Mid-February is here already and it’s been a big start to the year. Having a National Cultural Policy in Australia again after ten years in the wilderness is no small thing. Since the announcement of the policy on 30 January and the pleasant surprise to find some actual budget committed as well, arts organisations such as ours have been going through the detail and working out what this can mean and next steps to support the Australian Government’s new directions.

I’ve just hit the one year mark in January of being in the job which is always a good time for a bit of reflection. I feel that the last year has meant some significant changes in the way we operate at RANSW. I see our work as being split across three main users of stakeholders: The NSW RADO network, regional arts practitioners and organisations and the professional arts sector. All three are important to ensure that we have relevance and can genuinely support the regional arts sector to be everything that it can.

February seems a good time to write about Diversity and Inclusion in the arts and embedding it into regional practice. Firstly, it’s Mardi Gras time and the Sydney World Pride is about to launch. Regional Arts NSW picked up relevant themes by presenting our February session of The Country Air earlier this month, Gender, Sexuality and the Arts in Regional NSW, moderated by Dr Sally Blackwood with a stellar panel of Candace Bell (Australian storyteller/Bogan philosopher from Mudgee); Will Miller and Brett Boulton (Directors, Rainbow on the Plains Festival in Hay) and Gavin Prendergast (Manager Regional Outreach, ACON). We are proud at RANSW to be bringing discussions such as these to the fore. Watch out for coming sessions of The Country Air including our NSW election sessions with the Shadow Arts Minister and hopefully too with the current Arts Minister.

Still on the topic of gender in regional arts practice, in addition to the work we are already doing in supporting regional arts practitioners to build their professional practice through our arts business online program Click, we have been invited to develop a proposal for a more extensive program targeting women working or establishing creative industries practice in regional NSW. It is an area that can really benefit from support so I’m excited to be talking to potential partners about what this program could look like.

Diversity and Inclusion is also on our minds at Regional Arts NSW because we have recently taken part in Diversity Arts Australia’s training program Fair Play, and have completed our Equity Inclusion Plan. I’m looking to instigating the actions that we have put into our plan. Diversity and Inclusion have always been important to me but I am the first to admit that since working in the regional arts sector I did not always prioritise it due to the lower proportion of people from culturally diverse backgrounds found in regional communities, but I feel that it is for exactly that reason that we do need to focus on building opportunities for everyone to ensure that no-one is marginalised or has trouble accessing opportunities because of difference.

2023 is going to be a year for building including our membership offers that will be coming out soon, so stay in touch as we work to connect our regional arts communities across NSW.