APY Lands: housing for art centre staff

First posted on 5 October 2010 under APY Lands & Housing.
This article has been updated and archived.
Tags: art centres & infrastructure

Summary

For many years, a lack of dedicated staff housing has undermined the viability of some art centres on the APY Lands.

In 2011, the Australian and South Australian Government allocated $1.1 million to “facilitate the building and refurbishment of art centre staff houses” in Amata, Mimili, Pipalyatjara and Pukatja.[i]

As of 13 February 2012, this work was expected to be completed by the end of 2012.[ii]

The Paper Trail

Introduction

Australia is home to over 100 Aboriginal art centres. More than a third of these centres are located in Central Australia, primarily in remote communities.[iii]

There are seven art centres on the APY Lands. Each one is owned and governed by local Anangu artists. More than 460 artists work out of these centres.[iv]

Between 2006 and 2009, the income generated by Anangu artists from the sale of works produced at APY art centres increased “from around $1.3 million to more than $3.5 million per annum.”[v]

Senate Inquiry

On 20 June 2007, the final report of an Inquiry into “Australia’s Indigenous visual arts and craft sector” was tabled in the Australian Senate.[vi]

The report noted that the Indigenous visual arts sector “provides very significant economic, social and cultural benefits” and that art centres lie at its heart.[vii]

The Inquiry drew attention to infrastructure pressures and their impact on art centres:

While art centres face many challenges, there is little doubt that physical infrastructure deficiencies appear to be the greatest. The [Inquiry] received considerable evidence suggesting art centre infrastructure is over-stretched and getting rundown, as are the staff working in the centres… the sector seems to have grown rapidly, yet the funding to support it has not.[viii]

The Inquiry also noted that it had received a “consistent message” on the housing problems encountered by art centre staff.[ix]

For example, in its submission to the Inquiry, Desart – the Association of Central Australian Art and Craft Centres – wrote:

Current art centre staff housing is generally very poor and there is a complete lack of staff housing on many communities. Recruitment and retention of staff is fundamentally important to the industry. Art centres are finding increasing difficulty in recruiting quality, experienced staff. This is not surprising when all they can offer as housing is a low quality, uncooled transportable, shared accommodation – or even a swag in the bush [as] experienced by one art centre manager recently.[x]

In similar fashion, Ananguku Arts and Culture – the peak body for artists on the APY Lands – observed that:

In three of the seven communities in which APY art centres are based, there is no permanent housing available for art centre staff. This puts all three of these invaluable projects at serious risk.[xi]

In response to this and other evidence, the Inquiry formally recommended (Recommendation 4) that:

  • the Australian Government “establish a new infrastructure fund to assist Indigenous visual arts and crafts”,
  • this proposed fund “complement existing… program funding”, and
  • the fund “be for a sum of the order of $25 million, made available over a period of five years.”[xii]

In August 2008 – more than a year after the Inquiry was completed – the Australian Government provided a written response to the Inquiry’s report and recommendations. In its response, the Government stated that the recommendation to establish an infrastructure fund would be “subject to consideration in a future Budget process.”[xiii]

The Paper Tracker notes that funding for the establishment of the proposed infrastructure fund was not included in either the 2009-10, the 2010-11 or the 2011-12 Federal Budgets.[xiv]

Mimili Maku Arts

Mimili Maku Arts is an Anangu-owned and managed organisation. As of February 2012, around 60 Anangu artists worked out of this centre.[xv]

In the 2010-11 financial year, Mimili Maku Arts sold $405,000 of artworks, an increase of $225,000 from the previous year.[xvi]

Notwithstanding this growing success, infrastructure problems have undermined the operation of Mimili Maku Arts for a number of years.

Since re-launching itself in mid 2004, the organisation has worked out of an “old eroding stone cottage” and without a dedicated staff house.[xvii]

In December 2005, an assessment of the “physical infrastructure needs” of central Australian Aboriginal art centres estimated that $280,000 was required to build a staff house for the art coordinator in Mimili.[xviii] More than four years later, this funding had not been secured.[xix]

In January 2010 Mimili Maku Arts employed a new art centre manager. Six months later, the manager wrote to the Paper Tracker about the impact that a lack of housing was having on her well-being and, more broadly, the centre’s operations. The manager’s letter read (in part):

