry links, governments should develop pathways to connect artists to businesses seeking to increase their creative and innovative capacity.
  9. The arts is a sector that employs professional creative individuals and relies on tertiary training to develop creative skills sets. Without clear policy on the value and role of the arts, access to tertiary arts courses can be precarious, as seen in the recent announcement of regulations for the VET Student loans to exclude all performing arts performing courses. This can be addressed in part though government development of a STEAM agenda.
  10. Government support of vocational training though VET student loan scheme should reinstate performing arts performance courses onto the eligibility list, recognising the performing arts industry needs highly developed craft skills.
  11. In addition government should fully consider requests from performing arts performance vocational course providers with strong industry connections to lift the loan caps, given the relatively niche area these training courses address, characterised by small class sizes and high levels of face-to-face teaching.
  12. Government should consider how the role of the Chief Scientist could be complemented with the creation of Chief Social Scientist to ensure a holistic STEAM ecosystem in which public policy is developed.


Major Performing Arts Group

The Major Performing Arts Group (AMPAG) is an association of the 28 large performing arts companies (music, dance, theatre) funded by the Commonwealth government through the Australia Council. They account for about 25% of performing arts employment in Australia. The major orchestras, opera companies and Musica Viva are members.

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