WEST DARLING ARTS REGIONAL SNAPSHOT 2017
The West Darling Arts region of NSW encompasses an area of 176,000 square kilometres of semi-arid lands and is known for the Barrier Ranges, and the Darling River which flows through western NSW to join the Murray River at Wentworth. The region embodies the dream of the Great Australian Outback with wide open spaces, untouched natural beauty, spectacular National Parks, red desert and rolling sand dunes, the mighty Darling River, rich Indigenous culture and history and an abundance of wildlife.
The region comprises three Local Government Authorities (LGAs) and the Unincorporated Areas of NSW:
- Broken Hill City Council – 19,000 pop.
- Central Darling Shire Council – 2,000 pop. (Major towns; Wilcannia, Menindee, White Cliffs, Ivanhoe)
- Wentworth Shire Council – 8,000 pop. (Major towns; Wentworth, Pooncarie, Dareton, Buronga, Gol Gol)
- Unincorporated Area – 700 pop. (Major towns; Silverton, Tibooburra, Milparinka). Note: this area is administered by the NSW Department of Lands.
KEY DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS
Bordering Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and the Darling River it is over 700km from north to south and 300km wide. With a population of just under 30,000, the region is the most sparsely populated in the State with a history of Aboriginal ownership and European settlement. It has historically been the mineral powerhouse of the State and also contains some of the State’s most flourishing agricultural enterprises and large stretches of the world famous outback. National Parks cover large areas of the region, for example, the Mungo and Mutawintji National Parks.
Local attractions include Mutawintji National Park which is home to 30,000-year-old Indigenous rock carvings, unique White Cliffs underground opal mines, the historical ghost town of Silverton and an eclectic collection of galleries and current and past artists including ‘Brushmen of the Bush’: Pro Hart, Eric Minchin, Jack Absalom, John Pickup and Hugh Shulz.
Following the discovery of silver and lead deposits and the formation of BHP the region has been a strong mining industry centered in Broken Hill, with significant new prospects for expansion within the area. The far west has a strong economy based on mining, agriculture, film, the arts and tourism. The Far West is rich in promise, boasting mineral wealth and climatic conditions that give this region a unique competitive advantage in many industry sectors. The West Darling region has a strong economy based on mining, agriculture, film, the arts and tourism. The Far West is rich in promise, boasting mineral wealth and climatic conditions that give this region a unique competitive advantage in many industry sectors. Our focus is on fostering economic diversity and creating opportunities for local communities. We are developing and harnessing relationships with our Aboriginal communities, delivering effective coordinated services and promising sustainability in the management of our resources.
AGL Energy Limited’s (AGL) Nyngan and Broken Hill solar plants, Australia’s largest utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) power plants located in western NSW, were officially opened during a ceremony in Nyngan in January 2016. Recognising the potential of the solar plants to lead to increased tourism and economic benefits for the Nyngan and Broken Hill communities.
AGL Silverton Wind Farm
The political and economic environment has changed dramatically in recent times, especially around climate change and the development of many new renewable energy projects.
With this in mind, AGL has reconfirmed its commitment to the Silverton Wind Farm development proposal and has recently reissued the construction tender for the Silverton Wind Farm. The Silverton Wind Farm is initially proposed to have capacity of up to 200MW and will produce approximately 700,000 MWh of renewable energy powering more than 120,000 average Australian homes.
Key economic sectors of the West Darling are mining (large-scale mining operations centred on silver, lead zinc and mineral sands), Local Councils, State and Federal government service centres, traditional agriculture, horticulture, tourism industry, hospitality industry, regional health services, retail services, 8 commercial galleries, 1 cinema and a growing creative industries sector.
The region has a number of resident artists, particularly visual artists. The dramatic landscape of Broken Hill has attracted artists from all over the world. Many have bought properties and set up galleries and museums in the communities.
The Creative Industries have a long history in Broken Hill.
