Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 28, 2022


Umoona Art Centre

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (15:00): My question is to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Will the minister update the council on the government support for a new art centre at Umoona?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:00): I thank the honourable member for his question and his interest in Aboriginal affairs, and his interest in regional South Australia generally. South Australia is fortunate to be home to some truly incredible Aboriginal artists whose work is celebrated not only here but around the world. In many Aboriginal communities across the state, art centres are also about more than just somewhere to paint on a canvas. They provide a cultural place for community, social connection and culture. That's why I was proud to announce a few weeks ago that the government is investing more than $430,000 towards the construction of a new art centre in the Umoona community outside of Coober Pedy.

I am pleased to be able to bring some further and new information to this chamber in relation to that project. I am pleased to be able to confirm that this funding is also being matched with a similar contribution from the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC). I would like to thank the ILSC for their funding commitment and for collaborating with the state government on this very important work.

I recently had the privilege of visiting the proposed site for the Umoona Art Centre next to the Umoona art shed and spending some time with some of these artists. One of the artists, George Cooley, spoke to me about the regular art workshops that have recently been running at Umoona. At the moment, they are held in the basketball stadium between the housing at the Umoona community and the township of Coober Pedy. Given the enormous scale of some of the artworks, it's easy to see why such a big venue is needed.

George told me that they had some 60 artists attend their first workshop, and since then they have formed a group of around 30 artists regularly attending the workshops that are held. This core group has seen young artists through to elders, men and women, produce some extraordinary artwork. There was a real excitement about what a new dedicated art centre could do for the group, the Aboriginal community and the Coober Pedy district. They expect to see more artists participating, more works being produced and real economic and cultural benefits flowing through these artistic endeavours.

The artists I met with told me they expect to see benefits particularly for Aboriginal women, who are currently finding it difficult to secure ongoing work through their art. Whether it's some of the jobs during the construction of the centre, the jobs to keep the centre running or, and most importantly over the long term, the livelihood of artists promoting and selling their works, this centre will provide a real economic boost for Umoona and Coober Pedy.

The group at the arts centre is particularly excited about the opportunities to market their works to visitors and tourists in Coober Pedy more effectively than ever before. I would like to thank in particular George Cooley, Christine Lennon and Joanna O'Toole for taking the time to meet with me at Umoona and for sharing their art centre story and their hopes for the future of it going forward.

I would also like to knowledge the APY Arts Collective, of which Umoona arts and the new art centre is anticipated to be a member. Having the works of local Aboriginal artists displayed in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and around the world is an exciting opportunity for the artists and for our state as a whole. I look forward to being able to visit the art centre once built and seeing the benefits it delivers to the community.