Regional Arts NSW
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Southern Tablelands Arts

Southern Tablelands Arts
Working Remotely NSW Australia

RADO Directors

Susan Brindle
Rob Moran
Louise Wakefield
Joanne McCauley
Michelle Storey
Mark Bradbury
Desmond Freeman

Regional Snapshot

Here in the Southern Tablelands we live and work on Country on which members and Elders of the local Indigenous community and their forebears have been custodians for thousands of years and on which Aboriginal people have performed age-old ceremonies of celebration, initiation and renewal. We acknowledge their living culture and their unique role in the life of the region.

The first peoples of the Southern Tablelands include: Mulwaree, Tarlo, Burra Burra, Wollondilly, Wiradjuri, Gundungurra, Darug, Tharawal, Lachlan, Pajong, Parramarragoo, Cookmal and Ngunnawal. These language groups and clans knew Goulburn as a meeting place.

The arts region encompasses the Southern Highlands, Tablelands and Hilltops and is strategically positioned between Sydney and Canberra.
The region is particularly known for its agricultural and natural landscapes with populations scattered across rural towns, villages, hamlets and farms. The Southern Tablelands covers an area of 32,055 square kilometers or an area slightly larger than the size of Belgium and a total population of 228,863 (2016 Census).

There has been significant change to the boundaries of our region with Council amalgamations in 2016 leading to the establishment of two new Councils, Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council and Hilltops Council. Seven local governments lie within the boundaries of the Southern Tablelands Arts region.

There is an overall trend toward an aging population, families with children range from 25% – 43% and is generally higher than the regional NSW average. The region is generally experiencing population growth with only Yass showing a small population reduction at the 2016 Census. There are low levels of university attendance which reflects a range of socio-economic barriers to participation in post-secondary education. While the majority of the population is of Australian descent (>80%), Aboriginal population is between 2 – 4.4 % and Overseas Born between 6 – 17%.

The following is a small snapshot of data by local government.

  • Goulburn Mulwaree Council – 3,223sq km; 30,150 pop 4% Indigenous, 5% CaLD and 28% lone person households; median age 42; major town Goulburn.
  • Hilltops Council – 7,140kms sq; 18,841 pop; 4.4% Indigenous, 3% CaLD and 28% Lone person households; median age 44; major towns Boorowa, Harden, Young.
  • Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council – 5,319 sq. km; 58,128 pop; 3.1% Indigenous, 12% CaLD and 24% lone person households; median age 38; major towns Queanbeyan, Bungendore, Braidwood.
  • Upper Lachlan Shire Council – 7,129 sq. km; 7,841 pop; 2.3% Indigenous, 1% CaLD and 26% lone person households; median age 48; major town Crookwell.
  • Wingecarribee Shire Council – 2,689sq km; 49,070 pop; 2% Indigenous, 6% CaLD, 25% Lone Person households, median age 47; major towns Bowral, Mittagong, Moss Vale.
  • Wollondilly Shire Council – 2,557sq km; 49,742 pop; 3.2% Indigenous, 6% CaLD, 15% Lone Person Households; median age 37; major town Picton.
  • Yass Valley Shire Council – 3,998 sq. km; 16,628 pop; 2.5%. 4% CaLD, 19% Lone Person Households; median age 42; major town Yass.

The main employment industries include farming, mining, education, health, transport and distribution, community services, hospitality, local government and the correctional services.

Many areas of the Southern Tablelands attract tourists and visitors from Sydney and Canberra. Sport, fishing, arts, history, heritage and environment contribute to the rural cultural experiences for visitors.

The towns and villages are attractive for their history and heritage values and architecture including, Thirlmere and The Oaks, Berrima, Bundanoon and Robertson, Marulan and Tarrago, Taralga, Laggan, Gunning and Collector, Bookham, Binalong and Gundaroo and Boorowa, Jugiong and Harden. The area is known for cool climate wines with arts, food and wine festivals a feature.

Natural highlights include Wombeyan Caves north of Taralga, Careys Cave at Wee Jasper, Wyangala Dam and Graben Lakeside State Park and Lake Burrinjuck, Goulburn Wetlands, Bungonia National Park, Fitzroy Falls, Penrose and Wingello State Forests, Budawang National Park, Duer National Park, Bargo River State Conservation Area, Lake George, and Molonglo Gorge and Blue Tile Picnic Area near Queanbeyan, and river walks across the region. During the winter many farm-stays and homesteads see city visitors eager to experience the country fires and lifestyles.

