SOUTH WEST ARTS REGIONAL SNAPSHOT 2017
Situated on the southern border of NSW, the South West region covers an area of 75,000 square kilometres with a total population of approximately 36,500. The region, dubbed ‘The Plains’ due to its flat geography, is predominantly agricultural and is well known for the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers which run through and around it.
The region, as serviced by South West Arts, comprises six LGAs:
- Balranald Shire Council – 2,361 pop (main town Balranald – 1,300 pop)
- Berrigan Shire Council – 8,282 pop (main town Tocumwal – 2,300 pop)
- Carrathool Shire Council – 2,668 pop (main town Hillston – 1,400 pop)
- Edward River Council – 8,923 pop (main town Deniliquin – 7,800 pop)
- Hay Shire Council – 3,097 pop (main town Hay – 2,300 pop)
- Murray River Council – 11,192 pop (main town Moama – 6,100 pop)
The vastness of the geography and the distance between communities in the region creates the opportunity for diverse experiences, understandings, arts and cultures. What is shared is a strong connection to place, with much of the community living and working on the land.
Key economic sectors in the region rely heavily on agricultural and pastoral industries such as rice, cotton, wheat, sheep, dairy and horticulture.
The South West region prides itself on being a resilient rural community, but does not identify as being particularly artistic or cultural. Through developing the local arts and cultural infrastructure, there is opportunity to support the creative potential of current and future generations in the region and and to create a shared cultural identity that underpins a healthy and productive community.
ARTS AND CULTURAL PRACTICE
Opportunities for participation in arts and culture are provided throughout the region by a variety of individuals and organisations that are diverse in size, approach and forms of delivery.
The region is home to the dedicated arts and culture organisations Outback Theatre for Young People (professional fully-funded organisation based in Deniliquin), South West Music Regional Conservatorium, the Deniliquin Ute Muster (major annual festival) and Shear Outback Museum (purpose built and professionally staffed museum in Hay).
The region has very active amateur visual arts groups and some have volunteer run galleries (in Echuca-Moama, Balranald, Moulamein and Hillston). These groups hold regular classes, exhibitions, pop-up shops and art prizes.
There is a small number of professional visual artists in the region. Most notably Chris McClelland, who has a commercial gallery in Hay. The region is home to a small but prolific community of sculptors and muralists, such as award-winning sculptor Stuart Taylor. There are regular small exhibitions in volunteer, LGA and privately run galleries.
The region is home to the successful Outback Theatre for Young People, which delivers a range of youth theatre and performance programs. Most theatre in the region is created by the amauteur dramatic societies in Barham (Golden Rivers Theatre Group), Berrigan (Berrigan Amateur Dramatic Society), Finley (Finley Amateur Dramatic and Musical Society) and Echuca-Moama (Echuca Moama Theatre Company).
The region does not have any dedicated theatre or performance spaces, so presenting theatre can be challenging and there are limited touring performances presented in the region.
South West Music Regional Conservatorium is based in Deniliquin and delivers music education, mostly to young people, across the region. They are able to regularly teach in remote and isolated communities via video conferencing. The conservatorium presents a concert series across the region each year, funding professional classical and contemporary musicians to perform locally. There is a growing calendar of live music events featuring amateur bands alongside professional touring artists.
There is an enthusiastic amateur music community, with local choirs, bands and ukulele groups in many towns. There are regular live music events, such as open-mic nights, music in pubs and clubs and the Deniliquin UKE Muster (an annual ukulele conference and workshop).
The region is home to a small number of musicians who have active careers in music performance. There are limited opportunities for studio recording and mastering in the region, and no dedicated live music venues.
A range of successful festivals highlight the profile of arts and culture in the community and bring thousands of visitors to the region each year:
- Deni Ute Muster – Edward River Council
- Winter Blues Festival – Murray River Council
- Strawberry Fields – Berrigan Shire Council
- ConFest – Murray River Council
- Deni Fest – Edward River Council
- Spring in the Springs – Carrathool Shire
- Make Hay – Hay Shire
- 5 Rivers Outback Festival – Balranald Council
There are a number of small creative writing and poetry groups in the region, as well as photography and cinema societies.
Creative industries are growing locally, with architectural and design firms having offices based in the region. There are a growing number of graphic designers and web developers, as well as local companies specialising in software and app development.
The region is known for producing fibre and there are a range of craft and textile groups as well as fibre artists and professional commercial textile designers and businesses.
KEY ISSUES AND TRENDS
- There is a grass-roots movement to invest in dedicated arts and culture infrastructure in the region. This is now receiving strategic support and investment from LGAs with the support of South West Arts.
- Arts and culture facilities in the region do not currently match the community need. Community and professional performances take place in a diverse range of venues including pubs, clubs, community halls, churches, school halls and libraries. There are no dedicated performing arts, live music or cinema facilities in the region. There is currently limited touring of visual and performing arts in the region largely due to the lack of professionally managed venues.
- The South West Region is home to an emerging network of small and independent galleries. There is strong community interest in creating a regional gallery or art museum in the region.
- There are several local historical museums across the region and the purpose-built Shear Outback Museum in Hay. There is currently a community-led initiative to develop a World War II RAAF Museum in Deniliquin.
- Festivals are a significant part of local arts and culture infrastructure. Communities in the region have recently embraced small arts and culture festivals, with new events in the calendar such as the Spring in the Springs (Rankin Springs), Deni Arts + Culture Fest (Deniliquin) and Make Hay (Hay).
- There is a growing cultural tourism market centred around the region’s natural assets. National Parks in the region include the significant Mungo National Park (Balranald), Moira National Park (Mathoura) and Gulpa Island National Park (Mathoura).
