MURRAY ARTS REGIONAL SNAPSHOT 2017
The Murray region covers an area of 21,111 square kilometres and sits on the state border between Southern Riverina NSW and North East Victoria, located along the Hume highway between Sydney and Melbourne. It has a population of approximately 140,076 people.
This region is divided by the Murray River and has a strong history of Aboriginal ownership, with connections to the following Aboriginal Nations of Waveroo, Minjambuta, Dhudhoroa, Bpangerang, Yorta Yorta, Jethi Yaithmathang and Wiradjuri. European settlement centred on trade (wool, wine, and wheat) farming, mining (gold) and migration. The Bonegilla Migrant Centre received and resettled over 300,000 migrants from 1947–1971.
The main employers in the area are healthcare and social assistance, manufacturing, construction, retail trade, accommodation and food services, public administration, education and training.
Murray Arts services three NSW LGAs and three Victorian LGAs:
- Albury City – 53,832 pop. (major centre)
- Federation – 12,602 pop.
- Greater Hume Council – 10,302 pop.
- City of Wodonga – 41,286 pop. (major centre)
- Indigo Shire – 16,035 pop.
Significant industry and/or service providers include:
- Hospitals (both private and public)
- Disability and Aged Care industries
- Government agencies including Defence Force / Bandiana Army Barracks / Local Government
- Education Institutions including Charles Sturt University and LaTrobe University
- Tourism / historical significance (Ned Kelly, gold rush, high country, food and wine, snow fields)
- Local industries and trade including VISY, Mars Petcare, Wodonga LOGIC Centre
Arts and Cultural Overview
The Murray region boasts a strong professional arts and cultural practice and a high proportion of resident artists. There is a strong culture of performance and local theatre, including national arts organisations the Flying Fruit Fly Circus and HotHouse Theatre operating from this region. There are a multitude of festivals and opportunities for community engagement in the arts, as well as a very large number of museums due to the high historical significance of the region.
Local Government Engagement
All councils have a commitment to the arts, with some employing dedicated arts and cultural workers, with most adopting Arts and Culture Strategies. AlburyCity and City of Wodonga support strong modern arts infrastructure with two major performing arts venues Albury Entertainment Centre and The Cube Wodonga, and regionally significant art galleries and collections including the Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA), Arts Space Wodonga, Corowa ArtSpace, Albury LibraryMuseum, Lavington Library and Wodonga Library. Outdoor spaces are important gathering places, including the award winning Junction Place in Wodonga, the Wagirra Trail along the Murray River in Albury and the Cube Wodonga Courtyard, all community activation spaces. Most of the arts and cultural workers or community workers who are responsible for cultural activity, work part time.
The following organisations, business and groups stimulate significant cultural activity around the performing arts, including HotHouse Theatre, Flying Fruit Fly Circus (which is also an educational institution), Tim Podesta’s PROJECTion Dance, Regional Academy of Performing Arts Wodonga, Sharyn Hill School of Performing Arts and Creative Expression and a number of local theatre companies such as Albury Wodonga Theatre Company, Livid Productions, The Other Theatre company and Margot McCallum and the ‘Assemble_It’ ability dance group.
From stunning mountain ranges to the Murray River, the geography of this region attracts a high number of professionally practising visual artists. There are many private and public art galleries and a number of private studios regularly open to the public at various times throughout the year. The Gateway Island arts and cultural precinct which is supported and subsidized by the City of Wodonga, is a hub of activity for artists with the Jazz Basement, Burraja Indigenous Cultural and Environmental Discovery Centre, GIGS Art Gallery, Creators Arts Space, GIGS artist studios with spaces for rent, Albury Wodonga Artists Society and Murray Arts’ burraja gallery. burraja gallery is a social enterprise and the only gallery space in the region dedicated to the sale and promotion of local Aboriginal art, with proceeds and profits being directed back to the Burraja Indigenous Cultural and Environmental Discovery Centre.
There are a high number of writers and general community interest in the creation of varying styles of literature, including script writing, podcasting and poetry. AlburyCity hosts an annual ‘Write Around the Murray’ writers’ festival which is always well attended.
There are a number of professional and grass roots musicians in the region, engaged in a number of music styles. Music in the region is supported by the Murray Conservatorium, Jazz Basement, Musikids, Community Music Victoria, local venues such as AbluryCity’s Music in the Gardens held in the Albury Botanical Gardens, Friday’s On My Mind features live music in the Cube Courtyard Wodonga, Wodonga Brass Band, community bands, community choirs and programs such as MusicAbility. Local music events tailored for youth include: Cafe Culture series. The Retro Youth café is a space dedicated to employing youth and skill building in the hospitality and service industries. It also caters for workshop spaces and provides a venue for live music targeting youth.
