Regional Arts NSW - The peak body for regional arts activity in New South Wales

Who is Meg Larkin and what is she doing at Regional Arts NSW?


A reprint of an interview by Rachael Vincent in ArtReach, the Regional Arts NSW quarterly magazine, June 2002

Tamworth City Council, you'd think Meg Larkin had enough on her plate. With responsibility for libraries, the city gallery, community it's not suprising she finds little time to enjoy her silversmithing craft.

What is surprising is that she also manages to fit in roles as Treasurer of the Tamworth Arts Council, Deputy Chair of her local Regional Arts Board, Arts North West, and now Secretary of the Tamworth First Light Rotary Club. Meg also happens to be the newly elected Chair of Regional Arts NSW. I asked her why she does it (as well as a few other questions about being an RANSW Director).

Q: Why do you do it, Meg?
A: Well I love living in country New South Wales and I'm passionate
about maintaining the quality of life for residents in regional and rural communities. I see the arts as having a very major part to play in
ensuring that communities remain vibrant and viable. I want to see increased opportunities for everyone to be creative, active and involved.
I do it because, with my particular background and experience, I feel that
I can contribute some passion, some sound organisational knowledge and experience, and a strong sense of direction.

Sometimes it's hard work but I enjoy it. I take the long view and get great satisfaction from being part of the changes that have taken place over the past few years. Regional Arts NSW has come a long way in
a relatively short time.

Q: So what would you say was the best thing about being a Director
of Regional Arts NSW?

A: I feel that there is such energy about Regional Arts NSW. The Board,
the RANSW staff and the RADOs have a great deal of dedication and
drive. There is excitement about what everyone is doing, the results
are innovative, creative, exciting.

Q: What about the worst thing ?
A: For me, limited time and, at present, too many commitments in
other areas. I mean, it's hardly a huge commitment to spend a few
hours going through Board papers and spend a couple of days attending quarterly meetings. But I do spend considerable time reading, talking and thinking about regional arts issues and I think this is the most important thing. It's not just about reading business papers and turning up at meetings, but about continually being aware of, interested in, and advocating for regional arts issues in the broadest possible way,
and I'd like to be able to commit myself more to that.

Q: What qualifications do you think you need to carry out your duties
as a Director of Regional Arts NSW effectively?

A: As a Director of Regional Arts NSW my duties are, unequivocally,
to plan, to lead, to monitor and to adapt to changing circumstances.
Good governance requires vision, a shared ownership of, and commitment to, the organisation's directions. It needs an understanding of the requirements of all stakeholders and the ability to guide the organisation for the best outcomes for all concerned.

In terms of planning, I see my role as one of acting in partnership with other Board members, the professional staff at RANSW, the Regional Arts Boards and their RADOs to bring together all the strands that strengthen RANSW and turn our direction into reality. Obviously this requires a knowledge of arts industries and the immense value that they add to regional communities. I think all Directors should appreciate the contribution that the arts make to the social and economic fabric of rural and regional communities as well as to tourism and community development in general.

In our leadership role, the RANSW Board needs to be clear about positioning ourselves for the future and to have the will to drive our vision forward. We must maintain a statewide perspective to ensure that RANSW is now, and continues to be, the peak body promoting and representing the arts in regional and rural NSW. Again, this requires a comprehensive knowledge of arts and creative industries and a willingness to take responsibility for our direction. It requires us to argue, where necessary, for resources to ensure that RANSW remains sufficiently strong so that it can support the statewide network.

Good governance requires monitoring of all our resources. In addition to a statutory requirement for ensuring the financial viability and accountability of RANSW, Directors must also be very much aware of the structure of the organisation as it relates to all stakeholders, and the needs of staff and their working environment. Directors occupy an interesting mix of being close enough to the staff to understand the nature of their work and the pressures they face, while maintaining an objectivity and distance that allows them to view the organisation's direction without getting embroiled in day to day detail.

Q: What do you think your greatest strengths are as a Board member? (Come on, don't be shy).
A: Probably, a strong sense of direction and commitment, a willingness to take responsibility, many years of management experience and a history of having been part of the changes which have occurred at Regional Arts NSW during the last few years.

Q: How, if at all, does your work on the Regional Arts NSW Board
relate to your other work?

A: All my work, in one way or another is about creating better communities, whether it is at the local regional or state level. My interests are varied, as I said before, and arts and cultural development come into a lot of my work, whether it be with children, youth, Aboriginal people, or the wider adult population.

Q: What do you think is the key strength of Regional Arts NSW?
A: Having been part of the restructure, I think that one of the key strengths is its very comprehensive state wide coverage and representation.
The other is the strength and incredible commitment of the staff of RANSW and the RADO's.

Q: So what's your vision for Regional Arts NSW? Where do you see the organisation in one, five, even ten years?
A: I see Regional Arts NSW building on its present structure and strengthening its position through a much stronger realisation of
the value of the arts to regional and rural communities. I see all levels
of government contributing to regional arts development and assisting to create an infrastructure that is supportive of communities renewing and helping themselves. I see greater use of the arts in promoting social well being across all age groups and I see a large and very discerning group of retired people being active and creative and being consumers of arts product.

I also have grave concerns about the effects of changes in the insurance industry on all aspects of volunteer contribution in the
future and see this as the major stumbling block to future arts activity.

Q: What do you think the key challenges are for Regional Arts NSW over the next twelve months to five years?
A: Key challenges will be to select and pursue the most important activities on our agenda. As arts professionals we are all committed opportunists. Being dependent on external funding can lead to temptation to try new directions. Regional Arts NSW's key roles are advocacy, policy development, communication, training and coordination of appropriate projects at a state level. We must stick to those and do them well.

Q: What do you think needs to happen to develop the strengths of the organisation and secure the profile for the arts in regional and rural NSW for the long-term?
A: As a Director I think that we must lead with integrity, maintain a highly professional and forward looking profile, support and develop our staff, and above all, provide outcomes that are valuable, positive and generate further success.

Meg Larkin was first elected to the Board of the Arts Council of NSW in 1998 and has been the Deputy Chair of the organisation since its reconstitution in 2000 as Regional Arts NSW. At the recent AGM on 9 May 2002 she was elected Chair of the Board.