Since January I have lived out of a suitcase. I have lived in other communities, driving up to 150kms a day to get to work. I have lived at teachers’ houses during the holidays as well as the Government Business Manager’s house whilst he is on leave or away from the community for work. I am currently staying at the Mimili Police [complex] while a constable is on leave. In three weeks time I will be expected to find other arrangements as the constable will return to the community. The situation here is desperate … I am not sure how much longer I can cope with the constant moving and lack of stability with my living arrangements. The constant moving is exhausting and driving [significant distances] after a long day’s work is dangerous, but I have no alternative.[xx]

On 20 September 2010, the South Australian Government advised the manager of Mimili Maku Arts that she would be able to move in to a new government house in Mimili “on a temporary basis, once it is completed.”[xxi]

On 13 April 2011, the Government advised the Paper Tracker that Mimili Maku Art’s lease of the government house would end on 30 June 2011 and that the organisation would need “to pursue alternative accommodation after this date.”[xxii]

Tjala Arts

Tjala Arts in Amata is owned and managed by local Anangu artists.

In January 2009, Australia’s leading fine art professionals selected it as one of five Aboriginal art centres “to watch” that year.[xxiii]

Tjala Arts is a not-for-profit organisation that provides artists and their families with a measure of economic independence. Between 2002 and 2009, the centre’s annual sales figures rose from $36,000 to almost $800,000.[xxiv]

Tjala Arts owns one small house in Amata. As of July 2010, this house accommodated two non-Anangu staff both of whom often work a 60-hour week. Tjala Arts has strong concerns that requiring staff to “work and live together in this manner… in such a demanding environment… is inappropriate and simply not sustainable.”[xxv]

Tjala Arts also employs a number of local Anangu as arts workers on a full-time and casual basis. These workers provide operational support for the centre, including stretching the canvases that the artists use.[xxvi]

Tjala Arts has received funding to employ a trainer to work exclusively with five of these arts workers. As of mid 2010, however, the organisation was “reluctant to introduce this role at the Art Centre because of the lack of appropriate housing.”[xxvii]

In July 2010, the centre explained its predicament in a document sent to both the State and Federal Governments. It read (in part):

Tjala Arts desperately needs to secure a second staff house in Amata Community. Appropriate housing is vital to the continued success and sustainability of the business. Our frustrations are heightened with the knowledge that many whitefella houses owned by a variety of different government stakeholders in this community remain empty for extended periods of time. … [Our] business is experiencing an extremely exciting period of growth and we fear that the housing situation will compromise this position.[xxviii]

As of 24 September 2010, Tjala Arts had not secured any additional staff housing, either on a temporary or ongoing basis.[xxix]

On 13 April 2011, the South Australian Government advised the Paper Tracker that it considered Tjala Arts already had “appropriate staff accommodation.”[xxx]

Other art centres

Securing housing for art centre staff is not only a problem in Mimili and Amata.

On 22 September 2010, Ananguku Arts and Culture wrote:

This is a regional issue. Historically art centres have grown up in the buildings no one else wants… There is no dedicated housing for Ninuku Arts [in Kalka]. The art centre manager and second staff member are currently sharing a stone house in Pipalyatjara which … needs a new bathroom and toilet.[xxxi]

Ananguku Arts and Culture also noted that “the lack of housing for a second staff member” at Ernabella Arts in Pukatja was an “ongoing crisis.”[xxxii]

Funding commitment (updated 29 March 2012)

On 14 June 2011, the South Australian Government advised the Paper Tracker that it would be providing a grant of $450,000 to Ananguku Arts and Culture as “a contribution to art centre housing on the APY Lands.”[xxxiii]

Ten weeks later, on 30 August 2011, the Federal Government contributed another $655,000 towards this work.[xxxiv]

On 7 February 2012, the Federal Minister for the Arts and Regional Australia (Hon Simon Crean MP) advised the Paper Tracker that the combined funding package of $1.1million would:

facilitate the building and refurbishment of art centre staff houses located in the communities of Pipalyatjara, Amata, Ernabella (Pukatja) and Mimili.”[xxxv]

On 13 February 2012, Ananguku Arts and Culture noted that:

  • the $1.1million would be used to build a staff house for Mimili Maku Arts and housing for second staff members at Ernabella Arts, Ninuku Arts and Tjala Arts; and
  • it was aiming to have all of these projects completed by the end of 2012.[xxxvi]

This article was last updated in March 2012. It has been archived and will no longer be updated. It will, however, remain accessible online as a source of background information for anyone wishing to undertake further research on this issue. Information included in the article was current at the time it was archived. Keep in mind, however, that Ministerial changes and names of departments, among other things, may have since changed.

Please note: earlier editions of this webpage included information on the South Australian Government’s review of staff housing on the APY Lands. To access that information, click here.


