Australia Council Submission - Rural Communities

11 April 2008

Future directions for rural industries and rural communities

(c) What is the most intelligent form of support the Government can provide to ensure the long-term sustainability of rural and regional communities, including the fostering of the next generation of Australian farmers.

The arts can be a vital tool in the regeneration of regional communities and their economies. The arts can unite communities and strengthen the interconnection of all tiers of government. Through the arts, rural communities come together to explore place and identity, and to interact as creative individuals contributing to a collective strength.

The arts are already a significant force in rural communities, as demonstrated by the impressive network of performing arts centres, regional galleries and grassroots community arts activities, supported by local government. Through these physical and human assets, communities are vitalised and become more creative and attractive places to live and raise families. The exodus of young people from rural areas to capital cities is slowed.

However, much more can be done. Through earmarking part of the financial support provided by the Australian Government to regional organisations for the development of new cultural plans, the Australian government can stimulate the provision of more arts activities that build access and participation in the regions. This would result in a more effective use of the existing infrastructure of community halls, galleries and public performance places. It would also provide more opportunities for established artists to visit communities, and to provide workshops and mentorships to promising young Australian artists.

Increasing funding to regional, rural and remote library services would enable them to be better utilised as cultural and artistic hubs. There could also be investment in the development of new, or the upgrading of existing, multi-purpose community halls.

Support for the touring of appropriate regional work into small, remote and rural communities would also help to increase social cohesion, and highlight the personal achievements of participants.

The arts and culture must be included in regional and local development plans, both as a means of stimulating economic growth and regeneration, and to increase the attractiveness of regional centres to young people. In this way, the exodus of young people from regions to capital cities can be reduced, and more skilled workers currently employed in the capitals can be attracted to the regions.

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