The remote communities across the region have become linked with sculptures being permanently placed along the roads, particularly along the Silver City Highway between Broken Hill and Tibooburra.
The West Darling region offers a wealth of evocative art to mining heritage, indigenous culture and bush lifestyle with arts and cultural infrastructure in the region to includes:
- A regional gallery
- Two performing arts venues
- Eight museums
- A writers’ centre
- 6 commercial art galleries
- 1 cinema
- Aboriginal Arts and Cultural Centre (Wilcannia).
The West Darling Arts artist’s gallery opened in 2015 and showcases regional artist exhibitions and works to compliment and partner with the Broken Hill City Regional Gallery and the Wentworth Shire VIC Gallery.
Visual arts is alive and well within the region with increased gallery exhibitions regionally and a variety of visual entertainments such as the Broken Heel Festival which has been going from strength to strength over the past three years. Both the White Cliffs Underground Arts and the Music festival place them on the Destinations NSW place and events as must do’s.
Film and Digital Arts
Screen Broken Hill was established in 2017 by founder Jason King a local film maker, in a partnership project involving Screen NSW, West Darling Arts, Far West Regional Development (RDA) and the Broken Hill City Council strategies have been developed to assist Screen Broken Hill to undertake an economic development in skills and career pathways for this historic and iconic film location. Screen Broken Hill will provide a database with the essentials necessary to avoid having visiting film companies bring everything with them, from catering companies to feed film crews to equipment, trades people, set extras and local knowledge of locations.
There are few performing arts venues available to communities across the region. Performances generally take place in community halls, churches, school halls, and parks.
It is expensive and demanding to tour performances to the region outside of Wentworth and Broken Hill.
There are only a small number of professional arts organisations, particularly in the area of performing arts, in the region. The White Cliffs Underground Artists gather every second year to hold their arts and cultural festival where they utilise the performing theatrical of locals to deliver extremely talented works general about local legions for the delight of their growing tourism audiences.
The bi-annual White Cliffs Country Music Festival is very active and draws performers/bands and audiences from all over, for a small community it expands the townships population from 100 to 1500/2500 depending on weather and road conditions.
Barrier Industrial Union Band, Broken Hill along with the Broken Hill Civic Orchestra, the Broken Hill Community Voices Choir and the Broken Hill Philharmonic Society Choir provide the larger section of the regions musical outlets. Wentworth Arts is a small group of dedicated people who deliver music recitals for the communities in their area, while local Indigenous Bands entertain in Wilcannia, Menindee and White Cliffs.
Authors, poets and illustrator’s abound in the region, inspired by their surrounding and the harshness of the real outback. Comical greeting cards, charming children’s books generate out of the Wentworth Shire, poems from all over region but strongly support in Broken Hill and the Poets in the Pub which meet on the 1st Monday of each month at the Black Lion.
Broken Hill City is the 43rd city to be heritage listed in the world, with breathe taking buildings and museums and home to the Big Picture at the Silver City Mint.
World Heritage Mungo National Park, home of the famous Mungo Lady and Mungo Man, and explore a place rich in Aboriginal history. Enjoy a walk or picnic, or camp near Lake Mungo. This extraordinary place is of great significance to the Ngyiampaa, Mutthi Mutthi and Southern Paakantyi people.
The remarkable archeological finds of Mungo Lady and Mungo Man, the worlds oldest human cremations, these fascinating 42,000 year old ritual burials tell an incredible story about the long history of Australian Aboriginal people.
Built in 1875 the Kinchega Woolshed is remarkable for its size and design and illustrates the huge size of pastoral holdings in the arid areas of inland Australia. Kinchega lies amongst the beautiful Menindee Lakes, fed by the Darling River amid forests of river red gum, coolabah and black box.
Priscilla – Queen of the Desert was also filmed in the region In Mario’s Palace Hotel bar where scenes were filmed, the interior is painted with an amazing array of murals, from Italian renaissance to Aboriginal landscapes is now home of the Broken Heel Festival each September.
