This is the first in a series of essays based on data from the 2006 Census, produced in cooperation with the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

One of the ten working groups assembled at the Federal Government’s 2020 Summit held in Canberra in April 2008 to discuss ideas for Australia’s future was that brought together under the heading ‘Creative Australia’. Under the chairmanship of Cate Blanchett and Julianne Schultz, one hundred selected individuals from the arts, film, the media, architecture and design spent the weekend tossing around ideas for the future of creativity in this country in an age of rapid technological and social change. An important aspect of the group’s task was to put forward a clear vision of exactly what a Creative Australia might look like.

The idea of Australia as a creative country sounds attractive. Yet identifying what such a proposition entails is no easy matter. Creativity is an elusive concept – one of those notions that seems obvious enough until we try to pin it down with a rigorous and unambiguous definition. Even psychologists who study creative thinking and behaviour are uncertain as to whether creativity is a trait of individuals or a process by which problems are solved and original ideas are generated and applied. There is also no consensus as to whether, if it is a characteristic that people possess, it is something that is innate or something that can be taught.