- There is some public art, stand-alone and as part of cultural trails, across the region. There are intentions in various communities to increase the amount of public art, to preserve and promote local cultural heritage and to attract cultural tourism.
Aboriginal Arts and Culture
- At the time of the 2016 census, 3 LGAs had percentages of the population above the average (5.5% in NSW outside Greater Sydney) that identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander – Balranald (8.7%), Carrathool (8%) and Hay (6%). The other three LGAs in the region had a combined percentage of 3.2%. Due to the large geographical nature of the region, the Aboriginal population distribution is vast.
- There are several key organisations and land councils working in the region, including Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre (Deniliquin), Nari Nari Tribal Council, Deniliquin Aboriginal Land Council, Balranald Aboriginal Land Council, Hay Aboriginal Land Council and Moama Aboriginal Land Council.
- There is not currently a prominent community of indigenous artists or indigenous cultural and creative industries in the region. Local organisations are working with the community to develop a range of culture, language and arts education programs.
- There is a growing movement in the region to develop programs that focus on using arts and culture to encourage innovation, diversity and social cohesion, improve health and wellbeing and increase individual and community capacity to change and adapt to adversity.
- The health and community services sector is expanding both regionally and locally in response to community needs, allowing for collaborative initiatives for development and innovation in the arts health sector.
- The burgeoning arts and culture tourism in the region is strengthened by the large music festivals in the region and the growing number of small galleries and museums. The region is bordered by major arts and cultural tourism destinations and there are opportunities to attract those visitors into the region.
- South West Arts takes a leadership role in encouraging the development of local arts and culture in partnership with a number of professional arts and culture organisations such as Outback Theatre for Young People, South West Music Regional Conservatorium and Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre.
- The importance of arts and culture is only just beginning to be recognised by the community in the region. LGAs are starting to prioritise arts and cultural development in their strategic plans and budgets to support social and economic outcomes.
- Opportunities for local participation in arts and culture tend to be smaller and are predominantly organised independently by volunteer groups or LGAs in each of the towns in the region.
- There is active participation in community art and culture groups, including volunteer run boards.
- There is currently a lack of equipped spaces throughout the region which are suitable for providing accessible and sustainable opportunities for arts and culture participation.
- Audience development is challenging due to the small populations spread over a large geographical area, but has been advanced by the use of social media and online promotion tools.
- There are not currently any local education and training facilities that offer arts or creative industry development training.
- Paid education services, such as music education, are impacted by the level of discretionary income in the community and so can suffer during times of local hardship, such as seasonal droughts.
- Nationally recognised youth theatre program, Outback Theatre for Young People and the the South West Music Regional Conservatorium are based in Deniliquin
- Major festival site and annual festival, the Deniliquin Ute Muster
- Active participation of volunteers across the community
- Six LGAs financially contributing to South West Arts
- Small population over a large geographical area with a low socioeconomic profile
- Limited cultural infrastructure
- Small number of arts professionals and local creative industries
- Lack of creative arts training and educational opportunities
- Emerging appreciation for the benefits of arts and culture for the health and vitality of the community
- Increasing awareness and visibility of diversity in the community
- Strategic partnerships between organisations to increase the effectiveness and reach of initiatives
- Potential development and collaborative use of arts and cultural infrastructure within the region
- Partnerships with schools, vocational training and the national curriculum to increase arts and creative industry training
- Ability to attract audiences from large tourism destinations that border the region
- Economic factors such as lower overheads and cost of living increases the capacity of the region to attract and nurture a range of creative industries and artists
- Much of the current local arts and culture opportunities are dependent on limited funding in a tight fiscal environment
- Local audiences do not see themselves as connected with arts and culture offerings
- Young people leaving the region for education and employment opportunities
- Aging population and low socio-economic profile is a risk to recruitment and retention of volunteers
- The prosperity of the region is dependent upon agriculture and influenced by extreme climatic conditions such as drought and flood
Aboriginal Population and Language Groups
At the time of the 2016 census, 3 LGAs had percentages of the population above the average (5.5% in NSW outside Greater Sydney) that identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander – Balranald (8.7%), Carrathool (8%) and Hay (6%). The other three LGAs in the region had a combined percentage of 3.2%. Due to the large geographical nature of the region, the Aboriginal population distribution is vast.
The region is home to a large number of Indigenous cultural, clan and language groups including but not limited to:
- Nari Nari
- Yitha Yitha
- Madi Madi
- Wadi Wadi
- Wemba Wemba
- Baraba Baraba
- Yorta Yorta
- Dadi Dadi
Significantly the region is home to:
- the largest Indigenous Protection Area in southeast Australia, and home of the Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan people. The 22,373 ha property of Mawonga includes 15 shelters with rock art, ancient campsites and scarred trees and provides critical habitat for 23 threatened species.
- Mungo National Park, cared for by three traditional owner groups, the Paakantii, Ngyiampaa and Mutthi Mutthi people that have walked these tradional lands for at least 45,000 years.
- The internationally significant Ramsar wetlands and Indigenous heritage sites along the Edwards and Murray rivers incorporating the Central Murray State Forests of Millewa, Perriccota and Werai.
Indigenous Arts Organisations
- Hay Aboriginal Lands Council
- Hay Aboriginal Corporation Community Working Party
- Nari Nari Tribal Council
- Deniliquin Aboriginal Land Council
- Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre, Deniliquin
- Balranald Aboriginal Land Council
- Murray Valley Aboriginal Cooperative Ltd
- Moama Aboriginal Land Council
- Bridge Arts Project Committee Echuca Moama
- Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation
- Cummeragunja Aboriginal Lands Council
- Winangakirri Aboriginal Corporation Roto
- Hillston Aboriginal Corporation
- Lake Cargellico Lands Council