Census 2026: Making sure artists are counted

A national snapshot, the ABS Census allows us to plan for the future – so how can we ensure it better represents artists and creative workers?
A hand holding a pen notates a spread of data shown in various graphs.

Last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics made the first of its Census 2021 releases and while data on employment and occupations isn’t due out until October, we still won’t be any closer to understanding more about how Australia’s artists live and work.

Why? Because the Census is notoriously incurious about the projects and practices that fire our passions – even if that work is far more meaningful to our lives and relevant to policymakers than our day jobs.

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Esther Anatolitis is one of Australia’s most influential advocates for arts and culture. She is Editor of Meanjin, Honorary Associate Professor at RMIT School of Art, and a member of the National Gallery of Australia Governing Council. Esther has led arts and media organisations across all artforms, including Express Media, the Emerging Writers' Festival, Craft Victoria, SYN Media, Melbourne Fringe, Regional Arts Victoria and NAVA. Her consultancy Test Pattern focuses on creative practice, policy and precincts, as well as advocacy and public value. A hallmark of Esther’s arts leadership career has been her tenacious civic engagement, ensuring that artists’ voices and arts issues feature prominently on political agendas. This work has ranged from strategic development and private advice to public events, regional marginal seat forums, candidates’ debates, specialist workshops and Australia’s first advocacy training program for the arts. A prolific writer, Esther’s work regularly appears in literary journals, newspapers, and arts and design media, and she is a regular Arts Hub columnist. Her book Place, Practice, Politics is published by Spurbuch. Follow Esther on Twitter: @_esther.