[i] Crean, S. 7 February 2012. Letter to Rev. P. McDonald from the Australian Minister for the Arts and Regional Australia.

[ii] Tregenza, E. 13 February 2012. Email to J. Nicholls and attached notes from Ananguku Arts and Culture Aboriginal Corporation.

[iii] In 2006, the Australian Government reported that there were “approximately 110 art centres, operating primarily in remote Indigenous communities” (see Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA). 2006. “Inquiry into the Indigenous visual arts and craft sector – DCITA submission”, p2. Available at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/ecita_ctte/completed_inquiries/2004-07/indigenous_arts/submissions/sub50.pdf.%20Accessed%2014%20September%202010). As of September 2010, 40 arts centres were members of Desart (the Association of Central Australian Aboriginal Art and Craft Centres (see: Desart Inc. 2010. “Member Art Centres,” Available at: http://www.desart.com.au/MemberArtCentres/tabid/58/Default.aspx. Accessed 14 September 2010).

[iv] Ananguku Arts. 2010. “APY Arts” webpage. Available at: http://www.anangukuarts.com.au/content/apy-lands. Accessed 14 September 2010.

[v] Tregenza, L (Ananguku Arts and Culture Aboriginal Corporation). 23 September 2010. Email to J. Nicholls and associated attachment. Earlier, in late 2006, the combined “net value of art sales” through the seven APY art centres was reportedly in the range of $1.3 to $1.5 million per annum, “with current annual growth of an estimated 30%” (Ananguku Arts and Culture Aboriginal Corporation. 27 November 2006, “Inquiry into the Indigenous visual arts and craft sector. Submission by Ananguku Arts and Culture Aboriginal Corporation,” p3. Available at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/ecita_ctte/completed_inquiries/2004-07/indigenous_arts/submissions/sub46.pdf. Accessed 14 September 2010).

[vi] Eggleston, A. 20 June 2007, “Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Committee: Report,” Hansard, Australian Senate, p95.

[vii] Parliament of Australia. 2007, Indigenous Art – Securing the Future: Australia’s Indigenous visual arts and crafts sector, Report of the Standing Committee on Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, p15 & p29.

[viii] Parliament of Australia. 2007, Indigenous Art – Securing the Future: Australia’s Indigenous visual arts and crafts sector, Report of the Standing Committee on Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, p39 & p40.

[ix] Parliament of Australia. 2007, Indigenous Art – Securing the Future: Australia’s Indigenous visual arts and crafts sector, Report of the Standing Committee on Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, p41.

[x] Desart Inc. 2006, “Submission to: The Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Committee. Inquiry into Australia’s Indigenous Visual Arts and Crafts Sector” p16. Available at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/ecita_ctte/completed_inquiries/2004-07/indigenous_arts/submissions/sub49.pdf. Accessed: 14 September 2010.

[xi] Ananguku Arts and Culture Aboriginal Corporation. 27 November 2006, “Inquiry into the Indigenous visual arts and craft sector. Submission by Ananguku Arts and Culture Aboriginal Corporation,” p4. Available at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/ecita_ctte/completed_inquiries/2004-07/indigenous_arts/submissions/sub46.pdf.%20Accessed%2014%20September%202010. Since 2006, the unmet staff housing needs of art centres on the APY Lands has increased. As of 7 October 2010, four centres – Mimili Maku Arts, Tjala Arts, Ernabella Arts and Ninuku Arts – had urgent, unmet staff housing needs (see: Tregenza, L. 7 October 2010. Email to J. Nicholls from Ananguku Arts Aboriginal Corporation).

[xii] Recommendation 4 reads in full: “The committee recommends that the Commonwealth establish a new infrastructure fund to assist Indigenous visual arts and craft; that this fund complement existing NACIS program funding; that this infrastructure fund be for a sum of the order of $25 million, made available over a period of five years; and that the fund be administered by DCITA.” (see: Parliament of Australia. 2007, Indigenous Art – Securing the Future: Australia‘s Indigenous visual arts and crafts sector, Report of the Standing Committee on Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, p47).

[xiii] Australian Government. August 2008, “Australian Government response to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Committee Report: Indigenous Art – Securing the Future. Australia‘s Indigenous visual arts and craft sector” p4. Available at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/ecita_ctte/completed_inquiries/2004-07/indigenous_arts/govresponse/govresponse.pdf (file size 3171KB). Accessed 14 September 2010.

[xiv] The Paper Tracker notes that the Federal Budget for 2009-10 provided $9.9million over four years to increase operational funding for arts centre and to establish an Indigenous Australian Art Commercial Code of Conduct to guide ethical commerce in the sector” (see: Macklin, J. 12 May 2009, Closing the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian, Budget Statement, p15-16). The Federal Budget for 2010-11 included an allocation of $4million over four years “to enable Indigenous art centres to develop sustainable business models within the wider National Arts and Craft Industry Support (NACIS) program” (see: Macklin, J. 11 May 2010. Closing the Gap – building momentum, Budget Statement, p34).

[xv] Grace, H (Mimili Maku). 15 February 2012. Email to J. Nicholls. In her email, Ms Grace explained, “We have 60 artists on the books but around 30 core artists.”

[xvi] Grace, H (Mimili Maku). 15 February 2012. Email to J. Nicholls. See also: Grace, H (Mimili Maku). 19 July 2010. Letter to J. Nicholls.

[xvii] Grace, H (Mimili Maku). 19 July 2010. Letter to J. Nicholls.

[xviii] Desart Inc. November 2005. “Central Australian Aboriginal Art Centres. Physical Infrastructure Needs Assessment (Facilities and Housing)”, revised report, p18.

[xix] On 20 September 2010, the South Australian Government advised Mimili Maku Arts that it was “not able to provide you with funding for staff housing or to renovate the art centre,” (see: Portolesi, G. 20 September 2010. Letter to H. Grace (Mimili Maku Arts).)

[xx] Grace, H (Mimili Maku). 19 July 2010. Letter to J. Nicholls.

[xxi] Portolesi, G. 20 September 2010. Letter to H. Grace (Mimili Maku Arts).) See also: Petersen, K. 13 September 2010. Email to H. Grace (Mimili Maku Arts).

[xxii] Portolesi, G. 13 April 2011. Letter to J. Nicholls.

[xxiii] See: Hampson, J. 2009. “Tjala Arts”, Australian Art Collector, Issue 47, p144.

[xxiv] Hon M Rann. 27 June 2007, Hansard, Budget Estimates, Committee A, Parliament of South Australia. See also: Annual Report of the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee 2004/05, Parliament of South Australia, PP235, p40; and Tjala Arts. 4 May 2010. “Meeting with Hon Grace Portolesi MP”, discussion paper, p[2].

[xxv] Tjala Arts. July 2010. “Application for funding From Tjala Arts, Amata Community in the APY Lands of SA.” p2.

[xxvi] Tjala Arts. 4 May 2010. “Meeting with Hon Grace Portolesi MP”, discussion paper, p[2]; also: Tjala Arts. July 2010. “Application for funding From Tjala Arts, Amata Community in the APY Lands of SA.” p2.

[xxvii] Tjala Arts. July 2010. “Application for funding From Tjala Arts, Amata Community in the APY Lands of SA.” p2.

[xxviii] Tjala Arts. July 2010. “Application for funding From Tjala Arts, Amata Community in the APY Lands of SA.” p3. Tjala Arts forwarded this document via email to State and Federal public servants on 2 July 2010 (seel O’Meara, S. 2 July 2010. Email to A. Gillam (FaHCSIA), J. Trubill (DoHA) and P. Peel (DPC).)

[xxix] Information provided by S O’Meara (Tjala Arts) during phone conversation with the Paper Tracker’s Jonathan Nicholls.

[xxx] Portolesi, G. 13 April 2011. Letter to J. Nicholls.

[xxxi] Tregenza, L (Ananguku Arts and Culture Aboriginal Corporation). 23 September 2010. Email to J. Nicholls and associated attachment.

[xxxii] Tregenza, L (Ananguku Arts and Culture Aboriginal Corporation). 23 September 2010. Email to J. Nicholls and associated attachment.

[xxxiii] Reid, A (Arts SA). 14 June 2011. Email to J. Nicholls. Also: Reid, A (Arts SA). 21 June 2011. Email to J. Nicholls.

[xxxiv] Crean, S and Rann, M. 30 August 2011. $1.1million joint funding package to support art in APY Lands, joint media release.

[xxxv] Crean, S. 7 February 2012. Letter to Rev. P. McDonald from the Australian Minister for the Arts and Regional Australia.

[xxxvi] Tregenza, E. 13 February 2012. Email to J. Nicholls and attached notes from Ananguku Arts and Culture Aboriginal Corporation.

The Paper Tracker works hard to provide accurate and up-to-date information. We will correct any inaccurate information as soon as it is brought to our attention. Please contact us if you have additional information or can provide us with an update.