An ongoing partnership between CQUniversity' the Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council (WASC) and BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) has placed emerging First Nations artists in the spotlight with the opening of the Woorabinda Arts and Cultural Centre (WACC) on 3 March.
With the support of CQUniversity through the Central Queensland Regional Arts Services Network (CQRASN*)' and funding from BMA' Woorabinda artists worked together with local contractors to refurbish the former Duaringa CWA Hall into an art gallery and shop that aims to serve as a major tourism attraction for the area.
The establishment of the new Centre is part of a collaborative project between WASC' Yoonthalla Services Woorabinda' and CQUniversity to create an education' enterprise' and research hub in the Woorabinda community that supports local economic development.
CQRASN Regional Arts Manager Julie Barratt said the new Centre was a significant milestone for First Nations artists in Woorabinda.
"Currently there is no Arts Centre that has a specific focus on Indigenous arts in Central Queensland'" she said.
"Both state and federal government funding supports the operations of art centres that are in the north of the state; however' there is limited access to training or profiling Indigenous arts in the CQ region' even though a range of reports have identified the arts and culture as key mechanisms for strengthening Indigenous communities' building pride and engagement.
"Many artists in Woorabinda and other regional communities have some capacity and experience in the arts sector but have not had the impetus or outlets for their work' often working independently in their homes without access to quality art materials or support."
She said the Centre would create vital career pathways' increasing employment for Indigenous people and building capacity for community.
"The WACC will be a major investment in the arts and cultural sector in CQ' paving the way for an Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander-led Arts and Cultural Centre'" she said.
"Furthermore' and most significantly' it will become a unique arts centre model in Queensland' specifically designed around enterprise models to improve social impacts in local community' being managed by' with' and for community."
WASC Mayor Joshua Weazel said "the significance of the Arts Centre broadly means our community has exposure to an industry that elevates and supports local artists' providence to their artwork and provides the freedom and choice to step into another level within the vibrant industry of arts.
"Ongoing workshops and regional tours have allowed artists from our community to become aware of what is available to them within the industry' the varying degrees of production' sales' and meaningful use of their story through art.
"WASC envisage that local talent will be supported and nurtured to become proficient in business acumen' within this industry locally and regionally' with true potential for national and international markets and broader regional collaboration' whilst enhancing and building an enterprise-driven circular economy for our community.
"Support from its partners (BMA' WASC and CQUni) make this venture possible. The drive of many individuals with this vision is rewarded and makes a dream more attainable' with the establishment of the Woorabinda Aboriginal Cultural Centre."
BMA Asset President James Palmer said: "BMA is proud to help establish the centre and support First Nations communities."
"This is much more than just a gallery' it's a community asset that will help create new career pathways and increasing employment for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people.
"Artists can work' participate in and hold workshops and events here.
"The Centre will provide access to professional development and help create new jobs in Central Queensland."
*The Regional Arts Services Network is an initiative of the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.
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