There are a number of large and small cultural festivals in the region, notably:
- Kids Festival, Corowa, Federation Shire
- Winery Walkabout, Rutherglen Indigo Shire
- Wodonga Children’s Fair, Wodonga
- Man from Snowy River Festival, Corryong Towong Shire
- Write Around the Murray Festival, Albury
- Tallangatta Fifties Festival, Tallangatta Towong Shire
- Albury Chamber Music Festival, Albury
- Yackandandah Folk Festival, Indigo Shire
- Beechworth Celtic Festival, Indigo Shire
Many festivals are largely volunteer run and resource short, the ongoing sustainability of local cultural festivals is always being discussed.
There are numerous Museums both public and private operating across the region. AlburyCity hosts an Annual Museums and cultural workers conference, Keeping it Real. As many museums are largely volunteer run by an ageing demographic, succession planning and future viability are central problems which need to be supported.
Aboriginal Arts & Culture
There is a strong representation of Aboriginal people in this region with 2.3% of the population identifying as Aboriginal. There are many agencies, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, supporting Aboriginal culture that utilise the arts as an engagement tool for increasing community health and wellbeing. Murray Arts facilitates a strong Aboriginal Artists Network and runs burraja gallery, using a social enterprise model from the front of the Murray Arts office, supporting local Aboriginal artists and the Burraja Indigenous Cultural Centre and Environmental Discovery Centre on Gateway Island. Wickman Gallery is a commercial Aboriginal art gallery in Albury, showcasing local and central desert art.
KEY ISSUES AND TRENDS
- National and international arts companies located in the region.
- Two major Councils boast strong arts and culture departments.
- Smaller outlying councils with limited financial support for arts and culture programs and projects.
- Aboriginal arts and culture is strong, but requires ongoing time and resource commitment and is centred on strong relationships.
- Resourcing of quality arts programs to regional/remote communities.
- Maintaining high level programming funding for arts organisations.
- Securing infrastructure funding for new developments has been difficult.
- Large number of public and private museums in the region.
- NSW Regional Art Board structure.
- Partnership across six shires.
- Thriving creative and cultural community in the Murray Arts region.
- Willingness of current community to participate in and engage with the arts.
- Cultural Tourism Network to promote the region.
- Aboriginal engagement and support.
- Strong theatre/performance culture.
- Four tertiary institutions (two Universities and two TAFE providers).
- Large population and audience reach for the arts.
- Accessibility to arts programs and venues.
- Infrastructure funding.
- Sustainability of regional grass roots festivals.
- Cuts to TAFE funding impacting training and career pathways.
- Cultural tourism sector growth.
- Creative enterprise development.
- Utilisation of the arts as a tool for community recovery in the wake of natural disasters.
- Professional development opportunities for artists, particularly Aboriginal artists.
- Music industry development.
- Increasing public profile of community arts and high profile arts opportunities.
- Partnership development with environmental, science, health organisations.
- Loss of funding.
- Withdrawal of local government partnerships.
- Impact of possible council amalgamations.
- Low socio-economic profile.
- Ageing demographic.
- Retaining young families.
Aboriginal Population and Language Groups
- Approximately 1.5% of the general area population identify as Aboriginal.
- Albury Wodonga area was known as Bungambrawatha (“homeland”) by the Wiradjuri people who first settled here. It was changed in 1838 to Albury, while Wodonga (“bulrushes”) retains its Indigenous name.
- This region is divided by the Murray River and has a strong history of Aboriginal ownership, with connections to the following Aboriginal Nations of Waveroo, Minjambuta, Dhudhoroa, Bpangerang, Yorta Yorta, Jethi Yaithmathang and Wiradjuri.
Aboriginal Arts Development
Aboriginal Arts Development is a key priority for Murray Arts and the organisation continues to be at the forefront in this sector with a core funding commitment to the ongoing employment of our Aboriginal Arts Officer and the employment of an Aboriginal Arts Curator. The Aboriginal Arts Curator – Emerging is a new role made possible with secured funding for 18 months from the Create NSW Aboriginal Employment Fund.
Murray Arts facilitates a strong Aboriginal Artists Network and supports an ongoing engagement with local councils, advocating for Aboriginal artists on various initiatives. Murray Arts supports a NAIDOC preschool program and employs local Aboriginal artists to deliver an authentic Aboriginal cultural experience to preschools, across the Murray Arts region to acknowledge NAIDOC week. Each year Murray Arts organises an annual exhibition of local Aboriginal artworks. Murray Arts supports a road trip to Sydney for the Black Arts Market. It is a valuable opportunity to make new contacts, network professionally and promote further sales opportunities for burraja gallery Aboriginal artists.
burraja gallery offers a genuine, authentic connection to local Aboriginal artists, offering a space to market, showcase and sell their work. It is the only dedicated local Aboriginal Art Gallery. Our definition of local is: lives, works and or connects with the Murray Arts footprint.
Aboriginal Arts Organisations
- Burraja Indigenous Cultural and Environmental Discovery Centre, Gateway Island Wodonga
- Wickman Gallery is a commercial Aboriginal Art Gallery, selling Australian Aboriginal artworks in Albury
Aboriginal Arts Festivals
- NAIDOC Week events, celebrations and activities are held across all six LGAs