Culture key to growth
The Pilbara is rich in tourism opportunities, but would benefit from a softer image and greater recognition of indigenous arts and culture, according to speakers at Tuesday’s Pilbara Economic Development Conference.
Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA chief economist Rick Newnham said the Pilbara received about 700,000 visitors annually, equating to about $452 million in tourism spend, of which $363 million was retained within the local economy.
He said there was plenty of room for growth, which would amount to the creation of many thousands of local jobs in the next decade.
“A key attraction is the remoteness of the region. Indigenous culture is also playing a major role in attracting visitors,” Mr Newnham said.
Indigenous Art Code chief executive Gabrielle Sullivan said the Pilbara’s culture and arts offered strong employment opportunities, particularly for older people who had become artists, and younger people in support roles.
“The contribution of seniors in arts and culture in the Pilbara is enormous; a lot of emerging artists are already quite old when they start painting, especially in the desert,” she said.
“There are seniors who are very generous in promoting culture, and sharing that, delivering workshops and artists talks across the country,” she said.
“Meanwhile, the arts centres and cultural organisations like Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa, Spinifex Hill Studios, Juluwarlu and many others are employing young people who have limited employment opportunities otherwise.
“Facilitating roles that value Aboriginal culture is essential in providing long-term meaningful employment opportunities.”
The associated tourism also presented opportunities, but to truly thrive would rely on a better profile and culturally relevant training and investment for the Pilbara’s talent in arts and culture, she said.
She said the Pilbara was often underestimated in terms of its contribution to Australian arts and culture.
Siblings Tamisha and Corban Williams in the Martumili Artists gallery, Newman, sorting through artworks for the upcoming Desert Mob art market.