In a recent revelation, the Cairns Regional Council, in collaboration with James Cook University, has unveiled the ‘State of the Arts’ Report (SoARTS), shedding light on the profound impact of the arts in Gimuy (Cairns). The report discloses that the arts industry in Gimuy generates an estimated $126 million in direct and indirect value-add to the regional economy, contributing significantly to its success and growth. The arts, often seen as an equal player to more traditional industrial considerations, also generates an estimated $150 million in income across industries. Unveiling the Economic and Cultural Significance of Arts in Gimuy/Cairns: A Critical Analysis
Gimuy as the Cultural Hub
Being hailed as the “regional capital of arts and culture” in northern Australia, Gimuy has been an international tourism destination for decades. The ‘State of the Arts’ report positions the arts as a fundamental element in the region’s prosperity, challenging the conventional notion that only traditional industries drive economic success.
The Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, once a global destination, put Gimuy on the map, playing a crucial role in promoting First Nations Culture(s) and establishing tourism. Despite its current state of dormancy, plans for revival by the Djabugay Aboriginal Corporation post-2023 emphasize the significance of Indigenous-led aspirations in preserving vital tourism, arts, and cultural assets.
Challenges and Opportunities in the Indigenous Arts Sector
While the ‘State of the Arts’ report provides valuable insights, there are gaps, especially concerning the profitability of specific arts organizations or companies. This lack of detailed information makes it challenging to identify major contributors to the $150 million income, hindering efforts to address shortcomings, particularly in the Indigenous arts sector.
The Productivity Commission’s report underscores the economic and cultural value of Indigenous arts, indicating $250 million in sales during 2019-2020. However, challenges persist, notably in human resources. The Indigenous art sector faces a shortage of skills and skilled personnel, exacerbated by the discontinuation of arts courses at James Cook University.
Education and the Role of Universities
The decision by James Cook University to eliminate arts courses reflects a dismissive attitude toward the arts, contrary to the industry’s growth demands and successes. Central Queensland University in Cairns is now looked upon to fill the void in arts education, signaling a need for a shift in how the community perceives arts as a viable career option. The emphasis should be on valuing skills within the arts as practical, not merely theoretical.
Key Indigenous Arts Organizations: Challenges and Prospects
Organizations like the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF), Indigenous Art Centre Alliance (IACA), UMI Arts, and Shine On Gimuy face diverse challenges:
- Competitive Funding Strategy: Organizations grapple with fierce competition for funding across jurisdictions and facets of the sector’s needs.
- Infrastructure: Lack of infrastructure, including suitable performance and showcase spaces, poses a challenge.
- Pay Disparity: Disparities in pay compared to similar organizations across Australia need addressing.
- Skilled Indigenous Professionals: A shortage of skilled Indigenous professionals hampers key roles.
- Cultural and Social Responsibilities: A need for a supreme authoritative body overseeing Cultural and Social Responsibilities is apparent.
- Governance and Training: A lack of competency in governance and training, influenced by outdated Western governance frameworks, requires modernization.
While CIAF boasts social impact successes, transparency is sought regarding actual sales figures from its Art Fair and Art Market. IACA is undergoing a period of reflection and recruitment, addressing issues of provenance, management, and best practice. UMI Arts, without visible corporate leadership, seeks governance stability. Shine On Gimuy, an emerging festival, faces the challenge of aligning its corporate structure with its evolving identity.
The ‘State of the Arts’ report celebrates the economic and cultural contributions of the arts in Gimuy. However, challenges persist, particularly in the Indigenous arts sector. The need for strategic investments, education reform, and organizational restructuring is evident. The arts in Gimuy must evolve sustainably, ensuring inclusivity, diversity, and cultural integrity, laying the foundation for continued success and growth.
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