Column: Better arts funding offers broader benefits

WIDER IMPLICATIONS: Better funding for arts improves business and employment opportunities.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS: Better funding for arts improves business and employment opportunities.

Our federal leaders have talked a lot this election campaign about the need to build western Sydney’s economy, spur innovation and attract investment.

But Friday was the first time the arts has been raised as an election issue.

WSROC welcomes this focus. Currently, the Australian government allocates just one per cent of its arts budget to western Sydney. For a region home to one in 10 Australians, this is unacceptable.

Western Sydney councils are strong advocates for arts and cultural development. Almost all of western Sydney’s cultural venues are largely funded by local councils and their communities.

While councils play an important role helping local communities thrive, they are not arts bodies. Councils simply can’t afford to offer the ongoing, structural funding needed for western Sydney’s creative industries to grow and flourish in the long term.

Western Sydney is already recognised as a destination for authentic global cuisine and culturally-diverse arts productions. With ongoing strategic funding, western Sydney has the potential to be Australia’s greatest cultural mecca.

While we have culture aplenty to share, we also love to take part in it. Western Sydney households spend just as much as their eastern counterparts.

We love local events such as Starry Sari Night and the Cabramatta Moon Festival, while venues such as the Casula Powerhouse show that we shouldn’t have to travel into the city for top quality artistic productions.

But creative and cultural industries do more than build vibrant communities. They are important drivers of innovation, investment and job creation.

Some 30,000 creative workers leave the region each day to access employment. With better investment and ongoing development we can bring these jobs closer to home. And the benefits are broader than that.

Entertainment, dining, and artistic outlets are the reasons many people choose to settle in a place and perhaps start a business in that local economy. By building vibrant, livable cities, we can attract greater investment.

And that will not only create more vibrant communities for our residents, but greater employment opportunities through economic growth.

  • Councillor Tony Hadchiti is the president of the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC)