The Indigenous visual arts sector is estimated to have an annual turnover of up to $500 million.
Participation by Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander people in the visual arts plays a vital role in supporting the maintenance and transmission of culture, inter-generational learning, and improved levels of community cohesion, health and wellbeing.

The Australian Government currently provides funding to 87 Indigenous art centres, most of which are located in remote parts of the country.

To a large degree, the Indigenous visual arts sector has been built on the backbone of these Indigenous-owned art centres.

Each art centre is owned and controlled by Indigenous community members who, in many cases, are also the artists that make the work.

The centres function like artists co-operatives and, in my view, are one of the best models that we have for supporting Indigenous self-determination and financial independence.

I am reminded of the success story of the community at Ali Curung, about 380kms North of Alice Springs with a population of 500, which, over two years, with Australian Government support, has turned community arts practice into a thriving professional enterprise.

The centre currently supports around 65 artists through its men’s and women’s centres, and has recently worked with peak tourism bodies to be recognised as a National Tourism accredited art gallery.

New ceramics practice has been added for men, using the considerable skills of the art centre coordinator as well as a timely donation of kilns.

The art centre offers outreach services to surrounding communities, is introducing a volunteer program in 2010, and is working with the Red Cross to deliver a nutrition program.

Training across all facets of art centre business is a high priority and the centre currently employs eight Indigenous arts workers to support the manager.

These arts workers are supported by specific funding that the Government is providing for the employment of Indigenous Australians in the arts, which I will talk about in more detail in a moment.