Arts Infrastructure
Key facilities in the region include:
The Q Theatre (Queanbeyan), Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, Sturt Gallery and Studios (Mittagong) and Mirramu Creative Arts Centre are professionally run arts venues. The region is home to two conservatoria at Goulburn and Young.

There is a range of community run venues including Bowral and District Art Gallery (Bowral), Mittagong Playhouse (Mittagong), Leider Theatre (Goulburn), Braidwood Community Art Centre, Gallery on Track (Goulburn), Crookwell and District Art Gallery, the Q Exhibition Space and Queanbeyan Art Society Gallery and workshop. There is also an extensive range of commercial galleries across the region. Across the region community halls and decommissioned buildings provide venues for local arts, crafts, music, literature, theatre and film activities.

It is an exciting time for the region with a long overdue look at development of new arts infrastructure. A number of local councils are pursuing performing arts spaces including Goulburn Mulwaree for the establishment of the Goulburn Performing Arts Centre and Wingecarribee Shire Council for redevelopment of the Bowral Memorial Hall into a modern concert hall for music. Queanbeyan Palerang Council is midway through the development of a heritage house as an arts facility for workshops and is working with The Goulburn Regional Conservatorium to consider the establishment of a satellite conservatorium site in the city. Wingecarribee is also exploring the development of a regional art gallery.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts and Culture
There are no dedicated Aboriginal Arts Centres in the region however national commemorations including Reconciliation Week, NAIDOC Week and Appin Massacre Memorial lead to many events and activities taking place across the region through Aboriginal organisations, Councils and schools. Queanbeyan Palerang, Wingecarribee and Wollondilly Councils each employ a dedicated Aboriginal Development Officer position.
The following is a list of the land councils in the region: Pejar Land Council, Tharawal Land Council, Ngambri Local Land Council, Ngunnawal Land Council, and Onerwal Local Aboriginal Land Council.

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) Communities
Historically, the cultural diversity in the region was influenced by post World War 2 migration however this is changing and there are small cohorts of people from many cultures and countries including African, Middle East, South east Asia, China, India evident as part of our communities.

Multicultural Centres are located in Goulburn and Queanbeyan. There is a variety of social and cultural activities initiated including an annual multicultural festival held in both Queanbeyan and Goulburn.

The region is home to many published authors and poets. There are a number of literary events devoted to writing and writers including the Readers and Writers Festival (Goulburn), Southern Highlands Writers Festival (Bowral) and Wine Press (Murrumbateman).

All the libraries create and run events for their communities. There are also locally organised poet and author events across the region such as bush poetry in the pub in Boorowa, Laggan and Binalong.

Visual Arts
There is a significant number of established visual artists working across diverse media across the region whose works are exhibited and contained in national and international gallery collections.

The extent of professional visual arts practitioners is augmented by a host of amateur visual arts and crafts practice. There is an emerging trend toward Artist Run and pop-up spaces with emerging artists from Sydney and Canberra and the wider region.

There has been a stronger focus on public art work in many towns across the region with a focus on works involving young people and local artists as well as history and heritage.

Performing Arts
Across the region there is an established network of community theatre and music groups. The Lieder Theatre is the oldest run amateur theatre in Australia. From Picton to Queanbeyan and from Young to Braidwood, youth theatre is very active.

There is an amazing wealth of professional musicians, singers, composers and song writers located in the region. The conservatoria are important offering lifelong opportunities to be engaged in a wide range of music and performance.

There is an abundance of choirs across the region. All contribute to the life of their communities participating at community events and festivals.

History and Heritage
There are sites of cultural and sacred significance to Aboriginal people across the region.
There are also many historical sites and buildings, national trust properties and house museums that are representative of the colonial period into the 20th century across the towns and villages of the region. Regional tourism websites provide a useful introduction and listings of the wealth of museums and heritage sites across the region.
The Southern Railway Line and associated stations and other buildings are part of the rich industrial history and heritage of the region. Trainworks at Thirlmere and the Historic Waterworks Museum in Goulburn are also examples of industrial heritage. Lambing Flat Folk Museum and the Gold Trail experience in Harden are examples of the impact of gold rush as part of the industrial history and heritage in the region.

There are a significant number of volunteer run museums and historical societies throughout the region. A number have a focus on a particular theme such as war, rail, building heritage and hospitals. Others are collectors of all things curious with a history within that location.
Some of the volunteer museums are working towards developing curatorial principles in staging exhibitions. An issue facing volunteer run museums is the ageing of their volunteer support.

