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Western Riverina Arts

Western Riverina Arts
Multipurpose Centre Wade Avenue
Leeton NSW 2705 Australia
PO Box 355
Leeton NSW 2705
Phone 0428 882 059

RADO Directors

Susan Carey Killham
Narrandera Shire Council Representative
Vice Chair
Julie Thompson-Briggs
Narrandera Shire Community Representative
Anthony Morton
Co-opted Member
Anne Napoli
Griffith City Council Representative
Melanie Toscan
Murrumbidgee Community Representative
Faith Bryce
Murrumbidgee Shire Council Representative
Oumi Karanga-Hewitt
Griffith Community Representative
Suesann Vos
Leeton Shire Council Representative

Regional Snapshot


The total population of the Western Riverina Area is 46,538 (2016 census data) and the largest centre in the region is Griffith (population 25,614). The region covers the LGAs of Narrandera, Leeton, Griffith and Murrumbidgee Shires. The major centres are the townships of the four LGAs: Narrandera, Leeton, Griffith, Coleambally and Jerilderie. The main economic driver in the region is agriculture. The Western Riverina features a diverse cultural identity, with a significant culturally and linguistically diverse population.

Arts and cultural practice in the region
The Western Riverina has a relatively small population but a reasonably high proportion of resident artists. Many of these artists do not produce artwork as their main source of income, but artistic practice forms an important part of their cultural identity and indeed social life. There are a number of visual art societies that host well-attended prizes and exhibitions and a number of amateur theatre and music groups that produce shows or concerts. There are also writers groups, and a few key annual cultural festivals within the region.

All four council LGAs in the Western Riverina are financial contributors to Western Riverina Arts. There are no Cultural Officers employed in the region, although there are librarians employed in each centre, a part-time theatre manager employed in Leeton and a full-time theatre manager, gallery manager and museum coordinator employed in Griffith. All councils have strategic plans in place that identify increased activity and participation in the arts as a key goal.

Visual Arts
There are a number of active visual arts groups in the region including The Leeton Art Society and the Narrandera Arts and Creative Network. These groups exhibit members’ works regularly. In some centres local artists maintain small galleries.

Visual artists are often inspired by the geography of the region, in particular the unique twisting riverfront and red gum forests – Anne Rayment and Vita Vitelli from Leeton are two artists working in the traditional mode of landscape painting. There are also a number of high-profile Aboriginal artists in the area – such as Michael Lyons, William Ingram, Ros Lockhart, and Veronica Collins – and they also work within a heritage that has lived on the river for many thousands of years. There is scope for a greater emphasis and promotion of Aboriginal artists in the region, which is a key priority for Western Riverina Arts. Many of the region’s Aboriginal artists are seeking to partner with other organisations such as a Regional Arts Organisation to help develop their professional practice.

Art prizes are a regular feature in the region, including those with substantial prize money (such as Penny Paniz Memorial Prize and the TASTE Art Prize), and generate much interest.
Professional gallery exhibition space is limited but the community art space at The Multi-Purpose Centre in Leeton and the newly opened Arts and Community Centre in Narrandera has enabled many artists to independently mount solo exhibitions. Artists in all centres are still keen to develop shared studio/workspaces.

Overall in the region, writers are strongly concerned with recording the stories of their families and their land. Many have self-published memoirs (such as Natalie Hopwood, who published a book detailing growing up in the town of Barellan) or other works of fiction (such as Leeton-based author Melanie Ifield) – there is a Narrandera-based writing group, ‘From Pen to Paper’.

Performing Arts
Western Riverina is lucky to possess functioning old theatres, and has the capacity to host medium-sized productions. The Griffith Regional and Performing Arts group regularly produces community-based shows in Griffith. There have been touring shows in the past (such as Critical Stages and Monkey Baa Theatre) however improving audience numbers remains a challenge. There is scope for touring productions to each of the theatres, particularly contemporary dance and theatre productions.

Although there are some small music organisations (such as the Leeton Town Band) there are limited performance or development opportunities for independent or experimental musicians – the CAD Factory have staged Remote Spaces shows in the past (music performances in old or abandoned venues) but the music scene is for the most part dominated by cover bands playing pub gigs.
The First Friday Night group is a group operating out of Griffith, running a monthly program of visiting Jazz musicians.

There are a number of independently run dance studios in the region, mainly with a focus on traditional ballet and tap lessons for young girls.

Other Key Groups
The CAD Factory is an innovative cross-platform performing arts organisation based on a small property near Narrandera. Over the past few years they have been successful in securing major funding from a number of arts bodies, and have produced art projects in the region on a significant scale. ‘Tipping Point’, for example, was a show that combined visual artwork, music and the narratives of local Narrandera residents, all projected onto an old abandoned brewery. ‘Grong Grong Creative House’ was a week-long project that saw a group of artists take over a motor inn and produce an installation piece. The CAD Factory have also built a world-class recording studio on their property and this piece of infrastructure represents enormous opportunities for future program links and benefits to local emerging artists.

Upcoming/anticipated developments
The region benefits from significant physical cultural infrastructure in the western end of the region with a professional performing arts centre, regional art gallery, a professionally staffed museum and several high profile rural cultural festivals. Performing arts venues are reasonably well represented with the Griffith Regional Theatre and the Roxy Theatre in Leeton. Libraries comprehensively service the area.

The key issue for the arts in Western Riverina is that there is a small base for artistic activity, performance and professional development opportunities. However, there is an increasing level of support for the arts in the general community, with the artistic community becoming more active and connected. The general community is supportive of artistic events but attendance and participation needs to increase.

There is a good level of cultural infrastructure in the region. There are also some building projects in the works and facilities that are under-utilised, indicating room for more activity.


Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as identified by key sector representatives are as follows:


  • Connected community of artists.
  • General community who are supportive of the arts.
  • Much of the population travel throughout the three LGAs regularly.
  • Good infrastructure base in each LGA.
  • Strong Indigenous cultural presence in the region (with high-profile artists in each centre).


  • Small number of public artistic events.
  • Relatively small number of practicing artists in the region.
  • Limited professional development opportunities.
  • Perception that artists need to live in urban centres to survive.
  • Prohibitive travel costs for bringing professional to the region.
  • Demographics: there is a limited population between 18-35, partly because there are no higher education opportunities in the region.


  • High proportions of artists are keen to develop their own projects.
  • Some existing cultural infrastructure is under-utilised.
  • Expansion and formalisation of a database of artists.
  • Potential for organisational partnerships
  • Potential for the arts and cultural activity to tie in with Tourism developments


  • Lack of employment opportunities for artists.
  • Population decline in some centres.
  • Social isolation.
  • Environmental issues affecting liveability e.g. recurring floods.
  • Lack of training and education facilities

Aboriginal Arts

Aboriginal Population and Language Groups

  • The Wiradjuri people are the traditional custodians of the West Riverina

Western Riverina Arts Overview

  • A joint project between the Murrumbidgee Division of General Practice and the Griffith Aboriginal Medical Service focuses on the professional development of community workers and enables them to recognise and support young people at risk and encourage participation in a suicide prevention program with a foundation in art.

Aborginal Arts Organisations

  • Griffith Local Aboriginal Land Council, Griffith
  • Leeton and District Local Aboriginal Land Council,  Leeton
  • Narrandera Local Aboriginal Land Council, Narrandera
  • Fringe Dwellers Aboriginal Arts and Artefacts, Murrumbidgee