The West Darling/Far West region covers an area of 176,000 square kilometres bordering Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and the Darling River. This region is over 700km from north to south and 300km wide. With a population of just under 30,000, the region is the most sparsely populated in the State. The region has a history of Aboriginal ownership and European settlement. It has historically been the mineral powerhouse of the State. It also contains some of the State’s most flourishing agricultural enterprises and large stretches of the world famous outback. National Parks cover large areas of the region, for example, the Mungo and Mutawintji National Parks.
The region comprises three Local Government Authorities (LGAs) and the Unincorporated Area:
- Broken Hill City Council – 19,000 pop.
- Central Darling Shire Council – 2,000 pop. (major towns; Wilcannia, Menindee, White Cliffs, Ivanhoe)
- Wentworth Shire Council – 8,000 pop. (major towns; Wentworth, Pooncarie, Dareton, Buronga, Gol Gol)
- Unincorporated Area – 700 pop. (major towns; Silverton, Tibboburra, Milparinka). Note: this area is administered by the NSW Department of Lands.
Main Industries and Employers
- Mining (large-scale mining operations centred on silver, lead zinc and mineral sands).
- Local Councils.
- State and Federal government service centres.
- Traditional agriculture.
- Tourism industry.
- Hospitality industry.
- Regional health services.
- Retail services.
- Creative industries.
Arts and Cultural Practice
The Far West region offers a wealth of experiences, from majestic landscapes and evocative art to mining heritage, indigenous culture and bush lifestyle.
Arts and cultural infrastructure in the region includes:
- A regional gallery
- Two performing arts venues
- Eight museums
- A writers’ centre
- 36 commercial art galleries
- 1 cinema
- Aboriginal Arts and Cultural Centre (Wilcannia).
- The region has a number of resident artists, particularly visual artists. The dramatic landscape of Broken Hill has attracted artists from all over the world. Many have bought properties and set up galleries and museums in the City.
- The Creative Industries have a long history in Broken Hill.
- Remote communities across the region have become linked with sculptures being permanently placed along the roads, particularly along the Silver City Highway between Broken Hill and Tibooburra.
- White Cliffs has many galleries. The communities of Central Darling and Wentworth Councils are also setting up art and cultural centres in repurposed Church properties, providing spaces for workshops, exhibitions and Artist in Residence programs.
- Festivals held in the region include the Mildura Wentworth Arts Festival and the Murray River International Music Festival.
As there were no Arts Councils in the region, sub-committees in each region have been developed by the Regional Arts Board to act as reference groups and assist in the development of long term programs. Wentworth Arts was formed in 2002. Broken Hill Arts and Wilcannia Arts were formed in 2004.
The three LGAs in the region have completed long-term Community Strategic Plans, along with associated four-year Operational Plans. These Plans include a range of objectives that articulate the cultural aspirations of the community. West Darling Arts assists the LGAs to deliver the arts and cultural components of these Plans.
Key Issues and Trends
- There are only a small number of professional arts organisations, particularly in the area of performing arts, in the region.
- There are few performing arts venues available to communities across the region. Performances generally take place in community halls, churches, school halls, and parks. It is almost impossible to tour performances to the region outside of Wentworth and Broken Hill.
- West Darling Arts is building relationships with various other community groups and key creative groups in order to further develop a performance hub in Broken Hill.
- There is only one Regional Gallery in the region.
- Communities in the region are quite different to each other. Broken Hill is the epicentre and has a large diversity (cultural, socio economic, events and industry). In contrast communities such as White Cliffs, Wilcannia, Tibooburra, Silverton, Wentworth and Menindee host a small population, offer limited employment, and have a lack of cultural diversity and very different desires from council and community, even within the same LGA.
- Limited creative industries development and opportunities exist outside of Broken Hill and Wentworth.
- There are large distances between communities in region. Locals generally travel between communities for employment, rather than holidays or for cultural purposes.
- There are communities within the region with large numbers of Aboriginal residents; however few ongoing and sustainable arts and cultural projects have eventuated in these areas, despite investment. Such communities include Wilcannia.
- Growing strategic approach to development by councils.
- Growing development of Cultural Tourism across the region.
- Growing participation in arts and cultural activities.
- Developing Aboriginal Creative Industry centres (Wilcannia, Menindee, Broken Hill, Wentworth).
- Provides an alternative to city living, ‘magic light’ and arid landscape.
- Small population situated over a very large geographical area – it is a challenge to develop and deliver arts and cultural programs due to the vast distances and the isolation of many of the communities.
- Most of the roads north and east of Broken Hill are unpaved.
- Lack of ongoing and sustainable arts and cultural events in Aboriginal communities.
- Very hard to secure sponsorship for art and cultural activities.
- Limited cultural infrastructure.
- Poor networking in the arts across the region.
- Low socio-economic communities.
- Development of cultural tourism.
- Further development and establishment of festivals across region.
- Increasing professional development and employment.
- Opportunities and improving participation in events and creative activities across all demographics, by council and community organisations.
- Impact of possible local government amalgamations.
- Increasing competition within the region for limited arts funding.
- Population and general interest of involvement in communities across region decreasing.
Aboriginal Population and Language Groups
- 2,700 Aboriginal people live in the region (approximately 14.5% of the general area population)
- The highest concentration of Aboriginal people live in Wilcannia
- The Murdi Paaki Region comprises the whole of Western NSW, from the Victoria to Queensland borders. Communities serviced include: Bourke, Brewarrina, Broken Hill, Cobar, Collarenebri, Coonamble, Enngonia, Goodooga, Gulargambone, Ivanhoe, Lightning Ridge, Menindee, Walgett, Weilmoringle, Wentworth, Wilcannia
- Aboriginal people make up a significant percentage of the region’s population; over 50% in some areas. The Aboriginal population is growing, while the overall population levels are in decline
- Aboriginal unemployment in Murdi Paaki region, at 23.9%, is nearly three times the non-Aboriginal rate. Individual income of Aboriginal people in Murdi Paaki is 25% lower, on average, than non-Aboriginal people
Indigenous Arts Organisations
- Wilcannia Art Centre