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Integrating art production and economic development in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory

National survey of remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists
Art economy Aboriginal Australian art Rural and remote communities Self-determination Cultural awareness Aboriginal customs Economic development Arnhem Land

This Report presents the results of a study that forms one component of a major National Survey of Remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artists. The National Survey is being undertaken in the Department of Economics at Macquarie University progressively across six regions in remote Australia. The regions are:

Region 1: Kimberley, WA
Region 2: East and West Arnhem Land, NT
Region 3: North-West NT and Tiwi Islands
Region 4: Central Desert, NT and APY Lands, SA
Region 5: Pilbara and Western Desert
Region 6: Far North Queensland

Implementation of the National Survey in Region 1 was completed in 2016, with the rollout continuing in Regions 2–6 during 2017, 2018, 2019 and 20201.

The present report relates to the implementation of the National Survey in Region 2, Arnhem Land. An initial scoping trip to the region was undertaken in July 2018 and the main fieldwork was carried out in November 2018, as discussed in more detail in the report.

Policy issues and recommendations:

In this report we have shown how the visual artists, performing artists, composers, writers, film-makers and multimedia artists in the Arnhem Land region represent a rich resource of cultural capital. The knowledge and skills of these artists already contribute significant levels of cultural goods and services to the regional economy. But the data show considerable untapped potential – experienced artists who are willing to work at cultural production but who for various reasons may not be able to participate fully in the art economy at the present time.

In this final section of the report we identify a number of policy issues that arise in considering the present state and future potential of art and cultural production in the Arnhem Land region. The issues are grouped into the following categories: infrastructure needs; expanding economic opportunities; training and skill development; and cultural tourism. In considering policy development, it must be understood that there is unlikely to be a single one-size-fits-all strategy applicable to all regional remote communities. Instead, different needs can be identified in different locations depending on a range of factors. In these circumstances there is clearly a requirement for coordination between the decisions and actions of stakeholders at various levels in the policy process.

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