RIndigenous Arts Revenue Down 52pc in Five Years

by: Geoff Winestock   published: 1st February 2013

Revenue generated by indigenous corporations from art sales has halved in the past five years, forcing them to look for other sources of income.

Anthony Beven, the registrar of indigenous corporations, said there had been a 52 per cent fall in art sales since 2007 to about $10 million and it was one of several factors behind problems at the Bawanunga Aboriginal Corporation which operates the internationally renowned Maningrida Arts Centre in Arnhem Land.

“Visual arts is going through a pretty difficult time,” he said.

He played down concerns that the recent decision to appoint administrators at Bawanunga reflected a general crisis in the sector. The income of the top 500 corporations was $1.43 billion in 2010-11.

Mr Beven said most of the 2200 indigenous corporations were diversifying into areas such as tourism, health and employment programs and mining royalties.

He said that for the first time this year the 20 largest Aboriginal corporations earned more from self-generated income than from government grants.

Mr Beven said the number of indigenous corporations under administration has been roughly stable and in almost all cases the corporations are able to trade their way out of difficulties. The Laynhapuy Homelands Aboriginal Corporation in west Arnhem Land, one of Australia’s largest, emerged from administration in November.

Mr Beven said some Aboriginal corporations were concerned that governments were increasingly giving contracts to companies and charities rather than hiring indigenous corporations. He said indigenous corporations were just as well run as the general community given the problems they faced and were well placed to provide services.

He said the share of indigenous corporations filing audited accounts had jumped from 54 per cent to 96 per cent in the past five years.

Jason Glanville, head of the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute, said research from Australia and North America showed “locally based culturally imbued” indigenous corporations were more effective than external service providers.

The Australian Financial Review 18.01.13

To view artworks from Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery's sculpture exhibition featuring works from Maningrida, head to http://www.cooeeart.com.au/aboriginal_exhibition/114/artworks