Tuesday, 07 June 2016 15:24

Ten reasons to invest in Western Sydney arts

Art exhibition at The Joan Sutherland Centre, Penrith Art exhibition at The Joan Sutherland Centre, Penrith

6 June, 2016

Our federal leaders have talked a lot this election campaign about the need to build Western Sydney’s economy, to spur innovation and attract investment, but Friday was the first time the arts has been raised as an election issue.

WSROC welcomes this focus. Currently, the Australian Government allocates just one per cent of its arts budget to Western Sydney. For a region that is home one to 10 Australians, this is unacceptable.

The arts are not only important for building more liveable, vibrant communities for Western Sydney residents, but also for stimulating innovation and job creation.

Whether for community development or economic growth, here are 10 good reasons why the federal government should be investing more in Western Sydney’s creative economy.


1. Arts is key to innovation

Our federal leaders talk about the need to diversify Western Sydney's economy, to spur innovation and attract investment.

Entertainment, dining, and outlets for artistic expression are the reasons many people choose to settle in a certain place – and by extension, why they choose to invest in that local economy.

As the third largest economy in Australia, Western Sydney has to compete with Melbourne’s famous lane-way culture and Sydney’s glamorous habour-side lifestyle when seeking to attract new investment.


2. Western Sydney has a major (arts) jobs deficit

Well over 200,000 Western Sydney workers join the daily exodus from Western Sydney to jobs in the East. Around 30,000 of these commuters are directly employed in the creative and cultural industries.

With the funding to retain and nurture home grown talent, Western Sydney would have the opportunity to build its local creative industries, including the training and development sector, and generate much needed local employment for residents.


3. The arts support place making and social cohesion

A thriving arts industry is important for community building, place making and cultural interchange. Cultural development promotes communication and understanding across cultures and communities, and bring richness and depth to our society.

In a region where 40 per cent of residents are migrants (in some areas this percentage is much greater), facilitating cross cultural understanding and a fostering sense of belonging is essential to building successful communities.


4. Culture is Western Sydney’s greatest strength

With such a diverse, global community Western Sydney has the potential to be Australia’s premier cultural mecca.

And that means a lot. Arts and culture accounts for 5.6 per cent of Australia’s gross value making it the eighth largest contributor nationally.

Western Sydney is already recognised as a destination for experiencing authentic global cuisine and culturally-diverse artistic productions. With ongoing strategic funding, Western Sydney could be much, much more.  


5. Western Sydney residents are great consumers of culture

In 2011 Western Sydney households spent $232 million on cultural activities, almost equal that of eastern Sydney; despite low accessibility to arts and cultural venues.

The West’s appetite for culture is growing. Over the next two decades, Western Sydney will have overtaken the East in terms of cultural spend – making it a clear opportunity for investment. 


6. Local councils are not arts bodies

Almost all of Western Sydney’s cultural venues are largely funded by local councils and their communities. While this gives a distinct local flavour to artistic productions, it puts an unfair burden on councils, which are not, at their core, arts bodies.

Councils play an integral role in building and developing the region’s grass roots talent. However, they need appropriate support so that they can offer their communities more than small project-based grants, which give little certainty to artists and do not facilitate the kind of ongoing, strategic development local talent needs.

Ongoing and structural funding, rather than a fragmented approach is needed to ensure Western Sydney’s arts and cultural industries grow and thrive in the long term.


7. Western Sydney pays more than its fair share

Despite living in a major global city, Western Sydney residents are paying significantly more than their fair share when it comes to the arts.

All Australians are taxed for the upkeep of our country’s major cultural venues; and rightfully so. However, Western Sydney residents also pay council rates to fund major regional cultural venues and events.

Furthermore, many venues are required to pay to attract major cultural exhibitions to Western Sydney.


8. Western Sydney deserves access to locally developed and culturally relevant arts experiences

The assumption that Western Sydney audiences are adequately serviced by inner-city based organisations denies Western Sydney audiences the opportunity to experience quality arts and culture in their own communities, including locally developed arts experiences.

Western Sydney wants arts experiences that are locally relevant and which are presented where they live.

The talent is here. And the diversity of Western Sydney both demographically and geographically makes locally developed content more engaging and significant for both local audiences and the city more widely.


9. We are missing out on the West’s emerging talent

Wherever there is a lack of funding our children and young people are missing out on opportunities to engage with the arts, with music, with literature, dance and performance.

Arts infrastructure such as performance spaces, galleries, training facilities and museums are key to inspiring the 700,000 young people who call Western Sydney home to engage with the arts. And supporting those with an interest to practice and develop their skills.


10.We should be making the most of what we have

While Western Sydney needs more arts infrastructure, it needs funding to ensure that existing infrastructure is operating to its full potential.

Despite being one of Western Sydney’s premier cultural venues, The Joan Sutherland Centre in Penrith currently has around 70 weekend days with nothing on - simply because it can’t afford to do more.


Inadequate arts funding for the West is a social equity issue on a grand scale; Western Sydney is not a small community on the periphery of Sydney, it is the major part of Australia’s largest global city; one that is diverse, growing and hungry for opportunity.

Investing in the West’s cultural and creative industries will not only benefit Western Sydney, but our whole city and nation.

Creativity can provide a launching pad into a new and diverse economies; increasing the number of local jobs, attracting new investment and driving economic growth through tourism, leisure and entertainment.


Related content:

Federal Election: 2016: Arts and culture

30,000 arts jobs needed to tackle deficit (Published 16 June, 2016)

Better arts funding offers broader benefits (Published 7 June, 2016)

Media release: Powerhouse Museum will move west (Published 18 February, 2016)

Building Western Sydney's Cultural Arts Economy: A key to Sydney's success (Published February, 2015)

WSROC response to: Framing the future: Developing an arts and cultural policy for NSW (Published December, 2013)

Last modified on Tuesday, 26 July 2016 17:16