Remote indigenous cultural practitioners in East Arnhem Land: survey methodology and principal results

David Throsby, Ekaterina Petetskaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Arts and cultural production is one of the major avenues for providing incomes and economic opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This is particularly true in remote towns, settlements, homelands and outstations across Australia, where arts and cultural production is likely to be one of the most important means for providing a viable and culturally-relevant livelihood for members of the community. But there is little systematic data on the economic conditions of individual cultural production in remote regions and on how such production can contribute towards the economic and cultural sustainability of communities in such areas. This report provides details of a survey of individual cultural practitioners undertaken in one such region, East Arnhem Land in Northern Australia, during 2012-2014. The survey formed part of a larger ARC Discovery project titled The Value of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage: Cultural Production and Regional Economies in East Arnhem Land and the Western Desert. The survey was designed to identify ways in which the accumulation of cultural capital occurs in remote Indigenous communities, and to investigate why and how Indigenous adults in the study region utilise their cultural capital when participating in economic and cultural activities. This report gives an outline of the survey methodology, the survey instrument design, the sampling procedure and the survey implementation. It also provides an overview of the survey results. The report concludes by noting the fundamental role played by intergenerational cultural transmission, not only in endowing cultural practitioners with the knowledge and skills that they draw upon in their work, but also in motivating them in allocating their time between their cultural responsibilities and obligations and their production of work for the market. It is clear that art and cultural production does indeed offer considerable potential for contributing to the regional economy in a manner that also enhances cultural sustainability and resilience.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages34
JournalMacquarie economics research papers
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • cultural practitioners
  • cultural heritage
  • individual artists
  • cultural capital
  • Australian aboriginal art
  • economic and cultural sustainability


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