THE ARTS CENTRE MOVEMENT
For a people whose history dates back 60,000 years in Australia, modern times have been a harrowing and difficult chapter for Aboriginal Australians.
Since the arrival of colonial incomers, the indigenous people of Australia have been killed, exploited and marginalised. The result of which has been poverty and no claim on a country they can rightly call their own.
The Arts Centre Movement is at the forefront of a nationwide efforts to recognise the harm that has been done to Aboriginal tribes and attempt reparation. They provide the opportunity for the communities to help themselves and prosper. Aboriginal culture itself has serious issues amongst its people and the centres provide support and education for an ancient culture adjusting to the values of the modern world.
‘Engagement with the arts has a powerful effect on health, wellbeing and strengthening communities’
The oldest art centre is Ernabella Arts, formed in 1948 to help remote Aboriginal Australians to connect socially and to participate in their communities cultural life. Today all arts centres are Indigenous-owned or controlled, and are not-for-profit organisations.
The centres work to preserve culture, promote and celebrate aboriginal identity, and raise awareness of important issues, such as the return of ancestral land and the protection of sacred sites. They act as a focus for creative activity and the marketing of Aboriginal art to the wider world, but their role in the community goes much further than that.
Aboriginal people die between 10 and 17 years younger than their non aboriginal counterparts and Arts centres help coordinate health and education programs, on top of this engagement with the arts has been shown to have a powerful effect on health and wellbeing.
Empowerment is a crucial aim of these ventures. Centres often provide many social benefits which are not directly related to the arts including assistance with family, education, legal, transport and financial issues. In particular, they provide an avenue for the advancement of Indigenous women to develop self esteem, financial independence and empowerment within their communities.
The Tangentyere art community with a children's drumming group called Drum Atwerne, formed to meet the needs of at risk aboriginal town camp youths.
Vincent Namatjira with his series Cook's Story at the Desert Mob
Nadia with Alby Jack & Chrischona Schmidt from kuntji artists