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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

The Hon Jenny Macklin MP
Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

The Hon Warren Snowdon MP
Member for Lingiari

Australian Government approves $8 million to upgrade NT art centres

Joint media release
9 March 2009

Twenty-four art centres in the Northern Territory will share almost $8 million in funding from the Aboriginals Benefits Account (ABA) to expand workshops for artists and upgrade gallery space.

The Australian Government has approved the funding which will also open up access for artists to art markets and strengthen links to the tourist industry.

Two associations of art centres - the Association of Northern Kimberley Arnhem Aboriginal Artists (ANKAAA) and Desart (the Association of Central Australian Artists) - will be funded.

Of ANKAAA's 34 art centres operating in the remote north, 18 will receive over $5.7 million for infrastructure projects.

They are located in areas such as the Tiwi Islands, Arnhem Land and Katherine.

Of Desart's 41 art centres servicing remote communities in Central Australia, 11 will receive over $2.2 million to improve infrastructure. They are located in areas such as Yuendemu, Haasts Bluff and Tennant Creek.

Elcho Island Art and Craft will receive funding to upgrade its verandah area to provide much-needed space for artists to work in and for training, and as a performance and meeting space.

The art centres selected for funding not only met ABA funding requirements but demonstrated potential to provide economic benefits to Indigenous artists and their communities.

The ABA provides mining royalty equivalent monies to be used for the benefit of Indigenous people living in the Northern Territory.

"Art centres are a vital link between Indigenous people and their economic and cultural wellbeing," Ms Macklin said.

"They not only sell the works of their many established artists, but they also develop emerging artists, support cultural practices, provide employment and skills development and offer economic independence to artists.

"People living in remote communities face unique and often very difficult challenges, and by supporting these art centres, we are helping them to support themselves."

This arts infrastructure funding builds on the significant rise of the Indigenous arts industry over the past few decades and addresses one of the recommendations of the Senate report - Indigenous Art - Securing the future.

The Indigenous art market is now estimated to be worth up to $500 million a year.

"Many of our highly successful Indigenous artists live in remote areas," Mr Garrett said.

"In fact, in very remote areas producing art is one of the few opportunities Indigenous people have to earn income in the mainstream economy.

"Creating art is also central to retaining and passing on cultural knowledge and pride to the next generation."

Mr Snowdon said whether you are visiting Melville Island, Ramingining, Yuendumu or Haasts Bluff, the art centres feature as a hub of community life, and are a place where men and women can nurture, explore and express their culture.

"The centres allow artists to develop their skills, help promote and market their work, and ensure they are properly paid."

The Australian Government welcomes this opportunity to support Indigenous people in the Northern Territory build a viable industry with economic and cultural benefits for all Australians.

Commonwealth of Australia