A thriving arts scene can help sustain the country’s most remote communities, according to the findings of a three-year study by the Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre (QCRC).

Mapping the arts scene in remote communities

The Creative Barkly project mapped the arts and creative sector in one of Australia’s largest remote regions, the Barkly, in the Northern Territory.

Professor Brydie-Leigh Bartleet

QCRC Director and Creative Barkly lead investigator Professor Brydie-Leigh Bartleet said the project addressed a pressing need for evidence-based research that examined how the arts sector functions in remote Australia and the important cultural, social and economic value it brings to the regions.

“There is increasing recognition that the arts and cultural sector plays a crucial role in regional development, but very little is known about how this operates in Australia’s remotest regions, where the demographics of communities are vastly different from other regional centres,” she said.

Researchers from the QCRC worked with Barkly Regional Arts and Regional Development Australia NT to complete face-to-face surveys with 120 artists in communities across the Barkly Region, and interviewed 36 key stakeholders and organisations.

Research reveals cultural, social and economic benefits of arts

The study found that the arts is vital to the cultural, social, and economic life of remote communities. Among the key findings:

  • Arts and creativity promoted confidence and self-esteem for individuals, and was integral to celebrating and promoting the uniqueness of the Barkly, and counteracting negative stories and stereotypes about the region.
  • With 75.7% of respondents making an income from their practice, with more than half citing this as their primary source of income, the sector plays an important role in the livelihoods of Barkly artists.
  • Nearly 20 times more artists work in the Barkly than captured in the census. Any form of economic modelling or policy which relies on ABS data will underestimate the economic contribution of arts and creativity to the regional economy.

Innovative music research

The Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre was established in 2003 and champions innovative music research that is artistically innovative and socially engaged.

Creative Barkly is an initiative of Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre (QCRC), Griffith University, with industry partners Barkly Regional Arts, and Regional Development Australia NT, and university partner University of the Sunshine Coast. It was supported by the Australian Research Council as a Linkage project with financial and in-kind contributions from all partner organisations.

To read the full report and its recommendations visit creativebarkly.org