The Aboriginal art market generates more than $300 million a year and produces some of Australia’s most talented artists.

But when it comes to managing and curating art, only a tiny percentage of Australia’s visual arts professionals are indigenous.

For three years, Helen Carroll-Fairhall, manager of the Wesfarmers Arts program, has pondered this anomaly and wondered how her organisation — a long-time supporter of the arts — could bring more Aboriginal people into the gallery network.

After months of consulting and planning, the Wesfarmers company and the National Gallery of Australia yesterday announced a $1.25m five-year fellowship program to train and mentor indigenous people in areas such as curatorship, art registration, exhibition design, public programs and gallery marketing and communications. It is the only national fellowship of its kind, and bypasses the normally competitive and demanding traditional gallery entry process.