Australia Talks National Survey conducted in 2019 identified the top 10 concerns of Australians. It is possible the impact of a pandemic post survey may have caused a shift in one or two concerns in this list. The ten issues of greatest concern to Australians are –
- Household debt
- Cost of living
- Alcohol and Drug abuse
- Ageing Population
- Public transport infrastructure
- How government is run
- Wealth inequality
Actually looking at this list, maybe with the exception of adding healthcare to the list (it was ranked 13th in 2019), it is likely that not much else would change. Five of the issues listed in the top 10 concerns shown above, household debt, cost of living, abuse, poverty and wealth inequality have likely worsened due to the impact of Covid-19. We’ve certainly witnessed issues with how government is run at all levels over the past two year.
Interestingly, in 2019, racism ranked 16th, where 75% or respondents saw racism as an issue, and gender equality ranked 24th, with 60% of the population see gender inequality as an issue. Since then we have witnessed the Black Lives Matter protests and March for Justice.
Which brings me to art. What is the role of art in regards to the issues that occupy the minds of our audiences? Does art mirror life, or is it the other way round? Should art ignore the concerns of our audience and sing its own chorus, or should art reflect the concerns of society? If art doesn’t reflect the concerns of society then how is art relevant? Does art even need to be relevant?
For some these will be existential questions, others may consider the questions irrelevant. Some may feel that art is above the daily worries of mere mortals, that it occupies a higher plane. Maybe the role of art is to offer hope for a better future by pricking our conscience and nudging us towards being less accepting of the current state. What do you think?
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I’m John Coxon. I write on topics related to art in Australia, and provide a consulting service to arts organisations. Thank you for giving up your time to read this post. I trust you will stay with me for the journey.