Festivals held in the region include the Mildura Wentworth Arts Festival and the Murray River International Music Festival, Silverton Country Music Week-end, White Cliffs Underground Arts Festival, White Cliffs Music Festival and the fabulous Broken Heel Festival.
There are communities within the region with large numbers of Aboriginal residents; however few ongoing and sustainable arts and cultural projects have eventuated in these areas, despite investment. Such communities include Wilcannia and Menindee.
- The region has a number of resident artists, particularly visual artists. The dramatic landscape of Broken Hill has attracted artists from all over the world. Many have bought properties and set up galleries and museums in the City.
- The Creative Industries have a long history in Broken Hill.
- Remote communities across the region have become linked with sculptures being permanently placed along the roads, particularly along the Silver City Highway between Broken Hill and Tibooburra.
- White Cliffs has many galleries.
KEY ISSUES AND TRENDS
Communities in the region are quite different to each other. Broken Hill is the epicentre and has a large diversity (cultural, socio economic, events and industry). In contrast communities such as White Cliffs, Wilcannia, Tibooburra, Silverton, Wentworth and Menindee host a small population, offer limited employment, and have a lack of cultural diversity and very different desires from council and community, even within the same LGA.
Limited creative industries development and opportunities exist outside of Broken Hill and Wentworth.
There are large distances between communities in region. Locals generally travel between communities for employment, rather than holidays or for cultural purposes.
West Darling Arts is building relationships with various other community groups and key creative groups in order to further develop an arts market and buskers festival in Wentworth.
Local Government Engagement
The three LGAs in the region Broken Hill City Council, Wentworth Shire Council and Central Darling Shire have completed long-term Community Strategic Plans, along with associated four-year Operational Plans. These Plans include a range of objectives that articulate the cultural aspirations of the community. West Darling Arts assists the LGAs to deliver the arts and cultural components of these Plans.
- Growing strategic approach to development by councils.
- Growing development of Cultural Tourism across the region.
- Growing participation in arts and cultural activities.
- Developing Aboriginal Creative Industry centres (Wilcannia, Menindee, Broken Hill, Wentworth).
- Provides an alternative to city living, ‘magic light’ and arid landscape.
- Small population situated over a very large geographical area – it is a challenge to develop and deliver arts and cultural programs due to the vast distances and the isolation of many of the communities.
- Most of the roads north and east of Broken Hill are unpaved.
- Insufficient resources restricting the ability to function to capacity with logistics and delivery of programs and participation in a huge area.
- Lack of ongoing and sustainable arts and cultural events in Aboriginal communities.
- Very hard to secure sponsorship for art and cultural activities.
- Limited cultural infrastructure.
- Poor networking in the arts across the region.
- Low socio-economic communities.
- Development of cultural tourism.
- Further development and establishment of festivals across region.
- Increasing professional development and employment.
- Opportunities and improving participation in events and creative activities across all demographics, by council and community organisations.
- Increasing competition within the region for limited arts funding.
- Population and general interest of involvement in communities across region decreasing.
Aboriginal Population and Language Groups
- 2,700 Aboriginal people live in the region (approximately 14.5% of the general area population)
- The highest concentration of Aboriginal people live in Wilcannia
- The Murdi Paaki Region comprises the whole of Western NSW, from the Victoria to Queensland borders. Communities serviced include: Bourke, Brewarrina, Broken Hill, Cobar, Collarenebri, Coonamble, Enngonia, Goodooga, Gulargambone, Ivanhoe, Lightning Ridge, Menindee, Walgett, Weilmoringle, Wentworth, Wilcannia
- Aboriginal people make up a significant percentage of the region’s population; over 50% in some areas. The Aboriginal population is growing, while the overall population levels are in decline
- Aboriginal unemployment in Murdi Paaki region, at 23.9%, is nearly three times the non-Aboriginal rate. Individual income of Aboriginal people in Murdi Paaki is 25% lower, on average, than non-Aboriginal people
Indigenous Arts Organisations