Goulburn Mulwaree Council employs 2 Museum Officers and there are Local History librarians that support local community interest in family history research and local studies through the library network.

Every local government area is home to a wide range of festival and cultural activities and too numerous to capture them all. Councils across the region are continuing to host community events such as International Day of People Living With Disabilities, Harmony Day, NAIDOC Week, Access all Areas Film Festival (which screens is 4 LGA’s), Australia Day and movies/music in the parks or at the pool.

There are loads of community volunteer run events and festivals including, races, vintage car shows, Christmas Carols, patchwork/ quilting, crafts, agricultural shows, art exhibitions, photography, country music, rose festivals, history and heritage festivals – the list goes on.

The following is a just a small taster by local government:

  • Goulburn Mulwaree: Marulan Kite Festival, Goulburn Carnivale and multicultural markets, Australian Blues Music Festival, Comicon, Steam Punk Victoriana Fair.
  • Hilltops: Boorowa Running of the Sheep, National Cherry Festival, Harden Kite Festival, Lambing Flat Chinese Festival.
  • Queanbeyan Palerang: Carnivale Multicultural Festival, Artist Trail, Majors Creek Festival and the Braidwood Airing of the Quilt Festival.
  • Upper Lachlan: Gundaroo Music Festival, Octuba Fest, Gunning Fireworks, Mary Gilmore Weekend, Crookwell Garden Festival.
  • Wingecarribee: Southern Highlands Arts Festival and Arts Trail, Bowral Autumn Music Festival, Bundanoon Highland Gathering – Brigadoon, Southern Highlands Writers Festival, Sculpture at Hilltops
  • Wollondilly: IlluminARTe Wollondilly, Thirlmere Festival of Steam, Stars in the Garden, Dam Fest.
  • Yass Valley: Turning Wave Festival, Dragon Dreaming Festival, Sculpture in the Paddock, Wee Jasper Bonfire and Fireworks, The Hills of Hall Festival.


  • Unlike other regional and rural areas, there no downward turn in population level.
  • Growing community expectation of accessible cultural amenities.
  • Increasing number of artists and cultural professionals with significant skills, experience and profiles moving to the area.
  • Some LGAs have established groups and an increasing number of Aboriginal services.


  • Small number of professional arts workers in the region.
  • Predominant demographic group are older and earn less than the state median.
  • Limited understanding of art as a business.
  • Large number of small towns/villages.
  • Volunteers in arts councils etc. are also volunteers on the rural fire brigade, sporting club, recreation club etc.
  • Limited number of trained people to implement audience development programs for their organisations.
  • Growing community expectation of accessible cultural amenity.
  • Small and fragmented communities of Aboriginal people.
  • Small numbers of residents born overseas.


  • Develop partnerships with other government departments.
  • Growing community expectation and support for accessible cultural amenities.
  • Tapping into the skill wealth of the high number of older people in the region to develop projects that have provision for the handing down of knowledge, skills and traditions.
  • Building on audience development projects already undertaken in the area to develop new audience for locally produced work.
  • Partnerships with developing Aboriginal reference groups, community organisations, reconciliation and specific services.


  • Dominance of services by mainstream demographic. This threatens equity of access for marginalised groups.
  • New residents continuing to travel to other areas for cultural / arts consumption and production.
  • Volunteer burnout.
  • Funding in a tight fiscal environment.
  • Loss of young people who need to leave the region for higher education and employment opportunities.

Aboriginal Arts

Aboriginal Population and Language Groups
Over 9000 Aboriginal people live in the region which constitutes approximately 4% of the population. The highest concentrations of Aboriginal people live in Goulburn and Queanbeyan.
Aboriginal Arts Organisations
The Black Cockatoo Aboriginal Corporation has been established to use arts for social health and well-being. The group has a Facebook pages which it uses to sell its artworks.
All the Land Councils are concerned with maintaining culture and undertake projects and activities within their communities. There are Aboriginal Liaison Officers in primary and high schools across the region who are often conduits for organisations such as Southern Tablelands Arts and the regional gallery Aboriginal specific child and youth arts and culture.
There are Aboriginal Development Officer positions in Queanbeyan Palerang and Wingecarribee Shire Councils. Wollondilly Council currently has a trainee in their events team.
The Country Arts Support Program (CASP) is often sued as a means of developing arts projects with Aboriginal communities in the region.