- Sydney today is in a phase of unprecedented expansion, with its population forecast to increase by 20% by 2031. Greater Sydney continues to be the heartland of the nation’s cultural sector, almost 30% of the nation’s cultural workers live in Greater Sydney.
- Since 2014, the City of Sydney has pursued a particular focus on live music, performance venues and the night time economy following the introduction of the controversial state government ‘lock-out’ laws.
- The impact of development controls and local environment plans are increasingly being recognised in discussions around cultural participation and creative industries employment. This is leading to efforts to create more effective links between cultural and planning policy.
City data: Key facts
- Geographical area: 12,368 sq. km
- Total population: 4,823,991
- GDP (PPP) million: $269,872
Sydney hosts one of the oldest living cultures in the world with Aboriginal Australians arriving over 50,000 years before Europeans arrived in Australia. The traditional custodians of the place we now call Sydney are the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. In 1788, the British established a penal colony on the site of modern day Sydney, and this had far-reaching and devastating impacts on the Eora Nation, including the occupation and appropriation of their traditional lands. Despite the destructive impact of colonisation, Aboriginal culture endured and is known globally as one of the world’s oldest living cultures.
Sydney today is in a phase of unprecedented expansion, with its population forecast to increase by 20%, or 1 million people, by 2031. The City of Sydney itself, where many political and cultural institutions are located, covers a relatively small area compared to the greater metropolitan region, which stretches along the coast and inland.
Migration is a large part of Sydney’s story, with around 40% of Sydney’s population born overseas, arriving from almost 200 countries. Today, an estimated 65% of Sydney’s population has at least one parent who was born overseas and almost two thirds of population growth is attributable to migration, approximately 30% of which comes from China and India. Economically, this influx of new skills, ideas and people has been central to Sydney’s strong economy. Culturally, it has had a profound impact, changing the way Sydney residents think about themselves, their commonalities and their heritage.
Sydney faces key cultural challenges, including its high cost of living, with some of the highest property prices in the world. Small music and arts venues have been significantly affected by rising property costs, complaints from residential neighbours and the redevelopment of suitable buildings. Meanwhile, urban redevelopment, particularly for housing, has substantially reduced appropriate spaces for cultural production. There has also been a decline in the diversity of those engaged in cultural work, due to the unaffordable costs of housing, with research indicating a growing reliance among professional artists on support from their spouses and families. To help address these issues, the City of Sydney is focusing on the integration of cultural policy into planning, regulation, economic, social and other policy areas, to ensure space for creative and cultural workers remains available, affordable and accessible to those from a diversity of backgrounds. Sustainable Sydney 2030 is the overall strategy guiding the City of Sydney and sets out goals for making the city green, global and connected. Linked to this is the Creative City Cultural Policy and Action Plan 2014–2024, whose priorities include increasing creativity’s visibility in the public domain; investing in creative sector sustainability; supporting cultural participation; and improving access.
Since 2014, the City of Sydney has pursued a particular focus on live music, performance venues and the night time economy following the introduction of the controversial state government ‘lock-out’ laws. A response to an increase in alcohol related violence in parts of the city, ‘lock-out’ laws impose strict licensing conditions on Sydney’s nightlife including restricting access to venues from 1:30am. The impact on the night time economy and the live music and performing arts sectors that operate within the night has been dramatic and has seen a number of high profile venue closures. This context has driven the implementation of the City of Sydney’s Live Music and Performance Action Plan and the establishment of a Nightlife and Creative Industries Advisory Panel.