SWOT for opera. Progress in Indigenous education.


 This month:

  • SWOT Analysis: Opera

  • Expansion of SWOT Analysis Project

  • Infographic: progress on Indigenous education

SWOT Analysis: Opera

The Music in Australia Knowledge Base is pleased to publish the first paper received for its 2017 SWOT Analysis Project: an analysis of the situation of opera in Australia by Jeffrey Simmons.

The opera SWOT can be found here: http://musicinaustralia.org.au/index.php?title=SWOT_ANALYSIS_FOR_OPERA or in the centre column of the home page, www.musicinaustralia.org.au.

Australian soprano Nicole Car

Here are a few excerpts to give the flavour.


  • Opera is one of the greatest of all theatrical art forms combining drama, the visual arts and music into a powerful and often deeply emotional theatre experience. Opera is unique in that it has the extraordinary ability to suspend the audience’s disbelief in a way that no other performance art form can.
  • Production values and artistic standards among the major companies are generally very high, a fact that is acknowledged internationally.


  • Recent research showed that the number of Australian singers in leading roles at Opera Australia fell by 51% from 2011-2016, while the number of performances by international singers more than tripled.
  • Most theatres within Australia, whether publicly or privately owned operate on a commercial basis. Opera, with its requirements for dark nights between performances (for the singers to rest their voices), is not conducive to these commercial arrangements. Dark nights mean no ticket revenue (from which venues normally take fees), no merchandise or food and beverage sales (from which venues make significant income and less work for venue staff and less engagement with the public. Most venues would prefer to offer performances every day of the year. An opera company presenting say five performances of a large, mainstage opera will usually require a minimum of three weeks venue rental. This means 16 dark days and only five where income can be generated.


  • International collaborations offer some significant opportunities. No longer solely the domain of Opera Australia, international collaboration is now a reality at State level and offers a chance to invest in production quality with a reduced financial risk, while opening the companies up to the artistic input of other countries.
  • Development of the art form through the creation of new works and reinterpretations of existing classics provides an opportunity to build audiences. New technology can also be used to engage new audiences, alongside co-productions across art form.


  • Levels of funding are currently not keeping pace with rising costs of presentation, thereby restricting growth of the opera industry and forcing companies to lower output, reduce production values and a consequent lowering of artistic standards. On average the costs of presenting opera are increasing by more than the rate inflation each year, with government subsidy usually running well below inflation.
  • Reduction in the number of new generation singers due to a lack of training facilities and professional development opportunities. Lack of opportunities for new generation directors and designers to work in opera due to the lack of new opera productions being commissioned and artistic control vested with the national company.

About the Music in Australia Knowledge Base: SWOT Analysis Project

In 2008, the Music in Australia Knowledge Base commissioned SWOT analyses for 20 different areas of musical activity.

SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. A SWOT analysis can be applied to an organisation or an area of activity such as choral music, the music industry, music education, indigenous music. The analysis gives an overview. It can be used for forward planning – countering weaknesses and threats, building on opportunities.

Nine years on from that initial set of SWOTs, it’s time to update and to fill gaps. At this point, The Music Trust has commitments from 32 people or organisations to prepare SWOTs, and there are more to come. These are the commitments to date.


  1. Artist management. Leanne de Souza, CEO, Association of Artist Managers, and members
  2. Australian Indigenous Music. Traditional and contemporary. Jessie Lloyd, Songlines.
  3. Chamber music performance. Kathryn Selby, musician, entrepreneur
  4. Chamber music, amateur. Julian Dresser, Amateur Chamber Music Association
  5. Chamber music (Musica Viva). Mary-Jo Capps, CEO. August.
  6. Choral music. Michael Fulcher, President, ANCA
  7. Classical music. Richard Letts, Director, The Music Trust
  8. Community music development. Graham Sattler, CEO, Mitchell Conservatorium. July
  9. Composition – art music. John Davis, CEO, Australian Music Centre
  10. Contemporary music industry. Patrick Donovan, President, AMIN
  11. Cultural policy, national. Deborah Mills
  12. Diverse musics. Peter Mousaferiadis, CEO, Cultural Infusion, and team. July
  13. Historically informed performance. Neal Peres da Costs. Professor of Historical Performance, Sydney Conservatorium. October?
  14. Jazz in SA. Sylvan Elhay, musician
  15. Music and performing arts venues. Australian Performing Arts Centres Association. Around November.
  16. Music education in preschools. Aleksandra Acker, RMIT. October?
  17. Music education in schools. Bradley Merrick, President, Australian Society for Music Education
  18. Music education – research. Jane Southcott and the Australian and New Zealand Association for Research in Music Educati0n. November.
  19. Music education – vocal. Diane Hughes, President, Australian National Association of Teachers of Singing
  20. Music libraries. Anna Shelmerdine, President, International Association of Music Libraries (Australia)
  21. Music publishing. Matthew O’Sullivan, CEO, Australian Music Publishers Association
  22. Music therapy. Bridgit Hogan, EO, Australian Music Therapy Association. August?
  23. Musical instrument making. Mike Lee, Secretary, Association of Musical Instrument Makers
  24. Musical theatre. John Senczuk, designer/director
  25. New music. Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey, Co-Chairs, New Music Network
  26. Jeffrey Simmons. Received.
  27. Orchestras – professional. Kate Lidbetter, CEO, Symphony Services International
  28. Orchestras – youth. Yarmila Alfonzetti, Sydney Youth Orchestra and the leaders of the major Australian youth orchestras
  29. Screen music. Guy Gross, President, Australian Guild of Screen Composers. August
  30. Studio music teaching – national. Rita Crews, Chair, Music Teachers Association NSW
  31. Studio music teaching – Queensland. Kerry Thomson, Secretary, Music Teachers Association Queensland
  32. Venue-based live music. John Wardle, Director, Australasian Performing Right Association Live Music Office

Infographic: progress on Indigenous education

This is a marvellous summary in graphic form of the situation with the education of Australian Indigenous children. It was prepared by staff of The Conversation.

The infographic shows progress for all stages from preschool to tertiary education. There is some very good news and some not so good. The study does not include music education but gives us general context.

Here are some of the numbers:

  • The number of Indigenous school students increased by 46.7% over the last 10 years, compared with an overall 12% increase in the number of Australian school students. That’s a basis for some good catch-up.
  • It appears that up to 80% of Indigenous students have significant hearing loss. That would do to their general competence, let alone their learning?
  • 93% of Indigenous children are enrolled in pre-school, compared to 96% of non-Indigenous, but their actual attendance rate can be much lower – an average 68%.
  • Achievement of Indigenous primary school students is relatively close to that of non-Indigenous students in metro areas but much lower in remote areas. Is that true also of non-Indigenous kids? How can you get an effective education in a small, remote settlement?
  • At secondary level, Indigenous students score significantly below the international benchmarks in maths and science and much lower than non-Indigenous students and there has been no improvement over the last decade.
  • The percentage of Indigenous students participating in VET was over twice the percentage for non-Indigenous, but at lower qualification levels – Certificate I and II and non-award courses. Have to encourage them to stick with it.
  • The total number of Indigenous students enrolled at university almost doubled from 2006 to 2015. Of those who graduate, ¾ have full-time employment after four months. Very good news and it’s beginning to show in their own communities and the community at large.

The study does not comment on the effects of the provision of music education on Indigenous students. There are andecdotal reports of the positive effects on school attendance. We will explore whether there have been any surveys assessing other outcomes.

To see the full graphic presentation, go to the Knowledge Base here: http://musicinaustralia.org.au/index.php?title=Infographic:_progress_on_Indigenous_education

Authors: Claire Shaw, Education Editor; Jamal Ben Haddou, Editorial intern; Wes Mountain, Deputy Multimedia Editor, The Conversation


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